Saturday, August 4, 2012


As I was lazing over in bed with my Friday morning coffee, Manju announced “Today we are certainly seeing a Movie on the big-screen in one of the Cinemas”. Movie? I was not very enthusiastic. Today being Friday, seeing a movie involved a trip in the morning to Mall of the Emirates or Ibn Batuta Mall to book the tickets in order to avoid a last minute disappointment and another trip in the evening to see the Movie .

I put up my weak protest. “No Hindi Movies for me please. I am not interested in sitting through two plus hours watching one of the two obnoxious Bollywood Khans (Aamir Khan does not fall under this obnoxious category) chasing ungainly and graceless Bollywood Gwad-help-us females in locales at Switzerland. Not for me. If it’s a Malayalam Movie let us go!!

Hindi, English or Malayalam no matter what it is, let’s see a Movie today on the big screen, Manju closed the argument. I pulled out the Movies list in the Khaleej Times and straight went to the Malayalam heading. The Malayalam Film running at the Grand Cinemas in Ibn Batuta was “Ustad Hotel”.  I was not very impressed with the title and I thought it would be one of the half-baked Malayalam Masalas. However, I had no other option as the only other Malayalam Movie running in Dubai was “Spirit” and this meant a 40KM drive to Galleria Cinema in Deira. So, we settled for “Ustad Hotel.”

I reached the ticket counter at the Grand Cinemas only to realize that the morning trip was totally unnecessary. “Please give me two seats in the last row with one corner seat” I requested the Filipino girl at the counter. She was amused. “The Cinema Hall is empty and you can sit wherever you want.” She showed me the seating plan on her computer screen to show that all the seats are empty. However, having made the trip, I asked her to click on Row 1 Seats 6 and 7 and issue the Tickets. “Sir, if you are unhappy with your selection of seats you can sit anywhere else you want” she couldn’t resist the parting shot!!

The Hall lights were switched-off sharp at 9:30 P.M and the Movie began with an audience of nine persons in the hall. I thought their minimum count was 10 otherwise the show will be cancelled but I was wrong. The show began with an audience of nine!!

Five Minutes into the Movie and we realized that we are in for a delicious five course Dinner and we sat upright ready to enjoy our dinner at the Ustad Hotel!!

Every bit of the film was so thoroughly thought out and well made that there was not a moment of slackness during the entire two plus hours and the narrative flowed through like silk and we wanted more and more of it.

The Plot:

Faizee (Dulquer Salman)  who was educated in Switzerland wants to be a chef, much against the wishes of his dad (Siddique), a self-made Dubai businessman. He plans to buy an apartment in London to live with his live-in mate Christina. However, when his quick tempered Dad learns that he wants to be a Chef, he confiscates his Passport and confines him to the house.  He escapes and lands up at 'Ustad Hotel', a small beachside restaurant run by his granddad Kareem ikka (Thilakan) at Kozhikode, renowned for its delectable Malabar Biriyani. Working under the tutelage of his grandfather who is fondly called Ustad, Faizee learns not only the art of cooking but ultimately learns why should one cook, what is the real purpose behind cooking.


After asn overdose of Bollywood mish-mash from one or other of the two obnoxious Khans, Ustad Hotel comes along like a breath of fresh air. The fact that writer Anjaly Menon has been inspired by the real life story of Mr. Narayanan Krishnan from Madurai (Tamil Nadu) an award-winning chef with Taj Hotels, Bangalore and  short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland but gave up all that and chose to live for the less fortunate makes the blend very humanitarian. Her narrative breaks away from the conventional formulas and remains very taut.

It is indeed difficult to say to whom the movie belongs.. Director Anwar Rasheed or writer Anjali Menon. We can probably divide the credit equally between the writer and the director for an excellent on screen presentation. 

First and foremost, three cheers to veteran actor Thilakan for his outstanding performance as Ustad Kareem ikka. He simply blends into the role inasmuch as we don’t see actor Thilakan on screen.It is Kareem ikka all the way!! Kudos.

Dulquer Salman (he is Malayalam superstar Mamooty’s son) is so natural, comfortable and easy in front of the camera and has given a facile performance without a bit of overacting or unnecessary histrionics. From a disappointing start in 'Second Show',  his first film, he has grown into a natural actor. Nithya Menen the leading lady, Siddique, Mamu Koya, Kunjan and  everyone else have done their bit to perfection. 

No review of Ustad Hotel will be complete unless we give a standing ovation to Music Director Gopi Sundar for his excellent Music composition giving a Western touch to the Malayalam folk song അപ്പങ്ങള് എമ്പാടും ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക് ച്ചുട്ടംമായി (Appangal embadum Ottaikku Chuttammayi) liltfully rendered by Anna Katharina Valayil.  

Don’t take my word for it. Enjoy it yourself by clicking below for a firsthand experience.


The only negative point about the film is that it ends when you want more and more of it, the lights come on and we have to leave the cinema hall. Wish it could have gone on forever!!