Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today's special, tomorrow ... who knows?

Trust Me / Aasif Mandvi stars in "Today's Special."
Reflecting upon our Thanksgiving 2016:

We were a couple of hours from sitting down to a quaint Thanksgiving Day meal for two in the comfort of our home last Thursday when we fired up our Roku and perused the Netflix catalog in search of just the right movie to fill our 36-inch LG flat screen TV for the early part of the holiday afternoon.

Soon, we came upon "Today's Special," a 2009 independent film starring Aasif Mandvi, formerly a correspondent for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Neither my wife nor I had heard of "Today's Special," but we are both fans of Mandvi. So, we decided to give the film a good look – and I'm happy to say we both thoroughly enjoyed it. "Today's Special" is about an Indian American sous chef in Manhattan (played by Mandvi) who quits his job on the spot at a French restaurant when he doesn't get the promotion he is counting on, then claims he has a job offer waiting for him in Paris. However, Mandvi's character, Samir, is forced to take over his father's run-down Indian restaurant, Tandoori Palace in Queens, when he becomes ill. In doing so, Samir, finds out a little about himself along the way. His world becomes transformed via cooking lessons – that is, cooking with the mind, the heart and the stomach – from an eccentric cab driver and gourmet chef, Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah), the magic of garam masala, and a beautiful co-worker, Carrie (Jess Weixler).

"I can't do what you did," cries Samir to Akbar in a moment of introspection. "Don't do what I did. Do what you do. Just don't think too much," replies Akbar.

Soon, with a little help from his friends and family, Samir transforms Tandoori Palace into the best little Indian restaurant in New York City with booming business and a positive newspaper review from The New York Times. And, just as importantly, Samir earns the respect and appreciation of his parents, Hakkim and Farrida (played by Harish Patel and Madhur Jaffrey, respectively).

The film opened the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in March 2010 after making its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2009. It grew out of a one-man show Mandvi wrote and performed, the Obie Award-winning "Sakina's Restaurant" (1998), which he developed into a script for "Today's Special." The result is a heartwarming comedy with a culinary flavor that is both tasteful and rewarding to our palate.

By the end of this feel-good, 1-hour 39-minute film, Mandvi's character has rediscovered not only his Indian heritage, but also his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food. Indeed, "Today's Special" put us in the right frame of mind for enjoying our own Thanksgiving feast.

Photo: Courtesy of Google images. Video: Courtesy of YouTube.

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