When you are making a biopic about Tarla Dalal, the famous Indian food writer, and chef, there is this woke, problematic aspect of whether you should celebrate an idea that benevolently restricts women to the kitchen. But what appealed to me in this emotionally loud, feel-good drama was how they tried really hard to interpret Tarla’s journey as something that empowered women to achieve something beyond the constraints of the kitchen. Even though the predictability of the drama and the melodrama in certain areas of the film make it a standard package, the sporadic moments work in favor of this film.
As the title suggests, Tarla is the story of Tarla Dalal. Born and raised in Pune, Tarla always wanted to do something in life but was never clear about what to do. When she married Nalin Dalal, he promised he would back her whenever she figured out what she wanted to do. After more than a decade into marriage, Tarla gradually discovers that her passion lies in cooking. The ups and downs Tarla and her family faced in that journey are what we see in the film Tarla.
The movie, written by director Piyush Gupta along with Gautam Ved, is not really trying to hide the messaging aspect of the story. Tarla is designed as this slightly preachy movie that asks men to give women the space to grow independently. There is a phase in the film towards the end where Nalin admits how typical he is, even when the whole world considers him as an example. Sharib Hashmi’s earnest performance considerably reduced the cheesiness of the verbal overdose in that scene. The placement of dramatic moments that created conflicts in the life of Tarla and Nalin is a bit on the obvious side, and the shock value is pretty less for certain roadblocks they face in their journey.
Huma Qureshi, as the title character Tarla, looked like she was exaggerating the character’s amusement too much in those promo materials. But when it comes to the movie, a larger chunk of the story has her portraying the life post-marriage, and in those areas, her portrayal of the middle-class wife was convincing. My personal favorite performance came from Sharib Hashmi as Nalin Dalal. Be it the younger portions or that interview scene where he smiles with both guilt and pride, Hashmi underplays the emotions very believably. Like I already said, the apologizing scene towards the end felt so emotional only because of the way he rendered those lines.
The writing on a scene order level is trying to list out various obstacles faced by Tarla. From taking classes, then trying to become an author, and then trying to find a balance between work life and family life, the film places drama in a way that feels relevant even today. But the overall aim is to make it that sugary package of optimism; thus, the writing has broad strokes. Salu K Thomas, who cranked the camera for The Great Indian Kitchen (one movie that looked at the kitchen in a diametrically opposite way), offers more bright and glossily lit frames this time. The post-interview montage sequence featuring Sharib Hashmi towards the film’s end had some neatly framed static shots. I really enjoyed the placement and energy of the “Papa Why?” song.
A major part of the story is happening in the ’70s, and if you ask me whether the movie could make us believe that it was happening in the ’70s, the answer would be no. But the filmmakers’ intent is not really to show an authentic biopic. The plan is to narrate the story of a couple that lived in the ’70s to the folks of 2023 to break certain stereotypical thinking. And in that sense, Tarla works to an extent.
The plan is to narrate the story of a couple that lived in the '70s to the folks of 2023 to break certain stereotypical thinking. And in that sense, Tarla works to an extent.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended