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Film Review: Jadoo (Kings of Curry 2013)

Films for foodies
Jadoo (Kings of Curry) is a delightfully enjoyable foodie rom-com

Director /screenplay :          Amit Gupta

Foodie Expert Madhur Jaffrey

Country: UK

Film Rating: 6/10

Foodie Rating: 8/10

Without the risk of trying to curry favour this is a delightfully enjoyable foodie rom-com. Set in the UK city of Leicester cross-cultural expectations collide with family conflicts and culinary rivalries at the height of the festival of Holi, so colourful confrontations ensue in more ways than one.

Mark (Tom Mison) and Shalini (Amara Karan) want to get married but Shalini is worried about getting approval from her father, especially as they come from different cultural backgrounds. Shalini heads back home to Leicester to inform her dad Raja (Harish Patel) of the proposed nuptials. No need to worry. Her father is delighted. The only problem is that she would like to invite her uncle to the wedding. And her father hasn’t spoken to his brother for a long, long time. Raja and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir) are rival brothers with rival restaurants, their sibling squabbles centring on an argument that resulted in the splitting of their late mother’s perfect recipe book twenty years ago. And there seems to be no possibility of reconciliation.

Just after the colourful festival of Holi, a high-profile curry cooking competition is due to take place. It is hosted and judged by Indian culinary expert and actress Madhur Jaffrey. To be crowned King of Curry in this contest the winning team must provide the best starter and main-course combination. One of the brothers is a regal starter genius whilst the other is a main course diva. Will family feuding despatch to join forces not only for premium King of Curry success? And will Shalini mange to persuade her uncle to resolve their differences and prepare the perfect wedding banquet for her and her spice savouring spouse to be?

Leicester, as well as being famous as the city where the remains of King Richard III were found in a car park, is one of the best places to eat Indian cuisine in the country. Of course, there is plenty of food on offer in this film with much of its preparation on show too. And while the competition is the catalyst for reconciliation, the family love lies with the preparation of the meals, demonstrating the importance of food in family life. Rather like in Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman when the father cooks food for his daughter and she appraises it like a critic.

Jadoo also highlights some of the cultural elements of the local community particularly a sequence featuring Holi, the fabulous Hindu festival of colour. Overall it’s a sweet family drama featuring some mouth-watering curried concoctions.

You can buy the film here.

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Film Review: Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006)

Nina's Heavenly Delights review

Writer/Director:  Pratibha Parmar

Country: UK

Cuisine: Indian set in Scotland

Film Rating 8/10

Foodie Rating 8/10

“Taste is in your heart. Always follow your heart.”

Culinary pleasure mixes with romantic pleasure in Nina’s Heavenly Delights, the title of which prefectly reflects its tone and theme.

Nina Shah (Shelley Conn) is coming home to Glasgow after three years having departed in circumstances that left her estranged from her family. But her beloved, enthusiastic and talented father has recently passed away and she has returned to attend his funeral. He was the head chef and owner of the family’s highly regarded restaurant The New Raj. It was highly regarded due to her father’s culinary prowess but unfortunately he wasn’t financially successful so the family find themselves having to deal with a severe case of austerity and crippling debt. Rival restaurant Jewel In The Crown have the finances to match their bourgeois appearance and clientele and, what’s more, they wish to buy out The New Raj. Nina is more than perturbed by that prospect, instead pledging to honour her father’s legacy by maintaining the premises, keeping the restaurant running and, more importantly, winning a substantial cash prize in a well-respected curry cooking competition. She is convinced that his superior recipes for amazing Indian cuisine will win the competition and solve the family’s debt problem. But, of course, there are a number of rival curry chefs, including the decadent and narcissistic chef of The Jewel In The Crown, Sanjay, who was meant to be Nina’s spouse, much to her chagrin. Instead she finds assistance – and romantic entanglement – with the delightful and talented Lisa MacKinlay (Laura Fraser), an old friend who now owns half of the restaurant. Together they master the details of this complex culinary artform and develop their understanding of taste. But there’s more than just the competition to be concerned about because how will family and the wider society accept romance in her life when they come from separate cultures?

“No sale ’til after the competition,” reflects Nina’s personal desire to make this grand plan work – before she discovers that it will become inextricably linked with her romantic one. This is a very much a masala movie with a blend of tasty spices to whet your appetite – it combines comedy and confrontation, romance and remorse, song and dance, cooking and eating as well some social commentary about the family retaining Indian cultural traditions within the context of living in Scotland.

Bollywood cinema is known for its exuberance and, in many ways, the themes in this film are straight from Bollywood – the initially hidden, often unexpected romances, as well as disagreements between the protagonists about how to resolve their issues within the context of social demands and family issues. Conflicts and love are narrative essentials, as are costume changes, songs and dance. Nina’s Heavenly Delights has all of these, and there’s even a reference to Bollywood in a video shop that has a poster of the classic Mother India just to emphasise the point. But, for all its charming twist on Bollywood conventions, Nina’s Heavenly Delights embraces East meets West in ways beyond the love of its two leads in its Glasgow setting. More Indian foody films are available including Jadoo Kings of Curry and Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach (1993), The Mistress of Spices (2005) and What’s Cooking? (2000) as well as many others.

