wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

quick review:

Chef made me wonder, what makes me sadder - a film which starts off very well, but ends up being just about average or one that isn't enjoyable at all.

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Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Running time: 135 minutes
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Chef - Preview

It is refreshing to see stars play their age. Of course, it makes the film more believable but it also forces the actors to look for a different scripts and writers to approach them for atypical roles.

While Chef is certainly a step in the right direction for Saif Ali Khan after a long time, unfortunately, the trailer is uninspiring once you get over the father-son bonding.

Also, a lot of the film is given away in the trailer, not leaving much room for imagination or even an opportunity for watching a story unfold. Even so, I hope, the glimpses of various relationships we see in the trailer – father and son, ex-husband and ex-wife(?), friendship – are a pointer to many more moments that will bring smiles and tears.

Chef releases on 6 October, 2017.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Very few movies about relationships take the relationship seriously enough to give it some depth, spend time on its development. Even fewer submit to everyday interactions and language to make the relationship seem real. As a pleasant surprise, Chef does that. Unfortunately, it also gets too real and has all kinds of characters preach to a character who seems lost in life. It is also slightly difficult to connect with a protagonist who is a tad too unsure of himself and sways with the wind, like a long blade of grass – while taking some very important decisions about his relationships and career.

What would you do if a middle-aged friend of yours seems to be struggling with “coming of age”? Give him some insight, right? That could translate to preaching, which is what Chef ends up doing.

Chef is an immersive experience in the first half, though. It might have to do with Kerala's serenity in the backdrop. But, the film also comes across as one which is sure about itself. It doesn't hurry. In fact, it is so unrushed that you wonder why other movies are always sprinting from one scene to another, one situation to another. And, it doesn't get uninteresting. The lilting pace only grows on you little by little. Until interval.

Chef's second half sees the writers struggle to keep things engaging. In the process, they lose the world of charming comfort and ease that they created. It seems like they had a climax in mind and by hook or crook they wanted to get there. They had some ideas such as a road trip, a father-son tiff, and so on which they retrofitted towards this climax Along the way, they give up on the organic chemistry they created between ex-husband and ex-wife, and father and son. The male-bonding between two friends too seemed like a force-fit rather than a germane aspect of the script.

It is a shame indeed that despite enjoying the first half as much as I did, I have mostly been complaining about the film so far. Chef does get some subtleties right. The healthy relationship a divorced couple shares explains the attraction that they must have felt towards each other – especially considering they have opposing characteristics. Hot-headed Roshan (Saif Ali Khan) and a calm and centered Radha (Padmapriya) make you believe that opposites attract. There are other nuances that aren't spelled out either – the genetic flow of “being full of oneself” from father to son to grandson; the marketing suave that the current generation seems to be born with; parents who humor their child's lies; the intimation that a handsome, middle-aged man can cause; the intimidation that another handsome, middle-aged man can feel; even the “intellectual” dialogue doesn't seem haughty but feels natural within the flow of the film – these details aren't something you spot in Hindi films too frequently. I completely cherished it. While it lasted.

These little pleasures could have been very easily taken away if it were not for a refreshingly composed cast. This is the Saif Ali Khan I thoroughly enjoy watching – not entirely romantic, not entirely brazen, just the right amount of any gray character. Interestingly enough, I found Padmapriya's comfort with her body the most enchanting. She carries her own brand of attractiveness and she makes a whole range of emotions seem absolutely effortless in just one phone call. But that aside, her body positivity backs up her reassured presence and that makes her character stand out.

Speaking of which, I found myself smiling every time one Mr. Milind Soman presented himself on the screen. It is not just how mind-blowingly good-looking he is. It is also how uncomfortable he makes Roshan feel, by doing nothing but being there. In this believable ensemble, unfortunately, Svar Kamble's (Armaan, Roshan's son) enthusiasm comes across as relatively unnatural.

This grasp of characters is a fine example of interplay between performances and some solid characterisations. If only, the writers hadn't lost the grip later in the film. They have capable support in the music, camera and editing departments. Every time there was food on the screen, my mouth watered. That is the success of a film which calls itself Chef.

A charming, fluid first half is sadly overridden by a episodic, preachy second one :/

But, then the taste is watered down with glib sermons. Even if they are called out for being “gyaan, that's what they remain – sermons. The only credit that can be given to the gyaan*-giving aspect of the film is that it is what would most likely happen in real life too, if a 40 year old is roaming around listless.

