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The almost casually cutthroat world of Indian restaurant operators creates a colorful backdrop for Jadoo, a UK-set family comedy. Both technically polished and reassuringly conventional, Amit Gupta’s sophomore feature demonstrates a broad appeal that should play well throughout diverse overseas territories.
Estranged brothers Raja (Harish Patel) and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir) long ago split up their mother’s beloved Leicester restaurant Jadoo (“Magic”) to go their separate ways, even if their own eateries now compete across a busy downtown street from one another. Their uneasy truce is disrupted when Raja’s daughter Shalini (Amara Karan) becomes engaged to her very non-Indian boyfriend Mark (Tom Mison), a respected young surgeon. Before introducing Mark, Shalini is determined to reconcile the brothers and convince them to prepare the celebratory meal at her wedding, so she departs London without her finace in order to attempt high-level peace negotiations.
Unfortunately neither her widowed father nor her married uncle is prepared to consider compromise, each blaming the other for their ongoing conflict. Shalini’s plan to get them socializing – and cooking — together by persuading them to team up and enter a curry cooking competition with a sizeable prize looks promising at first, but collapses in open conflict at the actual event, where world-renowned chef and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey serves as the presiding judge. But Shalini declares that she won’t have a Hindu wedding unless her dad and uncle are cooking for the event, making the stakes perfectly clear for the two irascible chefs.
Gupta, whose own family ran a restaurant in Leicester, demonstrates a genuine, intuitive affinity for the intergenerational culture clashes that drive the narrative. Karan brings purposeful charm to her role as the crusading peacemaker, although some more variation in her characterization of Shalini might have provided additional opportunity for situational humor. As the warring brothers, Ghir and Patel initially strike the right notes of discord, but then rapidly concede credibility when opportunities for reconciliation arise. Jaffrey’s brief role, in another of her many food-related TV and film appearances, makes a decisive impression in one of the film’s key scenes.
As helmer, Gupta capably guides the cast while showing a particular gift for depicting the delicious diversity of Indian cuisine, although the historic city of Leicester doesn’t get nearly as much exposure as the chaats and curries.
Venue: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Production companies: AIR Productions, Tigerlily Films
Cast: Amara Karan, Kulvinder Ghir, Harish Patel, Tom Mison, Madhur Jaffrey
Director-writer: Amit Gupta
Producers: Amanda Faber, Isabelle Georgeaux, Richard Holmes, Nikki Parrott
Director of photography: Roger Pratt
Production designer: Adrian Smith
Music: Stephen Warbeck
Editor: Eddie Hamilton
No rating, 84 minutes
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