Review of the movie “Machher Jhol”

Director – Pratim D. Gupta

Cast – Ritwick Chakraborty, Paoli Dam, Mamata Shankar, Sauraseni Maitra, Kaya Blocksage, Arjun Chakraborty

Overall Rating – 4/5

If asked what is your favourite food? many of us can name lots of cuisine from all over the world but honestly all of us has at least one favourite food which is homemade, cooked by our mother, not because it is the tastiest food on the earth or the person who made it is a great cook but because it has the love and affection of our mother and also it has lots of memories attached with it. All our favourite foods have some memories attached with us and Pratim D. Gupta’s latest film “Machher Jhol” is a tribute to all such memories to our favourite dishes.

First thing first this is really the first Bengali film about food, and food plays a big role here. After watching this film one will really fall in love with some food items once again. Not only that even the film can inspire you to give a try to your own culinary skills to prepare one of your own recipes. But that does not mean it is not only about food there is an emotional story too about the bonding between a son and mother. The story is about Master Chef Dev D aka Devdutta Sen (Ritwick Chakraborty). Dev D is world famous Michelin Star Chef, owner of many famous restaurant chains in Paris and New York. He is well settled in Paris with his live in partner Simon (Kaya Blocksage).  Almost 13 years ago he had left his home in Kolkata to peruse his dreams leaving behind his secured job, his parents and his wife Sreela (Paoli Dam). He had no connection with his past except his mother Minu (Mamata Shankar) with her he is in constant touch through phone calls. His mother is his only emotional attachment with his past, his pillar of strength from his childhood; in one word his superhero in a saree.  So when his mother is hospitalized because of a brain tumour, he has to come back to his roots, to Kolkata, to see his mother. After returning home he has to face his past, his father, his ex-wife and also a new challenge as his mother demands him to make the same fish curry which he had made at the age of 13 or 14 when his mother was bed ridden as she was ill. Considering it as his ailing mother’s wish he takes the challenge and tries to make the same fish curry which was his first cooking experience some 25 years ago. In this task he takes help of a junior chef at a local luxury hotel, Maggie (Sauraseni Maitra). Will he able to recreate the same fish curry or not that you will get to know in the climax, also you will come to know what happened to his mother and how far he could settle his equation with his past.

The story written by director Pratim D. Gupta is oven fresh and will always be remembered as the first Bengali food film. The screenplay is also smartly written and mostly one directional never lose its focus in unnecessary sub plots. It never wastes time to spoon feed every single detail to the audience rather it considers the audience smart enough to understand. Even there are not too much flashback sequences of Devdutta’s past; there are only few sequences which are least required. The good thing about the screenplay is, it is easy going and never takes it too seriously or dramatic. The script never tries to sound preachy but silently it gives some strong messages like follow your passion, do not kill it because of social pressure; always try to evolve yourself and try something new rather than trying to repeat same old things this is the only way to rediscover your talents. Although not too prominent like “Saheb Bibi Golaam” but once again Pratim D. Gupta has set an example of strong woman characters who can take their own decision rather than being controlled by the men in their life. But with all these good qualities the story and screenplay has some weak points which are not easy to digest, like Dev D’s interaction with journalist Palash (Arjun Chakraborty), the way he narrated his personal life to an unknown journalist that is not convincing. This interview between a journalist and the celebrity has been used to fit the flashback sequences in the script but it could have been inserted in a better way not in the excuse of an interview.

As a director Pratim D. Gupta is evolving and getting better with his every new film and just like his last film once again he has dared to touch a fresh subject rather than playing safe. It was quite tempting for him to repeat his success with yet another thriller with even bigger budget but he choose to tell a completely different story with a huge risk, it can be either a trendsetter or can be rejected but just like his leading man Dev D, the director also has followed his dreams to make a food based Bengali film giving tribute to his own childhood memories of his favourite fish curry.

Casting has been done superbly for each and every character, even for minor roles and the best role is reserved for Ritwick Chakraborty. It is a wonderful character written for Ritwick Chakraborty to give him a break from his stereotype image of being the representative of lower middle class man. Here he is rich, famous, stylish can talk in English and French and surprisingly he has moulded himself so wonderfully to play like the renowned Chef that you can’t believe he is the same man who use to look so perfect as the poor mechanic or driver in other films. His hard work and dedication shows the way he has delivered his French dialogues. Besides that he has some portion in the flashback scenes where he is exactly opposite to today’s confident, smart Dev D and Ritwick has played that under confident, confused Devudtta Sen wonderfully with his perfect body language. Mamata Shankar is excellent in the character of a mother. Once again she proved she is one very talented yet underutilised actress of Bengali cinema. In the climax scene she will bring tears in your eyes. Paoli Dam has very little to do but she has managed to left impression with her mature acting. Watch out her in the scene where she is supposed to pose for a post wedding picture with her husband, her expressions are wonderful in the scene without any dialogue. French actress Kaya Blocksage is good in her limited screen time. Sumanta Mukhopadhyay acts perfect as the typical father from a middle class Bengali family who wants his son to obey his rules and choose a safe and settled life. Sauraseni Maitra has a charming screen presence and she acts well too, looking forward to see her more in movies in future. Arjun Chakraborty has been wasted in a not so significant character he deserves a better opportunity.

Not just the whole cast but the technical team behind the scene is also in excellent form. Subhajit Sinhga’s crisp editing has restricted the length of the film to a comfortable 108 minutes only and it will never bore you. Cinematographer Subhankar Bhar’s camerawork is a visual treat, the way he has shot the outdoor locations of both Paris and Kolkata is awesome. Not only that the cooking scenes has been shot in such a way that it is mouth watering. Anupam Ray’s music sounds good especially the song “Dawttok” has good lyrics which express the feelings of returning to roots. There are only two songs in the film and one in the end credits and the good thing is none of the songs put a break in the narrative. But more than the songs, the background score by Abhijit Kundu has created magic in every scene. Also one must praise the team behind the styling and costumes department for giving a makeover to Ritwick Chakraborty as the cool and stylish super star Chef.

Finally it can be said if you are a foodie then it is a must watch for you but if you are not that much foodie still there is enough for you a smart fresh story, brilliant performances by the cast and crew. So you should taste this “Machher Jhol”.

PS- Do not miss the end credits, there is a big surprise waiting for you.

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