Gayatri is a very strict and religious vegetarian who is retiring. But at her office farewell party, she accidentally eats some chicken, much to her chagrin. She sets about praying to atone for her mistakes and to ask her gods for forgiveness.
And yet… she cannot forget the delicious taste of that dish, and her mind is astonished that a dish strictly forbidden as immoral by her religion could taste so good. She sets about trying to find the recipe, which takes her on an inner journey that helps her rethink who she is and how she lives her life.
Writer-director Rahul Chaturvedi’s short dramedy — co-written with Luisa Alvarez Restrepo — derives its humor not from gags, pranks or surreal conceits, but from the affection and charm that arises when watching someone bump up against the boundaries of the new. The resulting friction propels Gayatri into strange new situations with strange new people, and while it’s fun to watch someone formerly set in her ways collide into a new way of seeing and thinking, it’s also richly resonant and heartwarming.
The storytelling is resolutely character-centered, with excellent care and attention paid to laying out Gayatri’s life. She faces a big transition with retirement, but her family life doesn’t look promising, with a husband and son who don’t seem to pay her much attention and often ridicule her for her interest and love of cooking and food. Gayatri’s desire to cook a great meal is as much an emotional need for connection as it is an expression of creativity and pleasure in life — and none of those needs are truly met in her life.
As she sets out to discover the forbidden yet alluring recipe, Gayatri’s world expands, and she learns to find her place and footing in a fast-paced world. The camerawork and visuals capture this section of her journey with both a liveliness and a pleasant ordinariness that is nevertheless warm and friendly — qualities that are very much like Gayatri herself.
She is portrayed by lead actor Balindar Johal with great charm, as well as a curiosity and zest for experience that awakens as she delves deeper into a hidden culinary world. As she begins to question the received wisdom that’s guided her life so far — and her idea that getting older means eschewing new interests and passions — she reawakens to the possibilities of life again.
Like many films about food, “Forbidden Tikka Masala” uses the sounds, sights and rituals of the culinary realm as a springboard to explore ideas of tradition, pleasure, togetherness and heritage. And like many films with food at their creative core, the craftsmanship creates its own feast of cinematic pleasures, from endearing performances to heartwarming, engaging storytelling that earns its emotion from truthful, bighearted attention to character. But these tropes are layered over a hopeful, optimistic story that’s essentially about reinvention and finding yourself again, no matter what stage in life you’re in — and how looking through a different lens can lead to a new lease on life itself.
Transcript provided by YouTube:
aren’t you going to miss us
but i don’t think you guys are going to
me look at how much you’re celebrating
you got such a tasty catering
no really i’ve already had two rounds of
curry is tastes so delicious
what do you say jim oh congrats guyatri
so do you have any plans for you know
your retired life nothing’s planned
i mean i’ll get to spend more time with
i am also helping at our temple oh
you weren’t kidding this chicken curry
ah do they marinate their chicken in
i swear i can never have enough of this
why does my food never taste this good
hello you have reached emily i’m not
hello i’m calling for this delivery
i am forgetting the name right now but i
tasted this chicken dish which
had an orange brown sauce
so how many chicken dishes do you have
then let’s do this send me
let’s pick up your mummy and go for
lunch today unless she’s experimenting
are you you want to order no just
could i get a pound of wings please yeah
hey do you need a place to sit you can
would you like to try one
what do they put in this um i don’t know
hot sauce maybe do you like it
yes but see actually i’m vegetarian
so what about eggs can you eat eggs no
nothing that was living or planning to
live oh man that must suck
i love knuckles uh hi so my friend has a
question uh what did you say it had
garlic ginger onion cumin and coriander
i’m sure it had basil in it too
any chicken dish like that you guys can
what about barbecue sauce
is this barbecue sauce it is a little
bit brown it was sweet but it was a
yellowish okay we’ll find it we’ll find
thanks a lot i don’t think it’s here
this is this is a bacon with a hot dog
chicken he’s wearing a hot dog oh bacon
is this the one no this is not
one looking for but it still tastes good
so what’s your next big adventure
once you’ve found this special recipe
i don’t know maybe i’ll go to india to
but he doesn’t tell me what he’s
maybe i can marry him i want you
don’t worry i’m not going to take away
but that’s for your family i mean what
about you what do you want to do
well i’m retired no oh god when i retire
jump on my bike and ride all the way to
and tell me how did you become a biker
i’m always afraid of the bikers well
i’ve always been afraid of teachers so
hey i want you to meet some friends
you so scared a little better
hey janjui this is emily i can reach
good news i found the recipe for the
turns out it was not chicken but spicy
sorry for the scare hope this put your
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video