Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Three years back, writer/director Jon Favreau made a comeback to small-scale filmmaking with Chef after a successful stint in the big-budget studio system. In 2017, director Raja Krishna Menon brings to the Indian viewers, the official remake of the film which was not only applauded for being a warm and smart comedy, but also for its flawless attempt at making us realize the need to value the uncomplicated and crucial things in life.
Menon’s Chef, an official remake of 2014 Hollywood hit, has Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) playing a flawed hero whose decision to be a professional chef was ridden with defeats, setbacks and roadblocks. From his inability to convince his father to help him pursue his dream and ultimately running away from home to turning in to a chef to being fired for misconduct - each obstacle represents a different level of challenge for Roshan.
And at 41, he’s a divorcee who has been living a life away from his son. Even though he has experienced unbelievably difficult circumstances, he manages to make it through them and also finds a way to turn them into something optimistic and constructive.
The most interesting aspect about the film is how easily every character looks relatable - especially when they struggle against their own weaknesses, desires and limitations.
Saif's character Roshan would strike a chord with the viewers because even when he is met with defeat he doesn’t cower or crumble. Setbacks in life don’t really stop him, but yes, do slow him down. It is interesting how Saif doesn’t let any of the problems impede his progress, but motivate him to achieve a lot more than the set goal.
On being fired from a New York-based restaurant, he decides to travel to Kochi to be with his son and, his former-wife, Radha (Padmapriya Janakiraman). His guilt that stems from his inability to be with his son for all these years is the reason why he wants to do just about everything to make this relationship work.
Kalra - aware of the significance of being with his son - regrets being ill-tempered (when his son shows him a video of thrashing a customer), but makes sure he comes across as a passionate and nice man at heart, who’d never compromise on offering fine cuisine to his customers.
Similarly, Padmapriya Janakiraman as Radha acts on the basis of her values which makes each of her choices meaningful. Her generosity, kindness, selflessness, and rational actions help viewers appreciate her even more. Viewers’ resonance stems from how she embodies good woman tendencies.
The film’s best moments come from this father-son duo’s love for food. We realise this real commonality when they explore Kochi and visit Amritsar to gorge on the specialities. It is when they begin to maximize their time together outdoors and spend more time together doing things they both enjoy that their relationship begins to grow.
It is their journey to travel, explore, discover things and generally like being together that the viewers will appreciate. Because each of these structured experiences by Menon create opportunities for viewers to grow closer to the duo. Nothing looks forced and complex in Chef, which takes Kalra and family from Kochi to Amritsar to Goa and New Delhi.
Even though it works like a comedy, Chef is a film that comes packed with life lessons. From following one’s dream to being able to differentiate between need and want, to educating son about being faithful to one’s job and offering help in a responsible way - Chef comes across as a meaningful film that isn’t preachy.
While the film's music by Raghu Dixit and Amaal Malik is interesting and compliments the narrative, the former's brief appearance looks a bit forced.
Chandan Roy Sanyal as Nazrul, chef Roshan's loyalist, does justice to his role. But it's sad that Milind Soman doesn’t get enough screen space to put forth his acting skills.
Agreed, Chef is a feel good film, but it isn’t the best food film viewers have watched. It might turn out to be a bit disappointing for the viewers who’d head to theatres to watch Saif whip up delectable dishes. There aren’t too many!