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Today's Special

Serving up Today's Special

I just saw a screening of Today’s Special at a South Asian Film Festival hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts. This movie won’t be shown in theaters until later this year. If you get the chance, see it at a screening or wait until the Fall release. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. For a low-budget independent film, it was on a level with the large Hollywood movies that come out today. During the Q&A after the movie, a fellow audience member agreed, commenting “I think this is on par with Julie and Julia.”

This movie proves what can be done with creativity, talent and passion.

The story follows Samir, played by Aasif Mandvi, who works in a fancy Manhattan restaurant as the sous chef yet dreams of becoming the head chef of a restaurant. He is passed over for promotion because his food lacks pizzazz and passion and he is repeatedly told that he cooks by the book and not from his heart. Due to an unexpected situation, he winds up helping at his family’s restaurant in Jackson Heights, the restaurant he first learned to cook in that has seen better days. With the help of Akbar, a NYC cab driver with a storied past, played by Naseeruddin Shah, Samir revives the restaurant, and discovers a passion for cooking and life. This movie came across as a very real representation of family relationships, NYC neighborhoods, and the complexities and magic of cooking.

I’m not sure who stole the show – each character had their moments throughout the film. The cast is full of experienced professionals from Bollywood, Hollywood and comedic circles. Perhaps the script was the real show stealer. There were great lines throughout the movie. My favorite was during a scene at Akbar’s apartment where he says, “eating with utensils is like making love through an interpreter.

The script and the acting were enhanced by amazing cinematography. The movie was filled with beautiful shots of food, cooking and restaurant activity. I could practically smell the spices and flavors from my seat. Don’t go to see this movie on an empty stomach. Several scenes left my fingers itching to mix, stir, and saute. I will have to experiment with some of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes, the doyen of Indian cooking, who plays Samir’s mother.

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