Chef: 3 Michelin Stars For The Actors, None For The Film

Chef: 3 Michelin Stars For The Actors, None For The Film

One of the primary complaints most moviegoers have is the lack of good snacking options at the cinemas. Try as they might, local multiplexes with their 5 flavors of popcorn and “wide” range of cuisine from the nachos (Doritos) of Latin America to the samosas of Indian streets can rarely satisfy the many foodies – who have been spoilt by choice – who frequent their establishments. I am one such soul who is so unsatisfied by cinema food that I’d much rather save my money and use it to buy the tickets to the next new release.

Unlike for most films, I went into Chef with a solitary expectation. And unlike my many film-going experiences, I wanted to buy something to eat from the concessions stand. My only caveat being, the food showcased in the film had to be so mouth-watering and easy to the eye that I would gorge on those nachos by tricking my mind into thinking that the scrumptiousness of the food shown on screen could substitute for their taste-bud-burning blandness.

Sadly, what I got on screen was a Rotzza. While most of you will be able to decipher what a Rotzza could be (if you’ve eaten the equally uninspired Birizza) and infer the quality of the film through it, to all the others who can’t, please read on.

Chef, based on Jon Favreau’s quiet and personal 2014 film which was sandwiched between Cowboys And Aliens and The Jungle Book, follows the story of Roshan Kalra. A customer-punching, son-ignoring, wife-estranging man with an inexplicably short fuse that the film inexplicably wants its audience to connect to with the least bit of setup. After clocking a reasonable man in the jaw for criticizing his work, Roshan is future endeavored. Heeding the advice of his co-worker, he takes this as an opportunity to reconnect with his son by visiting his ex-wife’s picturesque abode in Cochin. As the next set of you may have guessed, the 90 minutes of runtime following this 20 minutes of setup is dedicated to Roshan’s son Armaan working with his old man helping to exorcize his (Roshan’s) demons while rekindling his passion for cooking.

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Simple premises like this one sometimes make for minimalistic yet deeply fulfilling films. But Chef the film, unlike its lead character, is not worthy of its three Michelin Stars. To use the movie’s Masterchef jokes against it, it takes a lean breast of chicken and gazes at it with intent for the longest time, admiring its simplistic protein-filled potential. Suddenly, however, the movie realizes that all of its adoring gazes have come to naught as it has yet to properly marinate and eventually cook the fine dish that breast of chicken had the potential of being.

So in a very limited amount of time, the film attempts to achieve this unenviable task with a weird set of forgotten sub-plots and under-cooked characters that are specifically designed to appeal to the primal and not the cerebral. The resulting dish is tender and heartfelt in parts, while being cold, curt and rushed in others. Don’t you dare make the mistake of criticizing Roshan K, though – you might be in for a beating.

Bursting onto the seams and scenes with his surprisingly appealing dad-bod and dad jokes (playing it Saif… okay, I’m sorry) is star Saif Ali Khan. In between talking about his nose for food and chronicling his struggles on the streets after eloping with his one true love – food – the other Khan creates a character most of us have seen a million times before but never tire of. Again, he appeals to the primal and not the cerebral. He is a troubled man who rarely realizes what’s best for him but knows the value of a good day’s work. He is a man who teaches his child lessons in territories most modern parents are terrified to venture into. While he is a complete numbskull when it comes to growing and evolving personally (every single one of his decisions is made for him), Khan infuses the character with enough of his personality, ease in front of the camera and Dil Chahta Hai-inspired inside jokes to keep the audience hooked to his arc of redemption.

Raghu Dixit’s and Armaan Malik’s surprising ineptitude at the music department is unassumingly compensated for by Padmapriya Janakiraman and Svar Kamble. With an understated performance conveying depth and emotion through her deep eyes, the utterly gorgeous Janakiraman acts as the antithesis to many a modern leading lady. Her calm demeanor, a product of the many lessons life taught her, acts as the offset Roshan’s character requires.

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My only hope for Svar Kamble is that he doesn’t go down the Darsheel Safary route by starring in needless child-oriented films as this young man has some real talent that can be mined by some good filmmakers.

Talking about mining some potential, notice how I have rarely if ever spoken about the primary prop of the film – food. The movie’s palpable insincerity comes from the fact that it is rarely focused on its food and showcasing Roshan’s talents. He chops a few onions, kneads some bread and makes some spaghetti, but Roshan’s Michelin Star-winning brain refuses to come up with delectable dishes that would be devoured by your eyes.

