Chef is the return of that Saif Ali Khan for whom you’ve been waiting for long now. But in a different age, with a different set of problems. His problem now is not how to woo a dimpled Naina (Preity Zinta) from Kal Ho Na Ho or to decide between Veronica (Deepika Padukone) and Meera (Diana Penty) from Cocktail. It’s about duties – his duties as a man his age, a father and finally a chef.
At heart, Chef is a story about a father-son relationship. It’s about how distance can weaken emotions and how the son will end up never learning from his father (pointed out in a very off-putting way in the film). But the writers falter here. We do get to see the fun as well as the differences between Roshan (Khan) and Arry (Svar) but we never get to know the deeper dynamics of this relationship. In fact, the writing doesn’t delve into any depth. We see what is happening, we know what is going to happen, but nothing beyond it. The complexities of relationships, characters, cuisine even are given a skip.
Chef is also a celebration of food. But again, like the relationships, this lacks depth too. Though the Roti-Pizza and the pasta did make me hungry, and the cinematography of the food was a treat to the eyes, we see Saif Ali Khan doing nothing but chopping and a little bit of tossing. There is less for him to do as a chef.
The performances by Padmapriya Janakiraman, Svar Kamble and Chandan Roy Sanyal are good, but neither of them have a lot to do. Padmapriya is one of the finest actors from down south and has even won a National Film Award, but here she doesn’t have a challenging role to meet her credibility. Saif Ali Khan is honest and sincere. If we leave the writing aside, he does a fabulous job as a father. Again, the dynamics haven’t been touched, but for that we need to blame the writing. Here, Khan has two roles, one of a chef and the other of a father, a family man, and he plays both to utmost perfection. He even has a dad body in the film, which suits him. There also is a surprise appearance by Milind Soman and some of the films best moments are between Khan and Soman.
All in all, I am not saying that Chef is a bad film. But neither am I saying that it is a film you’ll fall in love with. Chef lies in the grey between black and white.
If I had to rate the film, Saif Ali Khan is 41 in the film and is dealing with an existential crisis. I am 21, so 20 more years to go. GREAT!