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Medium Spicy review: More like a Sweet and Sour story of a typical family

This film is not your usual Rom-Com in the kitchen, and neither is it the high Drama of the Ginsu knife.

3rating
  • Manisha Lakhe

Last Updated: 02.10 AM, Jun 16, 2022

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Medium Spicy review: More like a Sweet and Sour story of a typical family
Medium Spicy poster
Story:

A Sous Chef at a fancy hotel, Nissim wants nothing more than escaping his claustrophobic life at home and at work by moving to Paris as an Executive Chef at a restaurant. Surrounded by all kinds of love, will he be able to write his own love story?

Review:

Whether it’s Mostly Martha (Bavarian film, 2001), No Reservations (2007), The Chef (2014), The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) or the homegrown Bengali film Macher Jhol (2017), every movie connected to food makes you hungry. So I entered the theatre hoping to hear the imagined tantalising aromas, the sizzle of the grill and the magnificent plating that makes you wish you were eating the food on the screen rather than the refried samosas on the tray. Clarification: The film is about chefs, but it’s not about food. 

Nissim is a Sous Chef at a ‘big’ hotel and works in the kitchen sometimes stirring the sauce, kneading dough, and even stoking the woodfire. It’s the executive chef Gowri who is shown to be checking stock and yelling at the line cooks to shape up. That confused me, and I had to remind myself often that the film is not about food, it’s about people and the protagonists just happen to be chefs. 

Nissim and Gowri are played by Lalit Prabhakar and Sai Tamhankar - whom you saw just a couple of weeks ago as a couple in Pet Puraan. But thankfully this film is way better than the show. And both are extremely likeable characters in the film. 

Nissim has noticed the pretty gal Prajakta from the Front Office, but has not made any effort to date her. Chef Gowri has noticed this hesitation and has also noticed Nissim’s eyes… Hmm, you sigh into the coffee. There is a recipe of love in this kitchen. But if you had parents like Nissim, would you want to even think of love? Neena Kulkarni and Ravindra Mankani play Nissim’s parents and you take refuge in coffee when you hear the mother go on and on about everything and the father escaping the home to smoke a cigarette rather than argue with his eternally angry, forever a victim wife. Neena Kulkarni is brilliant, and the audience laughed uncomfortably as they too recognised their mothers in Nissim’s mom. But you also recognise that she’s transformed when her son praises the food she makes. 

Nissim’s pregnant sister (played by Neha Joshi) holds her husband figuratively to ransom by making him buy a house for their baby. The husband’s resignation to buying a home in the city instead of a home by the sea is something many people will identify with. After all, when you love somebody, you can put away your dreams, right? 

The sweet and sour tale of love continues when you realise Nissim’s colleague who loves his job as a chef, but also wants to have a loving home with his wife and child. He struggles with love as well because his wife does not want him to put his work before his family. What kind of love is this?

Nissim likes this girl Prajakta who works in the hotel, but his love story with her is only in his head. He’s attracted to Chef Gowri, but she seems to be disinterested in the ‘forever’ in love. And the job he has interviewed for - so he can run away from everyone - seems to take forever to materialise. 

He finds an answer when he visits his aunt (whom the family has disowned because she rebelled): played magnificently by Arundhati Nag. It’s a tiny role, but oh what an impact. She explains how the silk route seems to be straightforward, but you don’t know how far its tentacles have spread and how many journeys are being taken. You wish they’d spent more time with this rebel aunt than the story of the drunk chef who wants to be with his family. 

When the protagonists are chefs, you do expect to see at least one scene where they cook for one another (who can forget the incredible scene in the Oscar Winning film Moonlight, where Chiron, who is a chef at a Diner, cooks for his long lost lover). But this is more about finding love than about food. Irawati Karnik’s screenplay is about love even though the trailer and the title makes you believe that this is a movie about food. Loved the touches of old fashioned cinema in scenes like when Nissim visits his aunt and crashes on the carpet and it rains outside while a snatch of a ghazal plays softly… I too emerged from the theatre into a light drizzle and ended up humming ‘Bujh sa gaya hai dil’... 

Verdict:

Marathi cinema has raised expectations by gems like Court, Killa and even The Disciple. This film is not your usual Rom-Com in the kitchen, and neither is it high Drama of the Ginsu knife, but it’s like the title: medium spicy, comfort food of the soul. 

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