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Chilled-Out Newbie



There was no such brief that I received. I had heard a lot about Mr Menon (Raja Krishna). I got a call one day from the production, heard the script and learned that he will direct it with Saif (Ali Khan) as the hero. I had seen the original film before so it was not difficult to visualise. The vision for this adaptation was clear, that this movie will be based on Indian food habits, clothing and culture in the Indian sub-continent.


There are always challenges with a new role on a new set. Every time you try to bring out the best of a character, it becomes memorable. So yes, it was a challenge for me as I was working with Saif and Mr Menon for the first time. It was natural for me to be excited and nervous but unnerving while thinking how many people will turn up in the theatres and how they will react to me playing this cool, chilled-out guy for the first time. Also, since it was a remake of the Hollywood film Chef with Jon Favreau, just stepping in those shoes made me nervous.


Mr Menon and I have known each other for the past 10 years, but we had never met. He wanted me to act in his film Barah Aana. This was even before Kaminey. I had auditioned for the part and he liked my tape. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it because I was not in the country at that time. Then I got a call from him saying he wanted me to read a script. I really liked the original Chef when I had seen it and loved the subtlety and story-telling Mr Menon brought out in his version. He is a fine and intelligent filmmaker with amazing ideas. It was good to be on set and get to know him as a creative person.


Saif is amazing. I remember the first time I met him was in Mr Menon’s office when he had come to read the script. He was wearing a white kurta-pyjama with Kolhapuri chappals — that was my first up-close image of him. Over time and our script readings, we bonded very well. We were in the Marriott kitchen for about three weeks. We would make bhurji and talk about different stuff like cinema and travel. Saif didn’t behave like a star at all. I have known Padmapriya for a while now. We had done a Bengali film together before. She is a kind person and a good actress. Svar is a sweet kid. He has performed well in the film. I wish him all the best for whatever he does in life.


I was not expecting this overwhelming response from the audience. I was taken aback that they loved the sweetness, subtlety and genuineness of my performance. I was in Poland recently and there was a show of Chef. The response of the Polish audience has been great. I owe this to Saif and Raja Krishna Menon sir.


I have already finished shooting Manto with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, directed by Nandita Das. You will see me in an intense role, completely different from the cool and calm one of Chef. There is another film which should come out next year directed by Ravi Adhikari. I will also start shooting for Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s next called The Flight.

– Bhakti Mehta

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