Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chef—Of Second Chances

Raja Krishna Menon's Chef (2017) is the official remake of Jon Favreau's Chef (2014). It is the story of Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan), a chef, working in the US. After an altercation with a customer, he is fired from his restaurant. He takes a break and goes to India to meet his son Ary (Svar Kamble) and his ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya Janakiraman). He is given an opportunity to start a mobile restaurant, which he takes it up after some convincing. The restaurant goes on a cross-country trip, and is well received, and in the process, Roshan rediscovers himself, and the things that matter to him. 
Chef is, essentially, about getting second chances to reinvent yourself. Roshan ran away from his home to follow his dreams. As he says, in those days, 3 Idiots had not released to give the message to parents to let their kids follow their dreams. He became a successful chef, but after so many years, he seems to have lost his mojo. He takes a break and thinks about his life. There is a point in the film where Radha tells Roshan, "Zindagi me apna passion ek baar mil jaye wohi badi baat hoti hai. Lekin kuch lucky logon ko use khokar dobara paane ke chance milta hai." Finding your passion once in life is a big deal, but only a few lucky people get the second chance to lose it and find it again. He has to make the most of the opportunities that he is getting to find himself again. Radha's friend Biju (Milind Soman) gives him an old bus to start a mobile restaurant. Even that bus gets a second chance in life, and is turned into a food truck. Roshan goes back to his roots, and reinvents his style. A rottza, a hybrid of roti and pizza, becomes the symbol of his reinvention. The aforementioned aspect holds true not only for Roshan's professional life, but also for his personal life. He is divorced from his wife, and is estranged from his father. He gets a second chance at a relationship with the both of them. 
Saif Ali Khan's career, just like Roshan's, was in the doldrums in the late nineties. Saif's career got a second lease of life after Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It is, perhaps, fitting that Saif gets to play Roshan, as he also got a second chance to reinvent his career. In what can be construed as a meta-moment for Saif, he even acknowledges that seminal film here. At some point in Chef, Roshan talks about the time he had come to Goa with his two friends. He met a white woman, which, led to some embarrassing events for him. It is clearly a reference to Dil Chahta Hai where Sameer was duped by Cristine in Goa. 
Saif Ali Khan as Roshan is wonderful. Saif usually excels at this kind of roles, and there is a certain comfort in Saif that can be felt here. However, the problem I felt with Chef is that there is not enough happening in the film to sustain my interest for over two hours. It is too uneventful, and never reaches a zenith. There are no major dramatic conflicts that can cause some tension in the film. Even the food shots seem to be a little lackluster in comparison to other similar films. 
There is a scene where Roshan and Ary are visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Roshan tells his son that it was at the langar, he learned the difference between cooking and feeding someone. At some later stage in the film, Ary is willing to serve a half-cooked dish to a customer. Roshan takes him aside and reiterates the learning he got from the langar that getting an opportunity to feed someone with your hands is a blessing of God. It is a wonderful scene that teaches us about remaining true to one's craft, and making use of that craft for the larger good. Getting to feed God's own creations is, truly, a blessing. And also, is there anything other than food that takes us closer to God and makes us experience heaven? 
India has official languages. It has no national language(s). This is incorrect.
Mirch Masala
A painting by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Saif's height is shown as six feet. Jhooth, saraasar jhooth
Saif Ali Khan also played a chef in Siddharth Anand's Salaam Namaste (2005). 
Books In Movies:
A book on Botticelli
A book on Warren Buffett
Dialogue of the Day:
"Kisi ko apne haath se khana khilane ka mauka milna Rab ki badi meher hoti hai."

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