The two reasons I can come up for this glaring omission are, one, the film is unsure if it wants to be a celebration of all things food or a celebration of all things Khan the actor can bring to a film; and two, the unfocused camerawork that focuses only sparingly on the food at hand. Be it Roshan’s childhood favorite Chandni Chowk Ke Chole Bhature or the second coming of culinary passion, the Rotzza, the movie brushes Roshan’s and his crew’s culinary achievements to the side nonchalantly.

This creates a discord. The movie can stuff montage after montage of Roshan working with his son, but without seeing them explore the culinary world together by cutting, slicing, flambéing, sautéing, dicing, frying and so forth, you cannot get invested in their attachment and growth. When the film cannot be bothered to have its characters earn their arcs, it seems a tad ambitious to want to make the audience care about the story it has to tell.

After watching the original Chef, I made it a point to learn the name of the man who was responsible for those stunning dishes. Tasting chef Roy Choi’s food has been a specific goal on my bucket list ever since. Even though this film dropped the names of the chefs who masterminded the dishes in it, I couldn’t care less about remembering their names as I walked out of the cinema.

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Judwaa 2: Why Would I Expect Better From A Remake?

Judwaa 2: Why Would I Expect Better From A Remake?
I have a confession to make. I have to admit I was wrong. Yes, the skies have turned black and the oceans have turned blood red. I sort of enjoyed Judwaa 2. TJ, the bastion of picking apart nonsensical and regressive comedies, likes bloody Judwaa 2. How is this possible? What does it all mean?
Well, I’ll use a pro-wrestling analogy to explain. In the world of wrestling, the general sentiment is that you as a performer have to connect to the crowd. Because a raucous crowd can make a bad match good, a good match great and a great match a 5-star classic for the ages. My experience with Judwaa 2 was similar to the first of these three scenarios. With a partisan crowd comprised of people who genuinely enjoyed the film and people who were there to mock the film and get their kicks cheering it ironically, a cascade of great vibes was created even as the first anti-smoking disclaimer showed up on screen.
Director David Dhawan may have known this would be the crowd response when he chose to remake his 1997 “classic” Judwaa, by casting his son (most-punchable-face magazine cover boy) Varun Dhawan. And even if you have no emotional bond with the original Judwaa and or a smidgen of fan sympathy for Salman Khan and his work, or any soft corner for Nagarjuna’s 1995 “classic” Hello Brother, you’d still likely be like the grownups around me who were more than content with letting a child under the age of 10 watch a film full of sexuality bordering on abuse, twin powers that appear and disappear as and when it’s convenient to the plot, and a nonsensical story which may have hampered the development of my brain, since it is still a film brimming with light and enjoyable performances and characters.
For those of you who don’t know, the plot revolves around newborn twins (who have special twin powers bestowed to about two in 8 million) being separated at birth. One grows up with rich parents, and the other at the cleanest slum ever known to man. Because we are 20 years removed from the original Judwaa, the film gets a production upgrade as the location changes to London. Here we follow the slapstick hijinks and romantic escapades of Raja and Prem as they are destined to inevitably meet each other and beat up a few nameless goons because “commercial” cinema.
For the full version of this review, please visit:

Judwaa 2 Review

Bhoomi: Watering Down Serious Issues, One Pathetic Film At A Time

Bhoomi: Watering Down Serious Issues, One Pathetic Film At A Time

Bollywood loves a good comeback story. Be it the fictional one of a downtrodden citizen getting even with his/her wrongdoers or the real-life tale of a man looking to re-establish himself in his field after atoning for his sins by spending a few years in prison. Sanjay Dutt who was last seen on screen in 2014’s PK ticks both the aforementioned boxes as he half-drunkenly purrs back to the silver screen with Bhoomi, a film whose look, feel, tone and enjoyability with its bad guys and their weapons are all products of the good old days of Dutt’s youth.

As Bollywood continues to recycle itself by mining the ’70s and ’80s for stories, you needn’t look too far to find a myriad of pseudo-feministic rape-revenge thrillers released in recent times. After Mom, Maatr and Kaabil, the template Bhoomi ends up following is so well and truly set that my description of its plot would be classified as a needless exercise performing which I, personally, deem to be an insult to the fine readers of our site. You ladies and gentlemen are more than capable of discerning the premise for yourselves by merely glancing at the film’s poster.

Rapists = bad and poor man = good are go-to tropes used to manipulate an audience into empathizing with characters devoid of character, but what seamlessly blends Bhoomi with its less-than-impressive predecessors is its tone-deaf, cash-hungry approach to the subject matter at hand, the unabashed and uncaring style with which the plot progresses, and its usage of words such as “virgin” and “characterless” while describing a girl which are bound to leave those socially conservative audience members righteously indignant.

