Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya, Svar Kamble, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Dhanish Karthik, Shobita Dhulipala, Ramgopal Bajaj, Pawan Chopra, Neha Saxena, Raghu Dixit, Russell Peters
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Rating: * * ½
Jon Favreau’s ‘Chef’ was not a great film but it had an interesting idea promoting western family values with some humour to add spice to its culinary ambitiousness. This remake though is pretty much a harmless variant that has been transported, bus and baggage included, to India, routed through Kochi, Kerala to Chandni Chowk, Delhi. While the basic parameters of the story remain the same there’s a local flavouring of typical Indian characters flavouring the narrative along the way.
In the writing department Ritesh Shah keeps company with Suresh Nair and Raja Krishna Menon to strengthen the Malayali influence on the narrative but the foodie comedy takes a back seat as procedural issues keep cropping up in this gastronomical road-trip. While the writing is light and playful, it’s not exactly humorous or romantically exciting.
Vinnie (Shobita Dhulipala from Raman Raghav 2.0) a sous chef colleague from New York who takes over Roshan’s (Saif) job after he is fired could have become the third angle in ex-couple Roshan and Radha’s (Padmapriya) life but the writers prefer to go with predicative Indian sentiment and eschew all ideas of a romantic interest on that front.
Radha’s more-than-friendship with Biju (Milind Soman) is hinted at by way of Roshan’s jealous imaginings but even that is shrugged aside in an effort to get the divorced couple back together to play happy families once again. The film in fact tries to promote meaningful relationships where ambitions should necessarily take a backseat to family responsibilities.
The underlying intent though is to rekindle the father-son bonding through the gastronomical adventure road-trip and that plays out satisfactorily enough. A tryst with Indian Ocean band members in Goa adds some earthy music and momentum to the narrative that eventually heads back to togetherness and happy family mode.
Only problem is that Roshan seems to think that getting back into the good books of his son Armaan (Svar Kamble) means getting back together with his wife and neither option appears to be top priority in his life. The director of course contrives to make it happen eventually.
The food that Roshan creates is mainly fast food so there’s nothing to show for those Michellin star references that keep popping up. Saif is ill at ease in the kitchen scenes, Padmapriya looks uncomfortable in western wear, Svar Kamble is pretty decent as the son yearning for bonding with a wayward father but it’s the supporting characters including Chandan Roy Sanyal, who really make the film interesting. ‘Chef’ is a harmless, fluffed up soufflé rather than a sumptuous buffet.