Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya Janakiraman, Svar Kamble, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Milind Soman
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Raja Krishna Menon’s remake of ‘Chef’ is flavoursome but not half as satisfying as Jon Favreau’s original. It is, however, a treat to watch Saif Ali Khan exhibit his craft with ease after a spate of disappointing big-screen outings.
Food and fatherhood are the central themes here. While Menon does a commendable job of handling the father-son relationship, he fails to do the same with the former. The rather perfunctory approach to food in a film called ‘Chef’ leaves you bereft of the kind of contentment that a hearty meal gives.
Saif is convincing as the top chef, Roshan Kalra – the way he slices his onions with a flourish or the way he sprinkles the masala on his dishes and smells the aroma while the food is cooking on the stove, he totally nails his portrayal of a culinary expert. In fact, when he is grilling tomatoes for chutney, you wish that there would be close-up shots of the tadka, the simmering, satisfying sights of sizzling onion and the garlic.
But the camera just doesn’t romance the food the way it should have been. Like the judges on MasterChef Australia would say, the filmmakers fail to hero the main ingredient of this dish.
When it comes to parenthood, Menon is in his element. After the amicable divorce, Roshan is unable to spend much time with his son, Armaan (Svar Kamble). When he decides to visit his son after many years he realizes that trying to be a buddy from afar is much easier than when you have to play the role of a full-time parent.
Fatherhood or parenthood for that matter isn’t just a fun road trip and it is touching to see Saif trying to teach his son the right thing but doing it the wrong way by losing his patience. Every parent can identify with these struggles.
It is the acting that salvages the languid proceedings of this script. Svar Kamble is just right as the young boy in awe of his dad, but insolent and vulnerable like any other kid. Padmapriya Janakiraman essays an understated part and exudes an earthy sex appeal as the Malyali ex-wife. Chandan Roy Sanyal, as the Bangladeshi sous-chef, gives us moments of genuine humour. It is, however, Milind Soman in a cameo who steals the show. He is delectable, whether in a well-fitting polo neck or in a crisp, white mundu.
I only wish there would have been a little more time spent on the road trip. Like I said before, it is just like you have tasted a delicious sampler but the main course is over when you wanted more.
Despite these flaws, there’s much to like in this story. ‘Chef’ is a little over indulgent but makes the ride worthwhile.