Huma Qureshi's Tarla, 'a bland, tasteless dish'

The Zee5 seldom known to do justice to any individual, living or otherwise, turns Tarla Dalal’s life into a dish of mashed potatoes

Tarla poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)
Tarla poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)

Subhash K Jha

Rating: **

Tarla Dalal was a sweet–tempered housewife who gravitated towards  cooking like a moth to a flame or Kangana Ranaut to controversies, if you will. To turn her remarkable rags-to-recipes story into a bland, tasteless dish takes some doing.

The Zee5 seldom known to do justice to any individual, living or otherwise, turns Tarla Dalal’s life into a dish of mashed potatoes. Gooey, sticky and  sickeningly sweetened, Dalal is dipped in sugar syrup and drained of all  healthy ingredients. The movie has no sense of purpose other than to make the queen of cookery-books look like an angel of belch origins.

Adding to the sense of unmitigated clemency is the husband’s character, a  simple homely bloke named Nalin who plays the stereotype known as the 'supportive husband'. Like Abir Chatterjee in the recent Bengali film Fatafati, the husband here is a man who seems fully conscious of the fact that he has nothing more to do in life except to make sure that his wife feels relevant, and never mind his own identity.

The ever-dependable Sharib Hashmi tries hard to tilt the imbalance in  Nalin’s excessively complaisant character. Sadly, a lot of Hashmi’s supportive spouse vibes are melded into comedic concoction. Nalin caught by his wife having meat in his office canteen has shots of the man chomping on juicy bites with carnivorous glee.

Burp re burp!

It is embarrassing to watch Dalal’s inspiring story being squeezed from both ends as though her culinary skills were to be admired not for their intrinsic worth but according to how her family, friends and strangers  judge her.

There is a sequence somewhere in the first-half when Dalal is finding her groove, when a “sophisticated” female publisher (we can tell by her body language though luckily for her she is not smoking) stares at Dalal and  finally sighs, “You are made for big things. ” Blah blah!

The problem with such a hagiographic tale is that it allows characters around the hero to say things about her that we already know. However, stating the obvious is not this biopic’s biggest crime, mediocrity is. Every frame is like a reminder of the inception of satellite television days. As for  Huma Qureshi as Dalal, if you have seen Meryl Streep play the gourmet queen in Julie & Julia, you would know the difference. 

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