CHEF | 7 October, 2017

T-Series Films, Abundantia Entertainment and Bandra West Pictures’ Chef (UA) is the story of a chef and how he bonds with his school-going son.

Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) is a renowned chef working in a well-known restaurant of New York. He is a divorcee but he shares cordial relations with his ex-wife, Radha (Padmapriya Janakiraman) who lives in Kochi in India. Their son, Armaan (master Svar Kamble), lives with Radha.

One day, Roshan beats up a customer for criticising his cooking. This infuriates his boss, Sunil (Pawan Chopra), who fires him from the job. Roshan’s place in the restaurant is taken by close friend and colleague Vinnie (Sobhita Dulipala). With no job in hand, Roshan comes to Kochi in India to spend time with his son.

Father and son bond over talk of food and other things. Roshan soon learns that Radha is set to marry her friend, Biju (Milind Soman). Biju offers Roshan a business proposal – to convert a dilapidated double-decker bus into a mobile restaurant. At first reluctant, Roshan finally comes around. His protege, Nazrul (Chandan Roy Sanyal), joins him after quitting his job at the New York restaurant.

Together, Roshan, son Armaan and Nazrul set up a restaurant in the bus and conduct trial runs in Kochi. But Roshan’s heart is in Delhi – where he had grown up and from where, as a teenager, he had run away from his family as his domineering father (Ram Gopal Bajaj) did not want him to pursue his interest in cooking. So, Roshan decides to take his mobile restaurant to Delhi. Since Armaan has school holidays, he insists on accompanying his dad because he loves him and also because he likes to help his father with running the restaurant. The mobile restaurant has a stopover in Goa and then in Amritsar. Once in Delhi, Roshan calls on his father who doesn’t seem to have forgiven him for running away in his teen days. For Armaan, it is the first time ever that he meets his grandfather.

Before long, it is time for Armaan to return to Kochi. Does he return or does he continue to live with his father in Delhi? Does Roshan’s dad forgive him?

The film is a remake of Jon Favreau’s film of the same name. The story, at the core, is of the bonding between a father and his son. Of course, since he is a chef, the backdrop is that of restaurants and food. In that sense, the film offers only partial novelty.

In the name of screenplay, Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Raja Krishna Menon have served a half-hearted drama which never touches the heart. For one, right in the beginning, the audiences get put off Roshan Kalra when he beats up a customer for complaining about the quality of food served in the restaurant. Whoever does that? Not a hero, for sure. And it’s not even as if the customer is abusive. After the incident, Roshan feels that the customer may have been right but he doesn’t have the courtesy to apologise for his deplorable action. Right from that initial scene, the audience’s sympathy never really goes out to Roshan – whether in his interactions with his father, son or ex-wife or even customers later on. In other words, there’s something terribly wrong about the characterisation. One can’t hope to win over the viewers by presenting a hero for whom the audience’s heart doesn’t beat. Even otherwise, Roshan Kalra talking of principles in life, being a good human being and all that simply doesn’t cut ice with the viewers – if only because he himself had run away from home in his teens, and he had beaten up a customer for probably speaking the truth!

Rather than a fast-paced screenplay, the trio dishes out a screenplay which moves at a leisurely pace. Since the writers haven’t cared to explain why Roshan and Radha had divorced and also because Roshan comes across as badly behaved, his bonding with son Armaan also fails to evoke the sympathy (among viewers) that it should.

Actually, the audience gets the feeling very early on that the drama that’s going to unfold will be half-baked – and that’s exactly what happens. By interval point, it is clear to the viewers that the tadka is missing in this dish (film). And by the time the film ends, the viewers realise that leave alone tadka, the dish (film) has been made without so much as a recipe (good screenplay). Instead of scenes evoking emotions, the three writers have penned some funny dialogues which sound oh-so-cool and which would appeal to, perhaps, 2% of the audience. Whom did the writers think they were writing the film for? Cool jokes, ‘English’ humour and dude-type behaviour are all fine but Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Raja Krishna Menon should’ve realised that they can never fill in for emotions. All in all, the screenplay is shoddy and terribly weak. And one more point – was it necessary to show food in every other scene simply because the film is titled Chef?

Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are ineffective as, like the screenplay, even they fail to evoke the desired emotions.

Saif Ali Khan seems to be miscast in a role that required an actor with a far more sober image. But with his Casanova image, Saif Ali Khan’s performance doesn’t ring true, his characterisation only adding to his tale of woes. His gyaan-giving scenes fall flat on their face. Also, he has looked stocky. Padmapriya Janakiraman looks attractive and acts very well. Master Svar Kamble gives a natural performance but he does irritate in the scenes in which he talks like a grown-up would (director’s fault, not Svar’s). Chandan Roy Sanyal is very real but he hardly gets any scope to perform. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the talented actor has been wasted. Milind Soman is okay as Biju. Sobhita Dhulipala makes her mark as Vinnie. Dinesh P. Nair doesn’t impress as Alex. And why does he behave like he’s the boss when all he is is the bus driver? Is that another example of cool writ­ing? Ram Gopal Bajaj makes his presence felt in the role of Roshan’s father. Avtaar Singh Sahani lends able support as the Delhi restaurant owner. Pawan Chopra is good as Sunil, Saif’s boss in New York. Master Shaurya Chopra is nice as young Roshan Kalra. Raghu Dixit (as himself) is fair. Others are alright.

Raja Krishna Menon’s direction is below the mark. Like the script, his narration absolutely fails to involve or engage the audiences. Raghu Dixit’s music is so-so. No song is very popular. His background music is okay. Ankur Tewari’s lyrics are nice. Choreography (by Dimple Ganguly and Vijay Ganguly) is average. Priya Seth’s camerawork is alright. Anuradha Shetty’s production designing is okay. Shivkumar Panicker’s editing leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Chef is a poor fare which simply fails to touch the heart. It would appeal to a very thin section of the elite audience, but for the majority, it would be only as exciting as the prospect of feasting on stale food. At the box-office, it will prove to be a debacle.

Released on 6-10-’17 at Regal (daily 1 show) and other cinemas of Bombay thru AA Films. Publicity: below the mark. Opening: very poor. …….Also released all over. Opening was horrifyingly weak everywhere; shows were cancelled at many places due to absence of audience!