I was always impressed by Aasif Mandvi who is a regular in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. So when I learnt that he had starred in a movie as a lead in a movie that had Naseeruddin Shah and Madhur Jaffrey as his co-stars, I was eager to watch it. I finally got around to seeing it after Netflix offered it on their instant streaming.
I found the movie to be utterly charming, funny and mouth watering. Cookbook author and actor Madhur Jaffrey is great in the role of the mother of the central character played by Mandvi, a chef in the midst of professional and personal crises. Shah as the NY cab driver-turned-chef is utterly endearing.
The movie is about Samir, a chef and first generation Indian-American who impulsively quits his job, is pressed into service at his family restaurant, finds his cooking mojo and realizes that approach to food is really an approach to life itself. Shah plays the role of Akbhar with sparkling charisma, as a wise mentor whose passion for life is positively contagious to even the most skeptical movie viewer. Likewise, Madhur Jaffrey as Farida is delightful as Samir’s meddlesome and endearingly overbearing mother who is determined to marry him off with the help of an online Indian matrimonial service. One of the highlights of the movie is when Shah and Jaffrey share a scene in the kitchen of the restaurant, where they meet for the first time. Farida (Jaffrey) has been instructed by Samir’s father(another great performance by Harish Patel) to check up on the restaurant and ends up meeting the eccentric cab driver/cook who is responsible for turning things around. Shah displays the art of impressing and charming a woman with élan and Jaffrey responds suitably, an endearing moment suffused with warmth.
The film is set in Manhattan and Jackson Heights, Queens, which a New Yorker can easily recognize and identify with. The story is completely predictable and formulaic, but with a film this enjoyable, who cares? Sure, it includes many clichés of dating and family strife but somehow there is a sweetness that tugs at your heartstrings. You don’t have to be an Indian to appreciate the culture clashes and modern drama that the lead character finds himself in; the story has a universal appeal. Overall it is sweet, romantic, sentimental and will make you want to go out for Indian food as soon as you finish watching this movie. Be warned!