Salt and pepper… Those two shakers found on a table of Restaurants… They have been an integral part of European (French) cuisine. Salt enhances the taste of food, but can spoil it if used in excess quantity. Pepper is the only spice which is considered to be enhancing taste without masking the original taste of dish. So this is what makes them unique combo in case of condiments. Similarly in life, differences leading to separation and then love which unites are necessary to spice up life. Most of us agree on importance of love and staying together by the side of loved ones in bad and good phases of life but we ignore the importance of phase of separation in life. This separation is necessary for realization of value of loved ones in this mortal life who make it happier and easier. Salt and Pepper is a film which focuses on these two phases and ends up with ‘they lived happily ever after!’Ashiq Abu comes up with a movie which is moderately spiced up to serve your taste-buds. It is a story about two lonely middle aged souls who are foodies. Both of them relate their close to the heart memories with food. They meet by one wrong call, fight with each other followed by a phase of guilt to forgiving and eventually they fall in love with each other.
Kalidasan is a chronic bachelor, a government official working in Archaelogy department in Trivandrum. Kalidasan loves the old ways of living life and old objects also. He lives alone with a male cook and his man Friday, Babu. Kalidasan spends his most of the evenings with Old Monk and delicacies prepared by Babu as per his instructions. He is like a jackfruit – tough and rugged outer covering which hides soft, romantic, lively person.
Maya is a spinster who works as a dubbing artist. Maya is a foodie and loves to cook so as to relive those sweet memories of her mother’s cooking. Maya lives as a paying guest with a room partner, Meenakshi.
Manu Raghav is Kalidasan’s nephew who has come for hunting a job and lives with him. He is a compulsive flirt and a happy go lucky man. Manu gives a mobile to Kalidasan so that he will have no trouble whatsoever in the new city. But Kalidasan is allergic to modern amenities like mobile phones. One day Maya misdials and orders a Thattil kutti dosa, but on other side of the line finds kalidasan. This results in to a squabble. Like this the story is born out of a Thattil kutti dosa. Hence tagline of movie is Oru Dosa Undakkiya Katha which means “The story born out of a Dosa”.
After this fight Manu and Meenakshi convince Kalidasan and Maya to apologise each other. Food, the common interest of both of them strikes a chord. Then film moves parallel with the story of a multi-layered ‘Joan’s Rainbow Cake’. But when time comes to meet face-to-face, both of them are bitten by the inferiority complex bug. They are afraid that this new distant relationship may end abruptly. Companions of protagonists, Manu and Meenakshi come up with a plan which results in a complex situation. This triggers the events which lead to envy, confusion, break up and love.
Salt n Pepper is a typical Masala film with an unusual food centred theme. It has a wrong call, friendship, love, romance, breakup, comedy and a fast paced happy ending. What makes it different from other Masala films is its lead pair. We don’t have a handsome, smart hero with six pack abs or a young, beautiful, cute heroine. There are no villains, guns, fights, action and even punch dialogues. Film simply relies on the emotional connection we make with lead pair and some nicely supplemented humour.
Lal has played Kalidasan so convincingly and effortlessly that you cannot imagine any other actor filling in his shoes. The pain of being rejected by all men due to some Jataka dosha, the anger over the men who assume her as a gullible woman and a little girl who misses her mother’s shadow of love, all these emotional planes of character of Maya are beautifully enacted by Shweta Menon. Asif Ali livens up Manu Raghav with some witty dialogues and wonderful timing. Mythili fails to do justice to the role of Meenakshi. Baburaj who is well known for his villainous roles, surprisingly provides humorous touch playing most interesting character of the film, Babu. Last but certainly not the least, there is the dysfunctional radio in Kalidasan’s retro Premier Padmini (Mandakini- You can see her in credit roles also), that jumps into life each time the car runs into a ditch. It soon dies out again, but not before playing a song that adds a little bit to the story. Food is one of the main characters of this movie. Movie starts with a song Chembavu in title credits which has some delicious and mouth watering pictures. From sadya, payasam, dosa, biryani, sweets to almost every food item that you can think about is shown right from the title slides.
There are some hilarious moments in the film. How Kalidasan finds Babu, New Year eve parties on terrace and beach, fun made of typical romantic malayali movies, meeting of Manu and Meenakshi in café etc are some of them. Movie includes some subplots like Vijayaraghavan’s love story, and characters like always smiling, silent tribal Moopan, annoying and pseudo-exhortative KT Mirash. Thanks to Bijibal for the wonderful music and background score. Rustic Chembavu in the voice of Pushpavathy, melodious premikkumbol by P.Jayachandran and Neha Nair, peppy and vibrant Aanakallan by Avial band, make this a must hear OST.
Do watch this unusual rom-com in which protagonists are overcoming their own perceptions, inhibitions and inferiority complex. Don’t miss this feel good movie! ‘Don’t watch this film with an empty stomach’ 😉
P.S.: Prakash Raj has bought the rights for remake in Tamil (Ulavarachu Biriyani), Telugu and Hindi.