Chef: Where is the audience?

Chef is a remake of 2014 Hollywood film of the same name, written, directed and co-produced by Jon Favreau, who also essayed the lead role. 

Once in a while, an English movie story fits to the T catering to the Indian tastes. We had the 1970 film Love Story (Erich Segal) which Rajshri Pictures made in to "Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se" and, may be a few more; Segal’s own Man Woman And Child, which Shekhar Kapur adapted to make the acclaimed 1983 film, Masoom. 

There are few such films which have universal sentiments and appeal to all. Chef is one such, despite its alien title. But, then, it aims to cater to the select audience. 

The character of Saif Ali Khan is an Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk lad of the pre-3 Idiots generation when the kids were not allowed to dream of a career but parents decided what they would do. Somehow, Saif is interested in cooking and loves to stop at the famous street corner eatery selling chhole puri to learn the art. Aspirations were not encouraged in those days and, as a revolt to his father’s dictates, Saif runs away from home. 

Having worked at a couple of Old Delhi dhabas, Saif hones his skills at the Golden Temple, as a kitchen help. 

By this time, Saif has excelled at devising new recipes; chefs do that, a cook or a bawarchi just cooks up regular fare. Saif is famous, has made a name for himself in the US having left behind a divorced wife and a teenaged son in Cochin in Kerala. 

One fine day, Saif’s food is criticised by a patron. Enraged and believing too much into his reputation as a renowned chef, Saif assaults the patron. Social media takes over, and there is no place for Saif anymore in the culinary circuit. 

But, Saif has a growing son, played by Svar Kamble, overly fond of him, and an ex-wife, played by Padmapriya Janakiraman, who thinks Saif should devote some time to the son at this vital juncture in his life. The Padmapriya and Svar want him to visit. 

Saif arrives in Kerala, builds bonhomie with his son and both are soon inseparable. While the mother is living her own life, the son discovers his father for the first time. 

The world has had this wheelbarrow culture providing street food for ages which gradually moved on to food trucks. Major cities all over the world have a number of them. Then, there are also mobile restaurants like the double-decker buses which move around the scenic places of a town while you dine. 

So there is the character of Milind Soman, Padmapriya’s friend, who offers him a dilapidated double-decker bus which he thinks is worth converting into a travelling/mobile restaurant. 

Reluctant at first, Saif accepts the offer. He converts the bus into a restaurant with the help of his son. 

The film turns into a road movie from here on. Saif may have married a Kerala woman but the place he wants to prove himself in is Delhi. The bus is on the move. Via Goa and other scenic places. A happy ending is promised which is what makes the film adaptable in Hindi from its Hollywood version. 

What is good about the film is that is has been de-glamourised right on the onset. An effort is made so that it looks real life. The direction is apt sticking mostly to the original. Dialogue is lifelike. Visually, the film gives a pleasant feeling. Music is fair. 

Chef is a watchable feel good film but, coming as it does during a dull period and lacking a draw (only Saif to count on), the opening has been poor and not much hope being held out either.

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Kishan Kumar, Raja Krishna Menon, Vikram Malhotra, Janani Ravichandran

Director: Raja Krishna Menon. 

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya Janakiraman, Svar Kamble, Milind Soman. 

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