Yet, Chef could make for a warm film to watch along with your kids. Not because it has life lessons or owing to the parent-child relationship. It is more to watch a reasonably well-made film and spend some fun time together. Yes, despite the average last hour.

knowledge would be gyaan*'s literal meaning; however within the context of the film it is knowledge that sounds like it is from a quotable quote.

- meeta, a part of the audience

35 reviewers(?) - 10 yays 20 so-so 5 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...And yes, cinematographer Priya Seth gives us one more reason to celebrate life. Kerala has never looked more inviting. After watching Kerala play the lead in Chef (with due respect to Saif) I’ve decided to head there. Preferably with my child. ... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, CHEF is a feel good cerebral entertainer that charms you with its simplicity. At the box office, it should appeal to the target group of multiplex audience that appreciates discerning cinema. The film has the potential to grow with a good word of mouth. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sreeju Sudhakaran, Bollywood Life : ...Chef is a really good adaptation of the Hollywood movie that does justice to its theme while adding its own flavours. Aided by Saif, Padmapriya and Svar’s performances and Menon’s confident direction, Chef merges family drama with food appreciation in a nearly seamless manner. Despite its hiccups, Chef is a breezy watch that will leave you with a desperate craving for food. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Dev Raj Gulati, Desi Martini : ...Go watch Chef to learn more about recipes,how human relationships ought to be nurtured and always have a plan B in your lives. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...But that shouldn’t stand in your way of enjoying this heart-warming drama. It’s modern, funny and leaves you hungry for more. ... full review

Thumbs up, Khaleej Times : ...And yes, cinematographer Priya Seth gives us one more reason to celebrate life. Kerala has never looked more inviting. After watching Kerala play the lead in 'Chef' (with due respect to Saif) I've decided to head there; preferably with my child. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...Food being the backdrop, Chef is majorly a story of values, family and love. If you’re watching this film,‌ a friendly advice, watch it with your stomach full – as it will make you hungry. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Chef serves up a feast garnished with subtle spices. Its aroma is mild and delicate, but the after-taste lingers on for long. Watch it: Chef is a film that is easy to fall in love with.... full review

Thumbs up, by Meena Iyer, Times of India : ...The film takes you on a fun-filled road trip with food and family as the focus. There are few dramatic confrontations but Ritesh Shah's dialogues are smart and witty. The pace though is a bit slow; the feeling is similar to the one where you are sitting famished at the lunch table and the order arrives after a part of your hunger has dissipated. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Troy Ribeiro, Zee News : ...Overall, Chef is a feel-good film about the importance of relationships and the message comes across smoothly albeit garbed in a long-drawn plot. ... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...Lastly this is a rare positive film that has no negative characters as such in its script and essentially needs to be seen taking the teenage kids along spending a good time together. ... full review

So-So, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Deccan Chronicle : ...Chef has multiple flavours and serves a sumptuous fare. Definitely a one-time watch. ... full review

So-So, by Aashish Sharma, Desi Martini : ...Chef offers nothing new or groundbreaking; it just tells one story in its own tone. Made at a time when most of the parents are not able to find more time to spend with their children, it’ll appeal more to families and the multiplex audiences. Though it’s definitely an effort in the right direction and the film should be watched for its story, cast and food. ... full review

So-So, by Madan Mohan Marwah, Desi Martini : ...On the whole an entertaining film with nothing very special to talk about. ... full review

So-So, by Harshada Rege, DNA : ...If you haven't seen the original, this one might interest you. ... full review

So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...Raja Krishna Menon's Chef had the potential to be a really zesty surprise. But in the pursuit of turning it into an Indian family film on relationships the movie squandered all chances of the unique premise. But the strong emotional value and the slice-of-life dialogue of the movie do hold it in good stead. This one’s not an explosion of gastronomy but it is a slow and flavoured broth of genuine emotions.... full review

So-So, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The food that Roshan creates is mainly fast food so there’s nothing to show for those Michellin star references that keep popping up. Saif is ill at ease in the kitchen scenes, Padmapriya looks uncomfortable in western wear, Svar Kamble is pretty decent as the son yearning for bonding with a wayward father but it’s the supporting characters including Chandan Roy Sanyal, who really make the film interesting. ‘Chef’ is a harmless, fluffed up soufflé rather than a sumptuous buffet. ... full review

So-So, by T J Reddy, : ...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. ... full review

So-So, by Vishal Verma, : ...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. ... full review

So-So, by Suhani Singh, india today : ...Menon throws in a decent mix of father-son friendship and footage of food to keep Chef from falling flat. Some delightful moments emerge courtesy the generation gap between Roshan and Armaan. Credit goes to chef Sandhya C Kumar for picking out an array of dishes that will either make you step out for a meal or put on the apron on to attempt making the rotza. Ultimately Chef is that rare Hindi film that celebrates India's diversity of cuisine and its unfailing ability to whet our appetite and for that alone it's worth a watch. ... full review

