There is nothing much to write home about when it comes to "Mistress
Of Spices". Paul Mayeda Berges' much hyped film leaves a bland taste
in the mouth. It is like a good recipe badly cooked and clumsily served
to a populace looking for an exotic and sumptuous meal.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel could have been translated into something as
engrossing and intriguing as Lasse Hallstrom's "Chocolat" by
sprinkling some imagination and creativity into it. However, both Berges and his
wife Gurinder Chadha, who has co-scripted the film, fail to turn it into
One wonders why directors choose Aishwarya Rai who can't act to save her life.
"Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Devdas" are just a few
exceptions and there the credit went to director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Berges' directorial debut hinged on Aishwarya who fails to charm the audience
with her magical 'spice' powers and the film crumbles.
Unlike Juliette Binoche-Johnny Depp, who scorched the screen with their free
flowing passion in "Chocolat", Aishwarya-McDermott's on screen
chemistry is insipid. She is as cold as ever and McDermott looks out of sync in
the Asian love story.
Another detrimental factor is that it moves at a sluggish pace and
it's a pain to watch Aishwarya's expressionless face in practically
every frame. She is not able to emote the agony of a woman trapped between
traditional values and forbidden passion.
The film is about an orphaned girl, Tilo (Aishwarya Rai), who runs a store of
Indian spices in the US. She has been taught to understand the language of
spices and uses her skill to solve the problems of her customers.
But her powers can work as long as she obeys certain rules laid down by her
mentor (Zohra Sehgal) - she is not allowed to succumb to her physical desires.
Alas, Tilo falls in love and hell breaks on her.
Anupam Kher, Chadha's all time favourite, who plays one of Tilo's customer, is
completely wasted in the film and so is Shaheen Khan. They were seen together as
Parminder Nagra's parents in "Bend It Like Beckham".
Padma Laxmi doesn't fit the bill as Kher's granddaughter and the sequence where
Anupam and Padma argue is a turnoff.
It seems Berges was more interested in capturing Aiswharya's ethereal beauty
than the script or anything else. Aishwarya looks stunning throughout the movie,
especially when she dresses up in a red sari to seduce McDermott.
"Mistress Of Spices" is a mess and it can be summed up as
disappointing and avoidable fair.