While my word might not be the most prudent while discussing the horrors of sexual abuse, I put a whole host of weight behind my opinions when it comes to the horrors of derivative and boring cinema. Like most films before it, Bhoomi revels in its lack of nuance while wearing its pandering nature as a badge of honor.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Bhoomi Review

Newton: Inconspicuously Dropping A Socially Conscious Apple On Your Head

Newton: Inconspicuously Dropping A Socially Conscious Apple On Your Head

One of the lesser-known facts about me (which I am wholly proud of) is that I managed to secure a perfect 100 in Social Studies in my 10th standard exams. My affinity for the workings of the world past and present was palpable from a young age. One of the most seminal debates I had with my peers and teachers was about how democracy became ubiquitously accepted as the way of the free world. The primary hang-up in my young mind was I could not be easily convinced that dictatorships, monarchies, communism, socialism etc. fell by the wayside en route to accepting democracy as the law of the land.

During one of these debates, one of my teachers once uttered a statement that punctuated her argument to a tee and has rung true with me since. It went: “Democracy is the only system of governing that remained after all other options were deemed futile by the citizens being governed.” Such an apt argument that was when truly deconstructed. While I can’t go into her justifications in detail, the deftness of her words made me question my socio-political beliefs to their minutia, which is something I do to the present day.

So when I saw Nutan Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) being slyly admonished by his teacher for his strict adherence to the government’s principles, I was in equal parts amused and intrigued. Nutan Kumar (who retitles himself Newton Kumar) is a simple servant of India’s government, lost in the massive expanse of Chattisgarh, trying to perform his duty to perfection without ever paying heed to the social implications, or lack of thereof, of his line of work.

Kumar is assigned the task of procuring votes for the Lok Sabha election from the citizens of two remote villages tucked away in the Maoist/Communist insurgent jungles of Chattisgarh. The magic number of voters Newton, his team and the CRPF protecting them are after is 76 – a number of people whose opinions would not qualify to be even a blip on the radar of the world’s largest democracy. However, with undeterred resolve and bolstered by a police chief with an ulterior motive (of being interviewed by a foreign journalist), Kumar traverses the harsh bullet-studded landscapes, sets up a polling booth in a dilapidated school, and patiently waits till 3 in the PM for the registered voters of the community as CRPF officer Aatma (Pankaj Tripathi) and his battalion subtly advise them against it with unflappable fervour.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Newton Review

Poster Boys: Sanskari Sex-Ed Is As Awkward As You’d Imagine

Poster Boys: Sanskari Sex-Ed Is As Awkward As You’d Imagine

The interesting part about watching/reviewing a film after its opening weekend is that you go in knowing an audience’s reaction to said film. Shreyas Talpade’s directorial debut Poster Boys opened alongside Arjun Rampal’s writing debut, Daddy. Only very few would have predicted that Daddy would be soberly trounced by the former, and even those few might have forgotten a little movie titled Yamla Pagla Deewana.

While I wasn’t a fan of that distinctly Deol-flavoured comedy or its sequel, I was too scared of Sunny paaji’s Dhai-Kilo-Ka-Haath to say much about it then. Now that I am a bit older, a bit wiser and a bit faster (I’m sure I can outrun Sunny paaji), I sat myself in a nearly empty cinema hall and subjected myself to a full-fledged, slightly altered, cinematic version of that one Subway ad Joey Tribbiani found himself in on season 1 of Friends.

Unlike Joey who found himself on an ad for venereal disease, The Brothers Deol and Shreyas Talpade who are an army man, a school teacher and a recovery agent respectively, find themselves on a poster for a vasectomy ad without their prior approval. This freak occurrence spirals their lives out of control as their humble community dislodges marriages both current and soon-to-be, and all three men attempt to clear their good names in conjunction with trying to educate the audience about the procedure.

Good plan. But to paraphrase Dr. Alan Grant, terrible things begin with the best of intentions.

With a whole town taking this poster as seriously as the ones announcing the onset of the plague, I was led to ask a few questions of the film unfolding in front of me. The simplest one being, if Vinay Sharma (Bobby Deol) has a significant other, can she not vouch for the fact that her husband’s swimmers are safe in their dressing room? Apologies for my crassness, but getting a vasectomy is not a cut (that hurt me in the family jewels) and dry process. There are a few days of recovery post-surgery. Is his wife so unobservant or are they so under-sexed that she rarely if ever pays attention to her husband’s “soldier”?

