A well-marinated and balanced film as its name suggests – neither bland nor overpowering

When was the last time you watched a movie in Marathi that was an immersive experience? The one that soothed your senses and also made you think about yourself and the people around you. While the majority of cinematic releases in recent months have been typical romance flicks or historical sagas, Medium Spicy is an entirely different film.

In short, the film, which marks Mohit Takalkar’s screen directorial debut, is the story of Nissim, the protagonist. A sous chef who has a laid-back approach to life to the point that the majority of people around him find him boring, Nissim comes from a middle-class Maharashtrian family background. The people around him including his boss Gowri, his crush Prajakta, his parents, his sister and his friend Shubhankar go through different phases of their lives. But Nissim’s life seems blocked. He’s the perfect example of a passive protagonist, a rarity in an age when movies are made to glorify their protagonists. But that doesn’t make Nissim an uninteresting character. On the contrary, since its story is carried by the characters that surround it, the film becomes a beautiful journey of self-exploration and love.

Medium Spicy stands out in almost every department. The story of Irawati Karnik is layered and Takalkar gives the story time to marinate which makes the result even more delicious. The story also shows you the inside of a restaurant kitchen, which is nothing short of a rush hour war zone. But cooking is also a metaphor for our lives – there’s fire, ice, spices, sweetness, sourness and everything else – things that are also part of relationships.

Then there’s the literature and art of Medium Spicy, which probably deserves an article in its own right. Whether it’s the price comparison between Maxim Gorky’s and Chetan Bhagat’s books, or the significance of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet throughout the film, or the photographs and paintings that feature prominently place in certain settings, these things are thought-provoking or leave you wondering. One of the film’s best settings comes at its climax, with the scene of a non-verbal conversation between Nissim and Gowri being juxtaposed with Belgian artist René Magritte’s The Lovers II. At that time, you can’t help but appreciate the symbolism of the painting and the story.

The actors in this film are made for these roles. Lalit as Nissim is subtle and effective, Sai Tamhankar as Gowri adds yet another interesting and remarkable character to his repertoire, Parna Pethe as Prajakta delivers what is probably one of his most promising on-screen roles, and Sagar Deshmukh plays broken man wearing happy mask with aplomb. Veterans Neena Kulkarni and Ravindra Mankani leave an impression, as do Arundhati Nag and Radhika Apte in cameos. Overall, each character brings something new to the table.

Medium Spicy is not your mass entertainer. It is one of the few urban and contemporary Marathi films that talk about life, thoughts and relationships from a modern perspective. Most often, the film lets its silences speak. This, however, can work for or against.

Medium Spicy is a well-marinated flick that’s balanced as the name suggests – it’s neither bland nor the flavors overpowering. You may or may not like it, depending on your cinematic palette, but it’s an experience you should savor, at least once.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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