Saheber Cutlet, the Bengali movie directed by Anjan Dutt, and starring Arjun Chakrabarty, starts off feeling like a khichri of Chef, Gulabo Sitabo and Macher Jhol, with a few dashes of Bhooter Bhabishyat. Sit through the two-hour marination and cooking process and you realise that the film is a well-baked, funny entertainer; with generous helpings of music, subtle hints at socially pertinent issues and flawless performances by a small cast.
The story is simple – city-bred, sophisticated chef Ronojoy Roy Chowdhury (Arjun Chakrabarty) fails to hold onto a job for an exceedingly long time. Annoyed over a customer’s lack of knowledge of a rare steak and the ensuing argument with the kitchen head, he impulsively quits his job, decides to move to Paris, become a pastry chef and open a café. Ron, as he is now called, decides to sell his ancestral home in Chandannagar to fund his future in France.
Once in Chandannagar, a former French colony in West Bengal, he finds his house being illegally occupied by a stubborn family- Sukumar (Sumanta Mukherjee) and his three children, who claim to have been living there for more than 25 years. Frustrated by this roadblock, he decides to start staying in the dilapidated, ‘haunted’ house on the advice of his bumbling lawyer Kana Ukil (Kanchan Mullick) and encounters a mysterious, globe-trotting, wine guzzling, music teacher called Solaris (Anjan Dutt)- seemingly another illegal occupant in the house. Based on the advice of Solaris, Ron decides to fool Sukumar by announcing his plans of opening a café within the house and offering to employ Sukumar and his children. What follows next is a delightfully funny, musical story of this journey.
The film feels starkly different from all other Anjan Dutt films- it’s lighthearted, shot in warm tones, has a generous sprinkling of fun songs (including a delightful musical sequence which sees almost all the actors singing their lines themselves) and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yet, the film subtly touches upon pertinent social issues. When Potla (played by Suprobhat)- Sukumar’s eldest son and Ron’s arch nemesis – rebukes his sister Khnedi (newcomer Sritama Dey) for developing unrequited feelings for Ron, Potla admits that he has no other place to call home, which is why he is hell bent on scaring Ron away.
Bengalis’ age old Ghoti-Bangal (West Bengal vs East Bengal) clash and class struggles also get a nod. Ron finds an eager sous chef in Khnedi, but his disdain for people hailing from the suburbs makes him keep correcting Khnedi’s diction and stops him from explaining to her what a sausage is. And the food in the film looks deliciously inviting: When Ron serves Continental fare- Spanish omelette, grilled fish, beer battered fish fry- it is served on traditional Bengali earthen plates topped with a banana leaf, earthen glasses and accompanied with a glass of chilled beer or wine. The tables do away with luxury and are instead draped with gamchas– traditional Bengali cotton towels. Wooden chairs and tables are hand painted by the occupants in bright colours.
Music plays a crucial role in the film. Balmiki Acharya (Ambarish Bhattacharya), Sukumar’s lawyer and fellow occupant of the house, is eager to display his singing skills and entertains the café’s guests with a harmonium hung around his neck. In a particularly hilarious scene, Balmiki serenades a lady guest at the café (played by restaurant owner and Dutt’s wife Chanda Dutt in a cameo) by belting out lines of Bela Bose, Dutt’s most popular, smash hit song from the 90s. The candid reaction from Chanda Dutt elevates the scene.
The writing is not without its flaws. Ron’s character is light on detailing. While you are told that he was born in that ancestral home but grew up in Mumbai, there are no other details about his family or home. And right in the middle of the story, when the story starts unfurling, Sukumar suddenly goes missing in action.
But the performances are flawless, though. Chakrabarty shines in the role of an angry, but talented young chef frustrated by his inability to sell the house and flee to Paris. Suprobhat brilliantly portrays the role of an uncouth, good-for-nothing electrician who knows his family will soon be shown the door by the prodigal Roy Chowdhury son. Mullick and Bhattacharya each have double roles – all of which builds to the narrative’s confusion and comedy. As is wont with almost all Anjan Dutt films, the director appears in this film in a small, yet important role which serves a catalyst for change. He hangs around towards the end to build a climax with a predictable twist.
Meant to be a summer release, the film has been released during Durga Puja as the Covid-19 induced lockdown forced shut doors of all theatres and cinema halls for seven months.
Dutt successfully hits the right chords this time as a director, after delivering out of tune films- Finally Bhalobasha (2019) and Ami Ashbo Phirey (2018).
The Saheber Cutlet review is a Silverscreen India original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.