I watch The Daily Show regularly, where Aasif Mandvi appears frequently acting as a reporter. So, I was pretty interested to check out Today’s Special, when I learnt that it was written by him, based on his Broadway play Sakina’s Restaurant.
Sameer (Aasif Mandvi) is a sous chef at a French restaurant in NYC, hoping to break into the big league. Fate has other plans for him, when his father has a heart attack and he is forced to run his failing Indian restaurant business. Not knowing much about Indian cooking, Sameer hires Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah), a charming quote-spewing jack-of-all-trades cab driver as the cook. With his cooking-from-the-gut method, Akbar has patrons asking for more. Not surprisingly, Sameer re-discovers his South Asian roots and succeeds.
There is absolutely nothing special about Today’s Special. Anyone who has watched a few movies of this genre can precisely predict what exactly will happen next in the movie at any time. What makes this movie warm and fun to watch are the actors. There is seemingly no end to the talent of Naseeruddin Shah, plop him into any movie and he will delight you. Given a character with a free-wheeling spirit here, he seems to be have a lot of fun playing the role. On The Daily Show, Aasif only gets to play extremely straitjacketed roles. Given the broader stage of the movie here, he too lets loose and turns out to be a surprisingly warm actor. As a bonus, the movie has quite a few delicious food-porn scenes and pithy food-philosophy lines from Shah. Today’s Special may not be a shahi biryani, but it certainly has the simple joy of a good dal.