As writer/director Pratibha Parmar said,”I wanted to write a love story where a young woman falls in love with another woman in a surprising way, when they least expect it. I wanted to set it in an Indian restaurant …”. This whole scenario takes the film to many lovely levels: what is better than food and love? Nina’s Heavenly Delights is, as its title suggests, heavenly and delightful. Low in budget but high on taste it’s a foodie romance that appeals to the romantic and, of course foodies everywhere.

You can buy the DVD here.

If you click the link and decide to make a purchase we will earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps towards running this site.

Film Review: What’s Cooking? (2000)

What’s Cooking? is a film with food and family firmly at its heart.

Writer/Director:        Gurinder Chadha

Country: US/UK

Cuisine: Multiple

Film Rating: 7/10

Foodie Rating: 8/10

Gurinder Chadha is fond of depicting meals in her films, to the extent that many of them feature food in the titles. From her early feature Bhaji on the Beach (1993) and as a writer with The Mistress of Spices (2005), food is an inherent part of the lives of the protagonists and their communities: from Bend It Like Beckham (2002), whose tagline even emphasises the food – “Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi when you can bend a ball like Beckham?” – to the celebratory wedding and betrothal musical Bride and Prejudice (2004). In What’s Cooking? the food on offer is being prepared within a Los Angeles neighbourhood where families, their friends and acquaintances gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Being a Gurinder Chadha film, the many cross-cultural aspects of her characters are brought to the fore as well as their individual ideological and personal desires which create conflict, romance, misunderstandings and humour. And What’s Cooking? embraces all these elements with its depiction of celebrations with a large variety of cultural cuisines expected by all and sundry (as well as a KFC bargain bucket to mitigate a cooking disaster) so the titular question is distinctively accurate.

With any feast, ingredients need to be purchased, prepared and cooked in the kitchen ready for consumption at the family feast. And in this way the film covers the whole process from conception and preparation to serving and eating, from starters to desserts with accompanying beverages for its ravenous protagonists. But this isn’t just about the food. Each family’s meal may be central to their day but families are complicated and have all sorts of issues to deal with. And they aren’t just cultural, they are also inter-generational. What’s Cooking also refers to the family problems and secrets that are all building up and may well be revealed before the day is through – whether it’s an estranged husband who has been invited to the family’s celebration not knowing that his former wife’s new boyfriend will also be joining them; a couple who have problems with their children – their youngest son is hiding a gun and their eldest has lied that he cannot attend this year due to college work but has secretly joined his girlfriend’s family across the road; elderly parents coming to terms with their daughter’s lesbian lover; a wife dealing with an interfering mother in law in the context of a family row over the son’s desire to choose his future.

What’s Cooking? is a true smorgasbord of both food and culture in that each family has a different heritage and, as such, the food being prepared reflects their traditional cuisine within the context of the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving. The ‘prepare and eat’ element, whilst mouth-watering, really forms the background of the narrative; it is the characters, with their desires, their problems and their conflicts that add the spice to proceedings. Relationships, particularly those between family members, are complex and What’s Cooking? opens the lid of the cooking pot to reveal the contents where tensions are simmering and could reach boiling point at any time.

At turns funny, sweet, confrontational, sad and occasionally poignant, What’s Cooking? is a film with food and family firmly at its heart.

You can buy the film here in the UK and here in the US.

If you click the link and decide to make a purchase we will earn a small commission, at no cost to you, which helps towards running this site.


Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud) (1986)

Films for foodies
babettes-feast-babettes-gaestebud-1986 soupçon of decadence and indulgence even a little gluttony, does you good

Director: Gabriel Axel

Gastronomic Consultant:  Jan Pedersen

Country: Denmark

Cuisine: Danish, French

Film Rating: 7/10

Foodie Rating: 4/10 (first half) 9/10 (conclusion)

Initially there is a touch of confusion: You are half an hour into Babette’s Feast and the eponymous Babette (Stéphane Audran), a housemaid for two elderly sisters Filippa (Bodil Kjer) & Martine (Birgitte Federspiel), daughters of the philanthropic pastor, has briefly popped into a dining room full of parishioners of the small coastal village in Jutland, Denmark, but has nothing appetising to serve. A refugee from France, Babette joined the household after being sent there by family friend Achille Papin (Jean-Philippe Lafont), who had taken a fancy to one of the sisters many years ago while teaching her to sing. The letter accompanying Babette indicates that ‘she can cook’ and so the kindly sisters take her in; she resides in the house working as the housemaid in exchange for lodging and food. She has to learn to prepare local dishes as well as speak Danish in order to fulfil her new role. Ale bread soup is the first delicacy she is taught to cook – a spoon from a bowl consumed dark-brown mash of stale bread and…. ale. And so she continues to produce such bland culinary fare, for prayer and song accompany the meals that are served to the sisters and parishioners in this tiny community, although she is adept at purchasing the best quality produce and will not accept overpriced goods..

