Chef, starring Saif Ali Khan, is the official remake of a 2014 Hollywood movie by the same name. The remake is directed by Raja Krishna Menon, who previously made Airlift with Akshay Kumar. The movie also stars Padmapriya (last seen in Bollywood in Chandan Arora's Striker), Chandan Roy Sanyal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Milind Soman and Svar Kamble. Here's our review of Chef…
What's it about
From his childhood in Chandni Chowk, Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) had a passion for food, so much that he ran away from home to follow up on it. Now in his forties, Roshan is an acclaimed chef in a New York restaurant with three Michelin stars. He is also a divorcee with a son Armaan aka Arry (Svar Kamble) who is staying with his ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya) in Kochi.
Off-late, he has lost his innate passion for cooking, treating it more as a livelihood, and has become more aggressive in nature. As a display of his new-found aggression, Roshan punches a restaurant patron who was critical of his food. He lands in jail and later loses his job too. On his friend's suggestion, he goes to Kerala to bond with his son. As he mends his relationship with Arry, it also gives him an opportunity to regain his passion for the art of cooking. How this reignited passion takes Roshan and his son on a life-changing cross-country trip from Kerala to Delhi is what the rest of the movie is all about.
First things first, for a change, Bollywood has made a more-than-decent remake of a Hollywood movie. But that said, it is not a frame to frame copy of Jon Favreau's Chef. While it borrows the central theme and the character frames, director Raja Krishna Menon has made sure that his adaptation stands apart from the original. And he does so, by focusing more on the central protagonist's relationship with his son and ex-wife, rather than just cooking (which was more in focus in the original). Which actually works here, because we Indians are suckers for family dramas. Food does play a really important role here but it acts more of a binder than the main ingredient. Chef's core strengths lie in those scenes when Roshan and Arry bond over food, with the former realising what he has been missing in his past life. As they develop their relationship over tomato chutney and rotizza, we also savour in their father-and-son bonding.
The scenic locales of Kerala add a refreshing flavour to the movie. Being a Mallu myself, I can see that Menon has done justice to his state with Chef that no Bollywood movie has attempted before. From union problems to delicious food made in toddy shops there, for the first time, a Hindi movie showed that Kerala is more than just coconut trees and backwaters (which are also there BTW). Special mention has to be given to the cinematography by Priya Seth.
Unlike the original movie, the humour in Chef is more understated though it wrings out a chuckle from you now and then. Don't miss out on the Dil Chahta Hai reference in there. Speaking of the performances, Saif Ali Khan underplays himself which works for his character overall. Except for that tepid introduction scene, he is quite comfortable in his skin be it waltzing with his ex-wife or chopping onions in the kitchen. Malayalam actress Padmapriya is terrific as the confident single mom who takes no shit from men and has raised her son on her own. In his debut movie, Svar Kamble is quite decent. The ladies will be glad to see a strapping Milind Soman in a complete Mallu attire. In supporting roles, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Dinesh P Nair are affable.
My huge grouse against Chef (though not enough to hate it) is that it should have had more food in it. Though Roshan talks a lot about the intricacies of cooking and the movie also shows him making food, it's very restricted to the type of delicacies it has to display. A little more food would have made the movie more delicious.
Also Saif Ali Khan's introductory scenes (including a song) suck big time. If you have watched the original, the reason why Jon Favreau loses his job (over his Twitter sparring with a food critic) is believable and funny. Here, Saif's Dilli aggression feels forced making the scenes awkward. Thankfully the movie gains steam when he reaches Kerala. But even then the movie is not without hiccups. Saif's sudden turnaround about having a mobile restaurant is a little hard to believe. And so is the weak climax (a fallacy it shares with the original movie). There are pacing issues too that may make you restless but they are soon forgotten when Saif returns to making food.
What to do
Chef is a really good adaptation of the Hollywood movie that does justice to its theme while adding its own flavours. Aided by Saif, Padmapriya and Svar's performances and Menon's confident direction, Chef merges family drama with food appreciation in a nearly seamless manner. Despite its hiccups, Chef is a breezy watch that will leave you with a desperate craving for food.
3.5 out of 5
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