Its pleasant while it lasts
Chef could well be a conglomerate of silver linings. Saif Ali Khan, in all likelihood, has a hit to his name (finally!). At least, the film's crowd pleasing abilities are promising enough to make that prophecy. And here's a semi-delightful film which serves comfort food to film buffs. And yet, I am just glad that this one made my tummy rumble a lot less than the original. It might not be the best thing said about a film that is expected to flaunt its gourmand-ish tendencies. When you decide to watch film, go in with no expectations. It's natural to look forward to it after the raving for Jon Favreau's 2014 original but director Raja Krishna Menon makes this desi adaptation his own. So even when he stumbles, it's only fair to give him credit for making his own mistakes instead of blatant copying.
The film starts off with a dissatisfied Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) knocking down a customer after the latter passed a few unceremonious remarks about his cooking. A trip to the lock up later, Roshan is fired and is left with no option but to go 'find' himself in Cochin, where his estranged wife and son live. Menon packages it well. I am even willing to give him a few brownie points for making the ever-so-gorgeous Milind Soman strut around in a lungi. His casting is, in fact, his biggest strength. Svar, who plays the 13-year-old Ari is spot on. So is Padmapriya, who is way too talented to be used as garnishing in a gourmet dish. She and Saif share some natural chemistry, but that's far too little in the film.
It's no wonder that most of the standout work, by default, belongs to Saif, who is utterly sincere in his portrayal. The man holds up a mirror to the millennials posing the unavoidable question – kaam se pyaar, pyaar se kaam karne mein kya pyaar reh jaata hai? The film has a standard and an over simplistic approach to it. The narrative feels familiar but Menon layers it with genuine heart, injecting dollops of affection through his characters. Saif's sidekick Nazrul (Chandan Roy Sanyal) is affable. So is a friendly chachaji who sells Chole Bhature in Chandni Chowk. Even Shobhita Dhulipala, who is in exactly three scenes has a lingering presence. It's a well wrapped film with good looking people and better looking locations. The sunset, beaches and top shots of Kerala are a few delectable scenes. But what it lacks is depth and soul. The problem is it tries to be too many things, from a love story to a father-son family drama to a reinvented take on how to follow your dreams.
Thankfully, the dialogues are cheery. The South-North divide is sweet and handled most inoffensively. The writing is particularly clever, especially the Dil Chahta Hai reference was a smart move.
For most part, the film will put a smile on your faces. Something about it makes you forget that there's a sum total of two dishes, which feature in a loop here. Thankfully, Chef is pleasant while it lasts. And for everything else, there's Masterchef.