Aasif Mandvi has crafted a pretty diverse career for himself. Not only does he bring us the news with a comedic slant on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but he's brought to life the character of Commander Zhoa in The Last Airbender and been featured in an array of theatrical comedies. In a recent phone interview, Mandvi told me about how he is now bringing to the big screen a film inspired by his own life, Today's Special.
In Today's Special Mandvi plays a chef on a fast track to becoming one of the greats. He's preparing to travel to Paris to study under a renown chef when his father gets hospitalized. Mandvi's character agrees to take over his family's Indian Restaurant, forcing him to embrace a culture on which he's turned. Mandvi believes this idea of returning to your heritage is truly the heart of the movie.
“I didn't have the disdain for the food because I'm not a foodie, but I did have a similar experience in my life of rejecting my own cultural background and then reclaiming it in adulthood and I think ultimately that's really what the film is about,” Mandvi said.
Mandvi goes on to say that the process of making this movie has really expanded upon experiences he had as a child.
“When you grow up with Indian food it just becomes second nature and becomes part of your upbringing, but I didn't really explore the real aspects of Indian cuisine until I started making the film,” Mandvi said.
Mandvi elaborates on this point by saying he never realized that the Indian spice turmeric is regarded as an antiseptic, but he does remember his mother giving it to him whenever he was sick, he just never knew why.
Although Mandvi learned much about Indian cooking, he also said he believes he was able to infer greater themes of the Indian culture.
“If you ask any Indian person how to cook they'll usually say a little bit of this, a dash of that, ya know, just feel it, sense how much you need instead of specific recipes. This is very indicative of not only the food but of the culture I think,” Mandvi said.
Today's Special had a very successful movie festival run, winning Best Film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It is currently in theaters in select markets.