By this time next year, Saif Ali Khan will play the chef reconnecting with his estranged family with a food van in the Indian remake of Jon Favreau's 2014 Chef. Interestingly, it brings together the makers of two 100-plus crore grossers of 2016 in India-Favreau of Jungle Book and director Raja Krishna Menon of Airlift. Favreau had himself essayed the lead role in the original.
But there's more news for the gourmands: Nana Patekar will similarly replace Prakash Raj, in the latter's Hindi debut as director, Tadka (loosely meaning the tempering done to a dish with oil and spices after it is cooked). Prakash had played the hero in the original Tamil version that he also directed, Un Samayal Arayil. The multi-lingual hit (in the South languages) has an interesting concept-four people unconnected with each other are finally brought together by-you guessed it!- food!
A 2016 release declared a clean success-that is, everyone from producer to distributor to exhibitor made profits-is the film Ki & Ka, a love story directed by R. Balki. The narration had leading man Arjun Kapoor drooling over the concept. In this film, he played a rich heir who prefers to be a homemaker while his executive wife works. He naturally is a skilled cook, rustling up exciting food too, and for the role, Arjun learnt how to cook, cut vegetables, and flip omelets like a seasoned cook and so on. In the 2010 flop Break Ke Baad, Imran Khan too had played a rich man's son whose dad wants him to join his business.
Hindi cinema is now as much of a global addiction as Indian food. In fact, our spicy gastronomic and celluloid recipes both keep winning new devotees all over the world every day. It is not for nothing that Kangana Ranaut, as Rani, attracts a European chef even in Queen as she prepares and serves spicy golgappe to the foreigners in their home country to win a cooking competition.
Off-screen, Elli Avram, who has mentally made India her home even before she settled here as an actor, even popularized Indian street-food on a cookery show for a leading Swedish channel recently.
Nevertheless, food has not been all that common as a theme in Hindi cinema. We do suspect Balki of being a great foodie though, for in his debut film Cheeni Kum, he got Amitabh Bachchan to play a 64 year-old pompous chef and restaurant owner in London, who falls for a 30-something girl whose father is younger to him! And in his production English Vinglish, a simpleton housewife (Sridevi) is an expert cook and sells laddoos that she makes at home. Her cooking skills help her when she enrolls in an English conversational class in USA while on a trip.
In 1998, David Dhawan, ever the Hrishi-da aficionado, made Govinda reprise a similar role in his part-reworking of Bawarchi as Hero No.1. While the former film, well ahead of its times, did not do too well but became cult later, the latter was an instant hit.
A film that did well in certain centers was the amusing Mahesh Bhatt movie Duplicate with 'two' Shah Rukh Khans. The straight one is a chef and he is arrested as he is mistaken for a wicked and criminal lookalike.
Probably, the most extensive look at food in recent times was Daawat-E-Ishq, in which the chef hero (Aditya Roy Kapur) has a famous restaurant and who falls head-over-heels for a young girl (Parineeti Chopra), hell-bent on punishing suitors who ask for dowry. Obviously the resolution of their story was connected with khaana as well. Sadly, this fairly riveting film came a cropper at the box-office.
Another flop that was fully food-centric was the 2005 Ramji Londonwaley, about a village cook sent to London to a fancy restaurant and his subsequent misadventures there. In Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, it was all about a secret chicken recipe and its economic impact on a family. The interesting premise was marred by an overlong, tedious and needlessly dark narration for what was essentially a comedy. Kunal Kapoor was the grandson searching for the secret of his now-senile grandfather's special recipe that made their family restaurant a hit.
Many other films have also been named after food items without any connection with delicacies in their storylines, like Chocolate (a thriller) and Barfi! (an off-beat romance). But in the ultimate analysis, it's all about cooking up that filmi recipe that is considered delicious and consumed with relish by most of the audience.