Huma Qureshi's ‘Tarla’ lacks punch, leaves viewers hungry for more

Huma adds life to the film as Tarla, mostly reminding us of Julia Child (being one of the people’s favourite chefs). Photo: Instagram/ @iamhumaq

Piyush Gupta’s latest directorial, Tarla, tells the heartwarming tale of late chef and cookbook author Tarla Dalal, who strove to make something inspirational out of her life at a period when women were ‘designated’ to be ‘perfect’ housewives.

Things were not different for Tarla. She wanted to establish her own identity but was not sure how because she didn't want to get married. She has no say at home other than to hear her parents list the dishes that need to be prepared before a family is due to come over with a marriage proposal.

She gets married to Nalin Kumar, played by Sharib Hashmi, an engineer at a textile mill in Bombay, who promises to stand by her through thick and thin. She feels a void despite a busy schedule preparing meals, getting the kids ready for school, and other domestic chores. She wonders how she may become more than "just a housewife."

Tarla's life takes an unexpected turn when a neighbour sends her daughter to her for culinary lessons. Soon, other parents from the neighbourhood start asking her to impart cooking lessons to their daughters (so that they could become better housewives with good cooking skills).

Even though Tarla is opposed to the idea of learning to cook solely for the goal of getting married, she showed these women how to make their dreams come true by providing delectable meals. The plot of the movie then dwells on how she discovers her innate talent for cooking delicious vegetarian food while juggling her personal and professional lives.

The makers have made a decent effort in portraying patriarchal misconceptions, including society’s obsession over ‘perfect’ housewives. Nevertheless, despite having all the necessary ingredients for a woman-centric biography, the plot may come off as a little uninspired.

The film fails to meet audiences’ expectations of watching the making of some drool-worthy food dishes in slow motion (like Harley Quinn’s perfect egg sandwich scene in ‘Birds of Prey’ or the 'dabba' preparation ones in ‘The Lunchbox', starring Nimrat Kaur and Irrfan Khan). 'Tarla' also provides a few joyful and comforting moments in a few sequences.

Huma Qureshi gave a strong portrayal of the late Padma Shri awardee, capturing her curiosity and innocence well.

The makers of ‘Tarla’ could have given the story a little more depth rather than giving it a 'Tumhari Sulu' vibe. However, Huma adds life to the film as Tarla, mostly reminding us of Julia Child (being one of the people’s favourite chefs).

(‘Tarla’ is available on Zee5)

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