Director: Ani. I. V. Sasi
Cast: Ashok Selvan, Nasser, Nithya Menen, Ritu Varma
Interestingly, those films which arrive with little publicity and noise turn out to be surprisingly good, and the Tamil title, Theeni (Food in Tamil), is one of them. Streaming on Zee5 Cineplex ( one has to pay to watch this), the film has a novel plot which binds four people together in their passion for food.
Written and helmed by Ani. I. V. Sasi, the movie opens in London, where we see a clumsy Dev (Ashok Selvan), ready to start work as a chef in a renowned restaurant run by Nasser. He is a Michelin Chef, and his staffers call him just Chef. They are in awe of him and his excellence. He smells each dish before it is served to customers. If he finds the slightest fault, he bins it. Otherwise, just says “service”. A man of very few words, he leads a lonely life having been separated from his wife years ago, who took away their daughter.
It is into this motley group of Chef, Dev and few others that Tara (Ritu Varma) finds her way to, also to work as a chef. She is puzzled by Dev’s clumsiness, which he says is a result of a muscle spasm that he developed after a tragedy in his life.
It is almost midway when we are introduced to Nithya Menen’s Maya, a childhood sweetheart of Dev. They are just inseparable, and she is a source of enormous encouragement for his culinary skills that his father strongly disapproves of. Cooking is for women, the man admonishes, little realising that some of the world’s best chefs are men, and his own son has a great talent which needs to be nurtured.
The writing is not bad at all, though I wonder why one needs a comic figure (Rajesh essayed by Sathya) in just about every Tamil film. But mercifully, his role is small, and the story sticks to the four main characters. Menen is lovely as a vivacious lass, whose energy sparkles radiating in her sweetheart’s life. While Nasser is gripping as a man pining for a daughter long gone (he even names his restaurant after her), Selvan and Varma are passe. Tara’s Oppressive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Dev’s spasms often appear exaggerated and have little to add to the storyline.
Finally, do we see a bit of the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Cheeni Kum in Theeni? There are a few places that Nasser’s Chef reminded me of B, who is also a famous chef in a London restaurant. But otherwise, the Tamil work is a pleasing attempt at giving us about two hours of simple fun. Worth the money.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author of an autobiography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan)