What I’m Watching Now (Today’s Special)

Another in the series and another that I watched as my hand lay immobilized in plaster or whatever that stuff was.

Today’s Special was doubly entrancing because it came as a total surprise. It arose on Netflix, and I streamed it knowing nothing about it. A light comedy, it delivers a serious message without making the viewer feel lectured.

It’s the story of young Samir, who has a promising career as a New York City chef trained in the classical French style. He’s loving what he’s doing until he’s turned down for a promotion. The boss says it’s because his cuisine lacks passion. That deficiency doesn’t translate well since Aasif Mandivi (who co-wrote the screenplay) plays Samir with such passion.

He returns kicking and screaming to his father’s sad, hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in Queens, with its health code and building violations. One of the more disgusting scenes involves the father’s kitchen help, a clueless assembly of losers. Later, live chickens add humor and a certain queasiness.

Naseeruddin Shah graces the film with his presence as Akbar, the djinn-like taxi driver/cook/philosopher who comes to the rescue.

Along the way the movie shows the “uncles,” the collection of old men who sit in the restaurant. Samir’s matchmaking mother, played by Madhur Jaffrey, does a star turn with just the right balance of South Asian and Western qualities. The only mystery is why Jess Weixler gets top billing since Mandivi has all the heavy lifting.

A warning: Do not watch this movie if you are hungry. Especially do not watch it if you are hungry and like Indian food.

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