The Mistress Of Spices (12A)



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Time Out says

Tue Apr 18 2006

Indian immigrant Tilo (Aishwarya Rai) runs Spice Bazaar, a spice shop in Oakland, California. As well as supplying her customers with condiments, she also offers what their hearts desire, for Tilo is a ‘Mistress’, a priestess of the secret magical healing powers of the spices. When hunky American Doug (Dylan McDermott, wooden) ventures into Tilo’s establishment, he unlocks her forbidden passions, which threaten to destroy her ‘spice-girl’ power…

First-time director Paul Mayeda Berges’ ambitious but flawed film is based on the novel by American Bengali writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It’s a near-faithful adaptation with one major change: Tilo is young and pretty, not ‘ugly and old’ as in the book. Presumably, this was to accommodate the casting of the gorgeous Rai, Bollywood’s biggest female star, continuing her quest for suitable crossover material after 2004’s ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (‘Mistress…’ is co-written by that film’s director and Berges’ wife, Gurinder Chadha). This is the film’s fatal flaw: Rai’s limited acting range, and trademark doe-eyed looks are insufficient to engage us and transcend the film’s preposterous ‘Chocolat’-like plot. Consequently, it’s difficult to care about Tilo’s predicament, or any of the other characters, a bunch of NRI (Non-Resident Indian) stereotypes.

While it’s commendable to see the talented ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ husband-and-wife duo making films about the wider Indian diaspora and experimenting with unusual themes, it’s such a disappointment that the end result is a bland, feeble fable.


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Release details



UK release:

Fri Apr 21, 2006


92 mins

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3.8 / 5

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This movie was so lame. I didn't know whether I should laugh, sleep or cry. I ended up leaving the theater and going home.