Mistress of Spices
Tuesday, May 02, 2006 15:14 IST
By Santa Banta News Network
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Dylan McDermott, Anupam Kher, Padma Laxmi
Director: Paul Mayeda Berges
Ratings: *1/2

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 delectable fair.

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.
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