So-So, by Samrudhi Ghosh, india today : ...Raja Krishna Menon whips up no gourmet meal. Watch it, if you will, for the genuinely enjoyable father-son angle.... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...Chef is about trying to find some semblance of meaning in life after discovering your ex is dating Milind Soman. In the case of Michelin-starred chef Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan), this potentially debilitating realisation leads him to start a food truck business with his son. Not the worst choice of meltdown, though perhaps the full extent of the horror will hit home in the sequel, “Chef 2: Boiling Point”. ... full review

So-So, by Mohar Basu , MiD DAY : ...Thankfully, the dialogues are cheery. The South-North divide is sweet and handled most inoffensively. The writing is particularly clever, especially the Dil Chahta Hai reference was a smart move. ... full review

So-So, by Jaidev Hemmady, Movie Talkies : ...What works for the film is its light touch sans any heavy melodrama and the cinematography. Priya Seth weaves magic with her camera and the sequences involving food are sure to make your mouth water while the way the scenic locales of various parts of India have been captured, will tempt you to pack your bags and leave for a vacation. In conclusion, Chef is a decent but not an awesome fare…... full review

So-So, Mumbai Mirror : ...Good films affect us physically. When the girls were grappling on the wrestling mat in Dangal, we felt our blood flow and our muscles tighten. I should have been famished by the end of this one. No such luck. Unless you're a huge and irrational Saif fan, get dinner at a nice place instead. ... full review

So-So, by Rajeev Masand, : ...Chef isn’t perfect; it lags in places, offers quick-fix solutions to characters’ problems, and feels wholly familiar. But at a little over two hours, it doesn't ask much of you, and offers some pleasure in Saif Ali Khan’s return to form as an actor hard to look away from. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. ... full review

So-So, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Grown up angst is a valid and neglected aspect of our storytelling. Except Menon’s digressing exploration of it feels more dull than delicious. ... full review

So-So, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ... But some more enticing dishes, beyond the tamatar chutney, would have made this a more hearty meal. As things stand the two most delicious bits about Chef are the beautiful Fort Kochi and Milind Soman in a veshti.... full review

So-So, by Rummana, yahoo! India : ...Despite these flaws, there’s much to like in this story. ‘Chef’ is a little over indulgent but makes the ride worthwhile. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...It does not speak well of Menon’s latest screen offering, that I felt the need to compensate for the deep dissatisfaction I felt after watching it by coming home and watching an entire episode of Masterchef Australia. To see Gary rustle up a simple plate of roast chicken with pea custard and fondant potatoes was a yummilicous and sensual experience. That’s what Chef should have been but is not. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Sweta Kaushal, Hindustan Times : ...Chef offers moments of brilliance which, if weaved in a more organised manner, may have given us a light, affable film. But a lazy and rather uninterested narrative takes away the pleasure.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sushant Mehta, india today : ...To be honest, I was looking forward to this film for one particular reason and that is to watch our vagabond culinary expert prepare some mouth-watering dishes. A detailed account of cooking several delicious treats, various cuisines with close ups of all the ingredients. The veggies, the meat, the sauces, the masala, the works. All absent, just random dishes prepared in blink and miss scenes. Is food too much to ask for in a film titled Chef?... full review

Thumbs down, by Raja Sen, NDTV : ...The one truly memorable moment in Chef - at least for those of a certain vintage - is when Khan makes a clever reference to a twenty year old buddy film. It's a fine line, and there is something heartening about the fact that Khan looks to finally outgrow his greatest triumph by laughing about it. Chef holds no secret sauce of its own, but perhaps we shouldn't be that surprised. There is only that much you can do with a reheated film. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Manisha Lakhe, Now : ...Saif Ali Khan just doesn't convince us that he loves cooking, or his food truck team care about anything. The whole effort is unappetising.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Apsar khan : Awesome movie

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

A “father-son bonding” film combined with a “coming of age of a middle-aged man” film.

What Worked

  • The calming beauty called, Kerala.
  • The subtle humor that makes the bond stronger in relationships
  • The mild flirting between a divorced couple

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • Product placement
  • The introduction of the bus
  • The road-trip bits
  • The manner in which social media is shown to work in the film

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A father-son bonding, coming of age of a middle-aged man
  • General Look and Feel: A calm, composed, non-glamourised ambiance.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

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