MASTERCHEF is the story of Akhil, an 11 year old boot polish boy who pliea the street corners, walkways and railway platforms on Mumbai, polishing shoes for a living. One day at a new ... See full summary »

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Omkar Santosh Amte ...
Om
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Mother (voice)
Akil Shakil Shaikh ...
Akil
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MASTERCHEF is the story of Akhil, an 11 year old boot polish boy who pliea the street corners, walkways and railway platforms on Mumbai, polishing shoes for a living. One day at a new working spot he befriends two other boot polish boys who tell him about a regular client - a celebrity - TV's favorite Masterchef. And Akhil goes on an internal journey to through his past, his aspirations, and his self doubt. Until he finally finds a place within himself where he can keep his dreams alive. Written by Ritesh Batra

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21 January 2014 (USA)  »

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Lets reality hit home but yet hopeful at the same time, delivering a grounded and responsible narrative and not the Hollywood gloss of cliché
28 April 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The title credits inform us that this film was partially supported by the foundation of Bill Gates, which straight away tells you the sort of ground we are on. Akhil is one of several children working as shoe- shiners and sleeping rough on the streets, surviving but never more. One of the clients at the shoe-shine spot, he is told, is a celebrity chef from TV – known to the boys as masterchef. Akhil watches his show through a shop window and, knowing his own father was a chef of some sort, aspires that perhaps cooking could be his way out of his situation.

In lesser hands this short film is clear as day – a tale of life in the slums and rising up out of them into a happy ending in a clichéd but ultimately heart-warming conclusion. To its credit the film does not do that. Instead we have the feel of this but it is much more grounded and responsible as a narrative. For the majority of the film it is actually pretty depressing – not because of on-screen events but more just the normal day to day of squalid conditions, hopelessness, survival and general just dead-end town. While we are told this story we never forget that this is Akhil's reality and we are not being shown it because it serves as a contrast for him to rise from, but rather just because it is real and true.

From here the story does go the way we expect with Akhil trying to cook and failing. An encounter with masterchef himself is well done because it doesn't see the boy jump on him and beg for a chance, but instead masterchef reads from the paper about a story of a man called "smiler" due to his happy nature who just kept showing up to work each day, despite the odds against him. This story sets the scene for the final shot which is the perfect place to end the film; some may find that it doesn't provide an "ending" and they are right, it doesn't but instead it provides a synopsis of the reality, which is that although Akhil will fail and fail again, and will almost certainly never become the masterchef that the Hollywood ending would have us believe was possible, he does have his spirit – the same spirit that sees him make it through each day.

The message is clear – these people are no takers and where such a spirit exists it just needs fostering and help, not for each individual to rise to the American dream and one day become President, but rather just to better their conditions to the point where children are not working on the streets at age 6 and families are not sleeping rough earning not even enough to survive. This film delivers that message in a way that is responsible and thoughtful so that the viewer is affected by the reality (there is no fairytale) but inspired by what is possible at the base level.


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