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CHEF is sweet and pleasing, but not tangy enough!

Apart from carrying a relevant message at its core, CHEF provides you with a treat of some mouth-watering dishes and a few gorgeous locales, in and around Kochi. While it all makes sense, and is nicely enacted, the film lacks that tart flavour which could’ve made it a real delight. Despite being slow and predictable, it has a soul, and very well qualifies as a decent one-time watch.

As the story goes, CHEF, Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) (who loves cooking and making people eat) gets fired from his job in New York because he punches a customer at his restaurant. He then flies to Kochi to spend some time with his son Arman (Svar) who lives with his ex-wife Radha Menon (Padmapriya). He goes there with the idea of spending a few days but ends up spending more time with his wife and son. When his wife gets to know he’s been thrown out of his job, she suggests him to come up with his own food truck. Her good friend Biju (Milind Soman) offers his rundown double-decker minibus. Thereon, CHEF is Roshan Kalra's journey to find out his true priorities and source of happiness. It's a story of food, love, family, togetherness, and that of a father's rediscovery of the bond with his son.

This Hindi adaptation of Jon Favreau's 2014 Hollywood movie by the same name, CHEF is a likeable tale. It’s driven by substance and never gets into mindless gimmicks or manipulations. Writer/Director Raja Krishna Menon gives a compelling treatment to his subject and makes sure of never digressing. Having said that, there’s only so much you can do to a rehash, and he is restricted by the original content. However, if you’ve seen the original, you’d find that this Indian adaptation lacks the flavour of the original, which is unfortunate, coming from the land of spices itself.

The journey displayed is quite engaging, albeit predictable. You have well-written characters, garnished with surprisingly true emotions and an overall appealing portrayal. But all of this is let-down by a very slowly unfolding narrative, which definitely required some work at the editing table. As an ardent film lover, I didn’t personally mind these indulgences, but for the general audiences, this may get a tad testing. Also, some unpredictability in the screenplay could’ve brought the much needed sharpness in the film. Visually, the film excels. Set in the spectacular Kerala backdrop, it’s a visual treat. Yet another treat is provided by the delicious looking dishes. You can’t help but feel the pang of hunger when you watch a culinary delight being prepared right in front of your eyes.

The performances are unexpectedly engrossing. Saif Ali Khan is extremely natural, and his portrayal always invites empathy. Another delight is watching the kid Swar Kamble playing his son, who gives a superbly unfeigned performance. Padmapriya somehow doesn’t quite perform as well. Lacking expressions, I guess the Hindi language is the primary cause of this underperformance. Chandan Roy Sanyal is his usual charming self, and Milind Soman too gives a very balanced performance. All others are passable.

To sum up, CHEF is like a sophisticated bland dish, which satiates your hunger, but leaves you with a longing for that tart spicy quality, which we Indians love so much. Deserves a watch nevertheless!

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