Chilli Chicken film review
Chilli Chicken poster

Chilli Chicken Movie Review: A culinary journey fueled by the quest for belonging and respect

Much like savouring the intricate layers of a well-prepared dish, the film that ignites cultural fusion and culinary ambitions offers a blend of spice, bitterness, and sweetness that lingers with you
Chilli Chicken(2.5 / 5)

More than just a film, Chilli Chicken serves up a culinary mosaic that blends the diverse flavours of cultural backgrounds and personal stories, much like the aromatic spices and ingredients in a well-crafted dish. It is a symphony of tastes and traditions, resulting in something universally appealing yet distinctly individual at the same time. The title serves as a metaphor for the characters’ lives, each bringing their own unique flavour to the narrative.

Director: Prateek Prajosh
Cast: Shrunga BV, Bijou Thaangjam, Hirock Sonowal, Jimpa Sangpo Bhutia, Nithya Shri, and Harini Sundararajan

As for the main course, Prateek Prajosh draws inspiration from a real-life incident in Bengaluru’s Frazer Town ten years ago, adding complexity to the story as well as highlighting social hierarchies and their disparate impacts on different characters. The film serves as a journey of flavours and dreams, focusing on five migrant workers from the North East: Khaba (Bijou Thaangjam), Ajoy (Victor Thoudam), the manager Jimpa (Jimpa Sangpo Bhutia), and Jason (Tomthin Thokchom), all working under Adarsh (Shrunga), the owner of a second-grade Indo-Chinese eatery named Noodle Home who dreams of opening a fine dining establishment. The film likens the aspirations of the characters to the meticulous preparation of chilli chicken, each step symbolising their convergence of cultures and traditions. However, their culinary journey takes a dark twist when a fatal incident takes place in the restaurant.

The film, which blends the spice of life, explores social hierarchies and aspirations. Adarsh envisions transforming Noodle Home into the upscale Noodle Palace, aiming to attract a wealthier clientele. Meanwhile, the North East staff aims for promotion in the form of respect and acceptance in a society that often marginalises them. Ajoy’s death becomes a catalyst for their shared struggles. As they navigate social hierarchies, both Adarsh and his employees face disparagement and obstacles, striving to achieve their dreams amidst a backdrop of cultural diversity and discrimination.

The film uses the preparation of chilli chicken as a poignant symbol for the convergence of cultures and the quest for dignity. It debunks stereotypes about North-East Indian cuisine, with Khaba revealing that chilli chicken is not a staple in Manipur, challenging audience misconceptions. Prajosh addresses racism and discrimination, depicting the casual racism faced by the Northeast community through scenes involving nosy neighbours and insensitive slurs. The film showcases the struggles migrants face in finding acceptance and a place to call home. There are also aromas of romance, and running parallel is Adarsh’s troubled love life and Ajoy’s relationship with Anu (Harini Sundararajan).

Despite its heavy themes on paper, the film maintains a light and comforting tone, shuffling between Kannada, North East regional languages, and English. Though Chilli Chicken grapples with its ambitious narrative threads, it treats every character with care and compassion. Siddharth Sundar’s soundtrack and Shrish Tomar’s cinematography capture the essence of Bengaluru’s gritty spaces and the look and feel of an Indo-Chinese restaurant.

Shrunga’s natural performance, following his debut in 19.20.21, showcases the stark reality of owning a restaurant and its inherent difficulties. Although limited screen time, Padmaja Rao’s portrayal of loan shark Kasi adds a unique flavour. The rest of the actors, mostly from the North East, bring authenticity to their roles, drawing from real-life restaurant experiences.

Call it rare culinary cinema: the flavour of Chilli Chicken subtly urges viewers to reflect on cultural acceptance and the universal quest for dignity. It sheds light on the characters’ quest for belonging and respect while exploring their intertwined journeys. Much like savouring the intricate layers of a well-prepared dish, the film that ignites cultural fusion and culinary ambitions offers a blend of spice, bitterness, and sweetness that lingers with you.

Cinema Express