"Though the heart be heavy and hurt you may be feeling,
If there is time for praying there is time for healing.
So if through your window there is a new day breaking,
Thank God for the promise, though mind and soul be aching.
If with harvest over there is grain enough for gleaning,
There is a new tomorrow and life still has meaning..."
I have discussed some things from the movie, and although it’s not a suspense genre, you might hate me for having letting you in on it. So if you want to watch it, don’t read!
I didn’t go home, despite having a long weekend lined up, with the Independence Day thrown in. (And no, I am not explaining why! I am tired of repeating it to all!) A friend told me of the movie Salt N’ Pepper hitting Big Cinemas. And so I headed for the theatre. As the credits rolled, I almost instantly regretted not going home. Why, you ask?
What else are you supposed to feel, when the makers of the movie decide to take you on a gastronomic trip down the lanes of Kerala? As all the naadan food was presented in all its glory on the big screen, I found myself drowning in my own saliva! I have always believed that food is an umbilical cord of sorts, tying you back to your home, your people and your culture. And there I sat and drooled at the sights of the puttu, beef fry, erachi pathiri, karimeen polichathu, the seafood fare, the biriyanis, the sadya… in short anything edible that passed off on screen. I watched the rest of the movie in hunger. And let me say, I’ve never enjoyed the credits of a movie this much, before!
A young Kalidasan (Lal), innocently asks his Biology teacher, “Don’t we live to eat?” and goes on to demonstrate it by immediately having a juicy tamarind, and relishing that.
There is Kalidasan (Lal), who is an archaeologist by profession and a connoisseur of fine dining (and wining, may I add). And there is Maya (Shwetha Menon), a dubbing artist, who holds onto food as a means of reconnecting with the memories of her mother. And their worlds wouldn’t have met, if not for her craving for ‘Thattil Kutty Dosa’. The misdirected phone call for a parcel delivery reaches Kalidasan’s Nokia E63 (yes, I have an eye for detail) and the verbal spat that follows opens up an avenue for further interactions.
Kalidasan later prods Maya into baking the multi-layered extravaganza that is Joan’s Rainbow with him, and they pile the strawberry, pistachio and orange cake slabs over four days. And ultimately, when they both relish a piece from their masterpiece (finally covered with chocolate sauce, of course) – little do they realise that they were sharing more than just a slice of cake. They had bitten into the sweetness of love and companionship that was evading them all their life.
However, when they decide to take it a notch ahead and meet face-to-face, their insecurities prompt them to send in ‘younger’ substitutes – and that’s where Manu (Asif Ali) and Meenakshi (Mythili) enter the scene. And the rest of the movie covers the ensuing drama that unfolds. And it inevitably ends well.
This movie has been seasoned with a host of spices, which makes it a yummy dish. There is Baburaj, who I found refreshing; considering the villainous roles, he normally portrays. His introduction is also picturized to mislead you – he’s walking in all seriousness through the market (you think he’s the gunda), only to see him walk up to a store to buy household items (including “randu Radhas”!). He’s the man with the Midas touch, in the kitchen. And how he lands with Kalidasan is a funny story in itself! I loved Lal’s expression as he savoured that uniyappam; and being a foodie himself, he chose the cook than the prospective bride!
The movie also takes a dig at many things. Whether it be Malayalam movie industry’s affinity to cast ‘outside’ heroines; the casting couch itself – a leading actor giving a side remark: ‘get that girl’s number’ (I think we all know who the pot-shot is aimed at). Or a film director openly seeking to satiate his desires from a dubbing artist, the know-it-alls spewing nonsensical advice and motivational books ( K T Mirash), horoscope headaches (for marriage), the undue (?) importance given to appearance (depicted by Maya vs. Meenakshi) etc.
But most importantly, it addresses the need for companionship and throws some light into the psyche of (single) people on the wrong side of their 30s and 40s. And that is where I appreciate this movie. It looks at middle-age romance and explores the insecurities people have, whether it is their appearance or their age, a kind of ‘complex’ as Lal himself puts it. I saw optimism in the movie; it’s never too late for love to happen – and when it happens with the right person, there is nothing like it. And thankfully, the romance is not over-the-top. Maybe the climax is a bit filmy (heck it is a film!). However, Asif Ali and Mythili get to do the saccharine-dripping romance – that’s the only extra sweetness the movie could do without. And as much as food was another character in the movie, I wished they had maintained it until the end. The ‘food’ track goes missing after a while, and the entire focus shifts to how they untangle the mess their insecurities weaved. But it’s not a complaint, as much as a suggestion to have sustained that thread.
The actors have all done well in their roles - Shwetha Menon, Lal, Asif Ali, Mythili and Baburaj were good. I am especially partial to Maya's character; I see myself in her! (ahem). I am not sure if Vijayaraghavan's track was essential, but then, I guess the makers of the movie wanted to explore another facet of a late-blooming romance. And I also wonder why the toothless Moopan was there. Yes, his existence is justified as a part of Kalidasan's profession, but it added to the many sub-tracks already there in the movie. Another element I loved was the rickety Premier Padmini which had a radio that would play when it hits a ditch! And the songs that it played seemed quite timely, too!
Salt and pepper are two traditionally paired table condiments, and if I look at this movie a bit differently, I’d say it is the story of how the salt found its pepper (quite literally too, don’t you think? the fair Shwetha Menon meeting the uniyappam that is Lal?!) And for a movie that loves food, it was only befitting that the band Avial (see the food connection?) has a soundtrack exclusively for the movie. The video was inserted as a dessert, at the very end (I am sure that by now the Malayalam movie dialogue Tees, which the band members sport, are a rage already!).
So there you have it – Salt N’ Pepper: Oru Dosa Undakkiya Kathaserved on a platter. Go ahead and enjoy this Dosa. With garlic chutney, of course.
Images: Courtesy Google Search, I don't own any of the pictures