Koimoi Recommends Ustad Hotel: Ever saw a film and just felt good about its existence? Dulquer Salmaan’s second film, the 2012 release Ustad Hotel made me feel that way. A journey of three generations, the clash of their mindsets and all this beaded in a thread called food, Ustad Hotel is a coming of age drama that deserves to be spoken about for its simplicity. Today on Koimoi Recommends, I recommend you director Anwar Rasheed’s debut film.
Director: Anwar Rasheed
Available On: Disney Plus Hotstar
Language: Malayalam (With Subtitles)
A young boy Feyzee (Dulquer Salmaan) dreams of becoming a chef. But his father’s orthodox mindset doesn’t process the picture of his son cooking in a kitchen. Hatching a plan he does become a chef, but that leads to his father denouncing him. Circumstances bring him to his grandfather who runs a small restaurant in Kozhikode, and his life changes forever.
I have a theory, hear it out. Unlike just an aspect, food in Malayalam cinema plays a character. Why do I say this? Well, in the order I saw them, Kumbalangi Nights, Jallikattu, Angamaly Diaries, and many more films show how much this landscape is religiously in love with its cuisine. Ustad Hotel is no exception.
It is an emotional study of three generations and a pretty well-made example of how patriarchy is not passed on as a legacy. When you see Feyzee’s (Dulquer Salmaan) father (Siddique) you think the orthodox mindset he carries is passed on by his father. But when you meet Feyzee’s granddad Kareem (Thilakan) your notions are destroyed. Because here is a man who doesn’t feel cooking is a feminine thing. He is happy in his small world, unlike his son who only thinks money and has a mould a man should fit in. Writer Anjali Menon sharply shows you the disconnect.
Her writing in Ustad Hotel is an alarm to the wrongs she has observed. When four girls are born awaiting a son, or when the father gets angry when he sees that son in the kitchen, you know you have seen these instances. But Menon doesn’t stop on that, she shows you a solution. For a guy brought up by four strong-headed sisters, he doesn’t mould himself in the gender limits, rather he keeps on dreaming about a profession considered feminine.
That brings me to the woman in this universe. Nithya Menen plays Shahana. A Muslim girl, for whom her family is finding a perfect match. She has dreams and she doesn’t sit crying for them. Rather she sneaks out and lives them. Dulquer and Nithya share a beautiful dynamic on that note. Both having dreams, families trying to crush them, yet they shine out.
Ustad Hotel presents humans as they are. Director Anwar Rasheed and Anjali Menon don’t create virtuous people, they show their flaws. Feyzee saying he should have not got stuck here and flew to Paris, while his granddad is in the ICU, let’s us see through this guy. He isn’t perfect, or has learnt the life lesson in a month. He is still learning and will continue to.
Having said all of this, Ustad Hotel is a complicated tale told in the simplest method. Watch it with your family while in quarantine, and let those emotions flow free!
Ustad Hotel Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and a Half Star)