Ask any Bengali and you know! Maacher jhol (fish curry sadly doesn’t have the same ring to it) isn't just a dish... it's an emotion. And it sure is difficult to stay away from a film with such a delectable name!
Director Pratim D Gupta, who also doubles up as the writer, starts the story in Paris. Dev D (Ritwick Chakraborty) is a man of many flavours, most at ease in his kitchen where he bedazzles with flavour.
A world renowned chef and owner of a Michelin star restaurant, Dev has to make an emergency trip back to Kolkata to attend to his ailing mother, leaving behind his job and his girlfriend (Kaya Blocksage).
This Paris-return Dev D has his own demons to fight when he gets back home – it isn’t a broken heart but an aching need to recreate the magic of maacher jhol for his Maa who craves the mesmerising taste.
Food is intricately intertwined with memory. We associate it with people, incidents, and emotions that can be revisited by bringing back a burst of flavours. In this case, both the dish and the film seem to benefit from a spicy hug of nostalgia.
As details about Dev D's life are slowly sprinkled, the performances add the required zest and texture.
Ritwick Chakraborty underplays beautifully, imbuing Dev with a thoughtfulness that is coolly evocative. The bond he shares with his mother – played by the remarkably effective Mamata Shankar – or his measured ease with Sreela (where Paoli Dam is wonderfully poised) make for an engaging watch.
Since the major preoccupation of Maacher Jhol is food, the camera does a good job of capturing the ingredients in lavish frames. Woven with Anupam Roy's music, the food sequences result in an alluring tapestry. The film is as much about food as it is about the company we relish it with!
With a run time of 1 hour and 48 mins, the last course does come across as a bit abrupt, but for its simple and honest storytelling Maacher Jhol will leave you with a pleasant aftertaste. While it's a Bengali film with some scenes in French, the English subtitles can come to your rescue.
3.5 Quints out of 5.
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