Interestingly opting for an ala carte rather than the set buffet, AIRLIFT fame Raja Krishna Menon tries to cook his next CHEF – the official remake of Jon Favreau's 2014 deliciously relishing late slice of life by the same name starring Saif Ali Khan. Does it lift the spirits of those hungry souls of Bollywood who crave for some tang in their choices whether its cinema or food? Does the Indian adaptation has enough spice to make it feel favourable and flavourful feel good family comedy as the original? Let's find out.
A three-star Michelin chef Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) gets fired from New York's Gulli restaurant after having a tiff with a customer who criticizes his food, Roshan loses his cool and punches the customer and lands in a lock up. Forced to take a break the temperamental Roshan flies to Kochi to spend time with his son, Armaan (Svar Kamble) and his estranged wife Radha Menon (Padmapriya). Rest is how the Chandni Chowk born Roshan Kalra gets his mojo back while ties with family find a compassionate recipe.
First thing first, the writers Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Raja Krishna Menon make a decent adaptation but it's not that delicious and lip smacking as the original and young Roshan's unbeatable cravings for that high-calorie chola bhatura. The movie begins with Saif's voice over which describes how his life was ruled by his nose that could smell good flavours and the aura of a well-cooked food decided his ambition in life to be a cook. How rightly a wise man has said, 'Well began is half done' but surprisingly over here, Saif's entry and the tiff with the customer in New York comes all of a sudden, demanding special powers of acceptance. The original had had an amusing episode of Jon Favreau getting into a battle with a food critic on social media which goes viral. The critic's sarcastic comment that Jon is overweight cause he has to eat the leftovers returned by customers is quite funny. Raja Krishna Menon's CHEF lacks that tadka and just by saying that the protagonist is from Delhi, the aggression isn't justified.
To top it all, the movie ironically turns out to be a late slice-of-life where the undoubtedly Saif ( perfect) for this role plays a 40 something Roshan Kalra who is baffled and is not able to differentiate between what he wants and what he needs. A failed husband, a father who has missed the childhood of his 11 year old son, trying to get in terms with himself and his family are better realized moments in this film.
The 'Chef' in CHEF doesn't do much cooking and we don't see much innovations in food. Agreed it's a movie and not a cooking show but still, the protagonist just cannot keep on making pastas again and again, ignite the 'tava' moist it, pour some oil and fry onions and we wait – sounds metaphoric but can't help. But without allowing us to wait, Roshan gets his mojo back in a scene which reminded me of the 'paratha pizza' advertisement which I saw on television some years back. An already cooked dish is added to a freshly cooked paratha and covered with another layer of the popular Indian bread called Paratha. Suddenly Roshan decides to operate the mobile restaurant after clearly rejecting the offer coming from his ex wife's debonair friend played by the dashing salt and pepper Milind Soman. He serves Rozztas (the 'paratha' mentioned earlier) and hits the road. The pace gets tedious at times and the climax isn't that filling.
Raja Krishna Menon's CHEF plays ice spice (a popular hide n seek game) as the material manages to arrange the ingredients but fails to mix it with proper proportion and at the right time. However, some crispy moments saves the dish where Saif's tuning with his son played by Svar Kamble and the hidden affection towards his ex-wife played by Padmapriya plus the engagingly funny encounter between Saif and Milind.
Saif is perfect in a tailor-made role and does full justice. Svar Kamble is a bundle of talent and he excels. Padmapriya is attractive and gives a neat performance. From the supporting cast, Chandan Roy Sanyal shines as Saif's friend, Malayalam actor Dinesh Prabhakar is amusing as the driver, Pawan Chopra as the New York restaurant owner is fine, Sobhita Dhulipala as Vinnie makes her mark, Milind Soman has its moments, veteran actor Ramgopal Bajaj as Roshan's father is competent. Raghu Dixit in a special appearance makes his presence felt.
Production values are rich with fine technicalities. Priya Seth's cinematography is soothing to the eyes. Anuradha Shetty Menon's production design, Taseer Shaikh's set decoration and costumes by Dipika Lal and Anirudh Singh ensures that CHEF remains a good looking movie, having good looking people.
Music by Raghu Dixit and Amaal Mallik is functional.
There is a spiritual tone in the film where Saif says that ''people who get the opportunity to cook and serve food for others are blessed''. AIRLIFT fame Raja Krishna Menon's second is also based on a noble thought of humanity like his previous AIRLIFT but unfortunately the good intention to cook and serve the Indian audience with the desi adaptation of the mouth watering Hollywood's 2014 CHEF fails to give the 'burps' of satisfaction expected from a good enjoyable meal. The Indian thali served in CHEF definitely has couple of delicious dishes to relish but the overall experience leaves us hungry for more.