‘Tarla’: A Savory Tale of Heartwarming Moments

By Ronak Kotecha

Story: Based on the life of the late Tarla Dalal, the film chronicles her journey from being a modest housewife to one of the most celebrated chefs of India, who spread her magic of vegetarian recipes all over the globe.

Review: Tarla Dalal (played by Huma Qureshi) became a household name for her vegetarian recipes that fed many singles deprived of home-cooked meals and helped young women impress their in-laws and husbands so that they could have their way after marriage. The story begins in a modest setting of Ahmedabad where a young Tarla Shah is yearning to do something in life but doesn’t know what to do. Before she can figure that out, she is married off to Nalin Dalal (Sharib Hashmi) – a quality manager from Mumbai. This is the India of the 70’s when women were married off before they could finish college and men were expected to get a wife to cook and clean after them. And that’s exactly what happens with Tarla whose dream of “doing something” in life is long forgotten, as she gets busy taking care of her home and raising three children. Until one day it dawns upon her that it isn’t too late yet.

Director Piyush Gupta skilfully sets the stage of the time when patriarchal norms ruled and women’s dreams were often put on the back burner. While we have come a long way since then, it’s not surprising to witness this situation even today — where a woman as a homemaker is expected to be a 10/10, no matter how hard she works in her professional life or how high she soars. The film also transports us to a bygone era adding a touch of nostalgia and a pinch of relatability that will particularly resonate with Mumbaikars.

Writers Piyush Gupta and Gautam Ved craft a narrative that warms the heart and whets the appetite for a triumphant story. While the storytelling simmers at a slow pace, it allows for moments of small victories that leave a satisfying aftertaste. Huma Qureshi dons the chef’s apron with finesse, serving up a captivating performance that perfectly balances genuine emotion and avoids the excess of melodrama. Alongside her, Sharib Hashmi adds a zesty flavor, infusing the film with an unconventional portrayal that inspires audiences with his progressive outlook on life and relationships. Infact, Hashmi has some of the best moments in the film and he owns them. Some of the dialogues in the latter half of the movie are just the topping the story needed.

It’s also surprisingly low on mouthwatering visuals of gastronomic delights. In a tale centered around the culinary world, one would expect a visual feast that tantalizes the senses. Given that Tarla’s story was that of a simple middle-class housewife with no earth shattering ups and downs, they should have also focused more on celebrating her success rather than just limiting the screenplay to how she got there. The narrative spends too much time setting her up for success and leaves less time for us to revel in Tarla’s eventual victory. A recipe book, followed by a cookery show on television was a big thing for sure but Tarla Dalal had also ventured into the digital space with her own YouTube channel. The film doesn’t touch upon that. After all, she had the first mover advantage.

Despite these minor quibbles, the film leaves a sweet and engaging aftertaste. Like a wholesome Gujarati thali, it offers a little bit of everything, delivering a satisfying and convenient experience. The music (by Suhit Abhyankar, Nilotpal Bora and Rohan Vinayak) harmonizes beautifully with the narrative, adding a sweet and simple melody to the on-screen proceedings..

In conclusion, ‘Tarla’ serves up a decent cinematic treat, reminding us of the power of pursuing our passions and breaking free from societal constraints. It’s a culinary adventure that celebrates the legacy of a remarkable woman whose perseverance was the secret ingredient for her success. — Times of India