For the full version of this review, please click on the link below:

Poster Boys Review

Daddy: Somewhere Someone’s Daddy Was Let Down By This Movie

Daddy: Somewhere Someone’s Daddy Was Let Down By This Movie

When you walk into Daddy, you are entering a world where Mumbai was Bombay. A world where prosthetic noses are the norm and killing about a dozen men a day with a barrage of bullets is mandatory. The liquor is cheap, the morals are loose, and the locales reek of noir styling. From this hellscape rises one man who evolves from being a hired thug to a respected member of his community.

You might think that logline resembles that of the recent Raees or the not-so-recent Nayagan (and you wouldn’t be wrong). As the anti-smoking ads fade into the smoke they advocate against and the film begins, you bear witness to the other side of the coin to Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, starring Arjun Rampal as Dawood Ibrahim’s biggest adversary, Arun Gawli aka Daddy.

As the film refrains from using the phrase “who’s your daddy”, it chronicles the life and times of one of India’s most feared gangster-turned-politician-turned-convict as he rises from being the listless son of a “future endeavoured” mill worker to a reluctant gun for hire to the scourge of one cop who moonlights as director Nishikanth Kamath to joining hands with and ultimately going against a Dawood – my apologies, Maqsood – who suspiciously resembles one Milkha Singh.

We begin our journey with Inspector Vijaykar Nitin (Kamath) as he diligently collects evidence which may aid the case he is building against his arch nemesis. He curiously seems to have forgotten many instances he himself was a part of, which allows many family members and friends of Arun Gawli (Rampal) to jog his memory and narrate the story of a good boy gone bad.

Director Ashim Ahluwalia (whose previous work Miss Lovely while criminally underseen is a sight to behold) flexes his filmmaking chops in these initial exchanges. The grime-filled houses paved along the gray, smoky, neon-colored streets Gawli and his familia inhabit set the tone for the film. With minimal dialogue-baazi tensions begin to mount, and the evolution from knives to guns happens before our eyes while we watch this ragtag bunch of local goons take charge of a section of the India’s biggest metro.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Daddy Review

Baadshaho: Your Stories Are Great Only Until Bollywood Get Their Hands On Them

Baadshaho: Your Stories Are Great Only Until Bollywood Get Their Hands On Them

While every other person under the sun is busy comparing Baadshaho to Ocean’s Eleven or 12 or 13 or the upcoming all-female reboot of the Ocean’s franchise, it would help to take a tiny detour. Remember the good old days of 2004 when an innocent film called Malliswari hit the screens? It was an amiable film starring a princess and a pseudo-pauper with heaps of humor and character that justified it’s few Minority Report-inspired action sequences. Good times, right?

Say, do you also remember the okay-ish days of 2010 when a certain phenomenon titled Bodyguard slid into screens across Kerala and slowly as remakes to the rest of the country? While not as clever and re-watchable as the aforementioned Malliswari, Bodyguard was a fun enough time at the movies owing to its quirky lead character and a narrative that appealed to audiences both simple and sophisticated. Again, compelling character work prefaced any and all action sequences which followed. While these two films might not be trendsetters when it comes to this narrative trope, they are good yardsticks to compare and contrast Baadshaho with.

Using the rich women and their protectors trope, director Milan Luthria teams up with his reliable pen-man Rajat Arora to deliver a heist film set in national emergency-stricken 1975 starring a cast of characters that include a newly-crowned queen, her unmistakably Ajay Devgn-esque bodyguard, an Arjun Rampal-inspired buff policeman, and a band of other robbers and con men the film hopes the audience will take a liking to.

Devgn’s Bhawani is commissioned by Rani Gitanjali Devi (Ileana D’Cruz) to steal her privy purse from the clutches of the evil Sanjay Gandhi-led government (though Gandhi is not overtly mentioned), and officer Seher Singh (Jamwal) is hot on their trail.

While the main band of hoodlums refutes the adage “there is no honor among thieves” by substituting it with “a group that steals together stays together”, the audience who are subject to their story might end up wanting more than some camaraderie amongst these recognizable faces. Pulling from the earlier examples, movies with princesses and ruffians need time to organically develop. The beginning, middle, and end of such stories needn’t be segregated. The bond between the groups of characters and the betrayals, if any, that they are subject to the need to be grown by the screenplay and not the primary conceit. Baadshaho, unlike Malliswari and, to a lesser extent, Bodyguard, hinges on one specific and significant plot point, with a whole host of noise and contrivances added to make said plot point a viable crux for a full-fledged feature film.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Baadshaho Review