Monday, 11 July 2011

Salt and Pepper

2011 by Ashiq Abu

I cant think about watching any food based movies from India. But there are few excellent ones in the west, of which Chocolate, Julie and Julia and L'aile ou la Cuisse, the famous Louis de Funes comedy,  are my favourites. Salt and Pepper is promoted as the first food movie in Malayalam and it definitely starts so. But by the second half, food is not anymore an important factor, only love is.

Kalidasan, a 40 something guy - an archaeologist, loves food. He has an adorable and servile cook too. His nephew Manu joins him, looking for a job in the city. Maya, nearing 40, works as a dubbing artist and is living in a paying guest accommodation. Meenakshi is her friend at the home. A wrong phone call, for food order, gets Kalidasan and Maya into telephone friends. They like to meet, but both are not confident to impress the other, so Kalidasan sends in Manu and Maya sends Meenakshi for the meeting. 

And then of course, it is routine story, how things are sorted out. But the excellent work here is that an ordinary romance story is made to look special with its simplicity. Food plays an important part in the first half, detailing the characters but as love gets prominence food factor disappears, even without the viewer noticing this. Here it is nearly like that famous Hollywood movie No Reservations. But still, like No Reservations, Salt and Pepper ends up as a very good romantic comedy.

Its story is routine romance between two elderly (by Keralan standards) guys, but by the way of treatment it is made to look quite fresh and different.

Thus, the script and director deserves kudos, also to bring in food as a subject at least during the beginning. This is excellent considering the fact that the previous attempt by Ashiq Abu was a routine, bohring, commerical entertainer.

Simplicity is everywhere and even the humour that is present, for a good part of the movie is quite simple and genuinely nice.

Good performance by all these 5 characters, especially Baburaj as the servile cook of Kalidasan. What a break for this guy, who was just used to getting beaten by the heroes so far.

The title song, which explored some of the most famous restaurants and dishes in Kerala, was brilliant. I was immediately thinking that Kerala tourism department could use it as a promotion material. Sure it will be a success. I have to say that, in all my life as a movie goer, I have never seen Malayaalee crowd applauding a title song. This song, for me, will be the hall mark of this movie.


The pace of the movie could have been better, slightly inconsistent now.

Some of the characters and the issues around them, does it really serve any purpose. For eg. the issue with the tribal chief man, could it not have made the movie more sleek without this, concentrating more on the 5 characters. The presence of the chief does offer some funny moments, but at the same time I felt the movie was looking down upon a person, by the way he is placed and treated at times, who back in his community is an important person.

Inspite of all the freshness, some of the typical Malayalam movie cliches are yet there. And how the love between Manu and Meenakshi happens is too ordinary, bohringly, for this kind of a movie.

Two songs, the one between Manu and Meenakshi and the Pop song at the end, could have been avoided. Especially the song at the end, that was really unnecessary. It doesnt seem to serve any purpose and is completely against everything the movie built up so far. It was like a very poor anti climax to a movie with a good climax.

I am not nit picking, but there is a scene in the beginning when two archaeologists are discussing about their exacavation project. Understandably important objects, beyound any value, are placed in a stupid iron box and how one of the archaeologist drops one of these objects, back into the iron box, clearly shows the importance the director has given for those moments. I am sure some characters and scenes were inlcuded just to make the script more lengthy.

Anyways, I am still very glad about this movie. It is more like a romantic comedy in the genre of No Reservations, than a classic food movie like L'aile ou la cuisse or Julie and Julia. And it is a really good watch.

However, I feel really bad that like many other Malayalam moviemakers, here again Ashiq Abu and his team has gone for an English title. I simply dont understand this. In fact thinking about some possible titles, Thattil kutti dosha - തട്ടില്‍ കുട്ടി ദോശ , Uppum mulakum ഉപ്പും മുളകും, Injiyum Pachamulakum ഇഞ്ചിയും പച്ചമുളകും
Ariyum Uzhunnum അരിയും ഉഴുന്നും and there are so many Malayalam titles possible, but they went for English, is quite strange for me. I can only see this as yet another West Looking attitude of our society. 

There was a particular shot of Shweta Menon, in a black sari (I think the only one time she was in Sari), walking through a tree laden road. That was a wonderful frame and I was thinking, does she realise how beautiful she looks in that dress. My friend in Padma theatre had told me that some of the movie crew was watching the same show. So after the show, just waited a couple of minutes outside, on the bike, and there was Shweta Menon with her husband. Watching her, I was able to appreciate that particular frame from the movie even more. She is actually really beautiful in that frame. In the jeans and kurta she was looking quite ordinary.

No comments:

Post a Comment