Salt N’ Pepper, My Favourite Malayalam Movie: A Delicious Blend Of Good Food and Love, Film Companion
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Thattil kutti dosa, a special kind of dosa sold by Kaimal’s restaurant in Trivandrum, plays cupid in the love story that gets cooked between Kalidasan and Maya in Salt N’ Pepper, directed by Aashiq Abu. The movie is a refreshing tale of the coming together of an archaeologist and a dubbing artist well past their young adult days, having in common only a couple of things – a love for food and an internalised belief that they are too old to fall in love. With good food, love and music in the right proportions, it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Kalidasan (Lal), who works in the archaeology department, had been living a fairly uneventful and simple life with his cook Babu as companion until his nephew Manu (Asif Ali) arrives on the scene. Manu, who comes to Trivandrum in search of a job, gives his uncle a cellphone (a gift from his father), which paves the way for Kalidasan’s acquaintance with Maya (Shweta Menon). Maya is a dubbing artist, who lives as a paying guest along with Meenakshi (Maithili) in a house owned by Maria aunty (Kalpana). When Maya, blinded by her craving for thattil kutti dosa, mistakenly dials Kalidasan’s number to place an order, it becomes a turning point not just in their lives, but in that of Meenakshi and Manu as well. What starts off as a hostile war of words between two people who wear their heart on their sleeves eventually develops into an amiable relationship, thanks to the intervention of the nephew and the roommate on either side. Their common passion for cooking and eating good food makes the bond stronger. However, even after Maya and Kalidasan decide to take their relationship forward by meeting each other in person, their insecurities regarding age and looks prompt them to make Meenakshi and Manu their masks. A romance sparks off between Manu and Meenakshi at the expense of the relationship of the older couple.

Orphaned at the age of fourteen, Kalidasan had been living alone since then. Even the attempts made by Balakrishanan (Vijayaraghavan), a senior colleague, to get him married do not yield success. Maya’s fate, on the other hand had been decided when she was eighteen by an astrologer who predicted that anyone who married her would not survive the night. Even the person who had apparently fallen in love with her leaves after he hears of the potential threat to his life. Though she continues to attract the attention of the people at her workplace, as Maya herself says, she sees not love but lust in their eyes. While his dark skin and greying hair make Kalidasan insecure about his looks, Maya’s insecurities are augmented by constant comparisons to Meenakshi and the advice from people to take care of her looks to attract suitors. Blame it on the baggage they carry within themselves, but Maya and Kalidasan are not always in control of their temper. The latter, in particular, in many instances is blunt to the extent of being sexist and snobbish. The complexities and layers that make up their characters are brilliantly portrayed by Lal and Shweta Menon.

Of course, it is not just the lead characters who are endearing. Asif Ali and Maithili are quite convincing as Manu and Meenakshi respectively. Babu (played by Baburaj who was, before Salt N’ Pepper, mostly seen in villainous roles) is a lovable character who adores Kalidasan. Balakrishnan is another favourite, who with his tale of reunion with his teenage sweetheart, which runs parallelly to the main plot, inspires Kalidasan to take his chance with Maya. Even inanimate objects have a crucial role to play – thattil kutti dosa, a rainbow cake and Kalidasan’s car (Mandakini, as Manu names it) contribute to the story in their own ways. While the songs in Salt N’ Pepper continue to be favourites among Malayalis even a decade after its release, the close-up shots of tasty food are likely to make mouths water. Suffice to say that by the time Maya and Kalidasan finally come together, leaving their masks behind, you will be convinced that one is never too old for love (and good food).

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.

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