Babette does, however, hold some lottery cards back in France and her friend there ensures her continued participation. Over a dozen years after leaving her home country she wins 10,000 Francs. With the money arriving in time to commemorate what would have been the one hundredth birthday of the now deceased pastor, Babette decides to celebrate with a proper dinner. It turns out to be a feast but the villagers don’t want to acknowledge any sinful depravity associated with the celebration. All through her time washing salted fish and making ale bread soup in Jutland, Babette has had a hankering for home cuisine so splashes her new cash on procuring the ingredients to create and serve a lavish multiple course gastronomic extravaganza.

This is a film about an virtuous community, where the sisters have led a life of worship and charity, where frivolity is shunned and enjoyment of food considered to be self-indulgent. The religious group, whilst still gathering together, bicker amongst each other – their lives of austerity leading to petty squabbles. Babette conforms with the expectations of the society that has given her refuge but clearly yearns for her former life. The feast affords her the opportunity to retain a flavour – if you will – of the culinary joys that she used to know. The dinner includes Potage à la Tortue, blinis (although the ingredients, like much in the feast are imported so no local fish roe here, just the beluga), a salad course, Cailles en Sarcophage and a variety of fruits, cheeses. And of course there is a very good reason as to why this is such a special occasion.

Babette’s Feast is a gentle film, underplayed throughout, and its primary message is that just a soupçon of decadence and indulgence, hell, even a little gluttony, does you good.


Film Review: The God of Cookery (食神 1996)

Films for foodies
The God of Cookery (食神 1996) Kung fu foodie comedy

Director:  Stephen Chow Sing Chi (周星馳)

Country:  Hong Kong

Cuisine: Chinese / Cantonese

Film Rating 6/10
Foodie Rating 5/10

The world of food is tough in more ways than one. The bourgeois rich insist on the distinctive, the unique and the best and are willing to pay for it, whilst the poor survive on what they can get. Then there is celebrity and publicity with competitions which ensure that skilled chefs become either rich or rejected largely because of trends and interpretations of the quality of the food, style, taste or even the performance of its chef. Self-declared God of Cookery (Stephen Chow) is extravagant, talented and very rich (partly the result of a dubious business empire which aggrandises his personality and food), able to detect the slightest of alterations in the quality of dishes created, savage in his criticisms (although accurate in detail) and a proficient user of culinary implements as he wields his chopper with remarkable ability. Martial arts meet culinary arts. Bull Tong (Vincent Kok) is his rival and a televised competition chaired by The Princess of Taste (Nancy Sit) leads to the vivacious cooking deity rejected to the streets where his need to make good food in a manner that satisfies his distinctive palate is put to the test. He comes across street-food maker Turkey (Karen Mok) who has surprising skills with her unique dishes (at a reasonable price) of pissing shrimp and beef balls. (You read that right!) With rival businesses, gangland trouble and a desire to return to the limelight with a restored reputation God of Cookery joins up with Turkey to make the ultimate in culinary perfection, the pissing beef ball.

The world of Stephen Chow Sing Chi (周星馳) is one that is filled with comedy (from slapstick, hilarious, offensive, inappropriate or just genius) but also physical prowess that mixes martial arts with comedy in a way that is distinctly different than the Buster Keaton style stunts of Jackie Chan. And so we have football in Shaolin Soccer (probably his best known film outside Hong Kong along with Kung-Fu Hustle) and also a lot of social commentary that addresses class and community in an often offensive manner which becomes funny when you understand the context and tone in which it is delivered. But here The God of Cookery does tackle social issues, media manipulation, business riches impeding the populace and criminal fraternities being comparable in their own way and yet – it’s a foodie film. With martial arts. Call it Kung-Food if you will. So here we have chopping and mincing as swift and accurate as you can imagine, ingredients juggled into place, eggs cracked open and whisked with speed and dexterity, meatballs filled with alarming accuracy. Oh, and deadly chopsticks as well as woks and cooking implements of all varieties that add to the mayhem. Sometimes the perpetrators of evil are served up as if they were cooked dishes themselves. The contrast between posh restaurants and street food are depicted in their clientele, their production and, of course, their means of depicting kung-food mayhem and gastronomic expertise. The similarities of the elite and the normal are shown to be different in how society reacts to them but in the world of The God of Cookery this is irrelevant as it focuses on the joy of great food, whatever the background of its creator. Just don’t forget to remove the excrement from the entrails dishes. Good advice there. May not be to everyone’s taste (unlike the pissing beef balls, of course) but still kung-food madness with socially underlined messaging that packs a punch – often between preparing ingredients.


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