Eric Khoo-helmed “Food Lore” aims to explore a number of social issues throughout Asia, by connecting them with the local cuisines. Don Aravind’s episode differs from the rest that are localized in a specific country, since his entry is shot in both India and Singapore.
Food Lore is available on HBO Asia and HBO
The story revolves around Anbu, a Tamil Nadu village girl, who is left with taking care of the debts of both her family and her fiancé’s, in order to keep him loyal, thus ending up working as a domestic helper in Singapore. However, her life does not get easier at all, since Raja, the man whose son, Anvin, has hired her to take care of, suffers from Alzheimer’s, frequently getting into fits or acting like a child. Eventually, the three of them bond over food and memories, but an unexpected piece of news changes everything again.
Don Aravind directs a film that focuses mostly on the extremely hard circumstances of the Tamil Nadu villagers, whose life seems to be an endless cycle of debt and poverty, and inevitably, of force migration for a better kind of work. Due to this base, and the overall situation with Raja, the premises of the movie remain that of the drama, although Aravind keeps it realistic, completely avoiding the reef of forced sentimentalism. The way he achieves that is through the food, and its connection with memory, with the narrative playing with the memories of Anbu and Raja, and the lack of them from the latter, which are retrieved, though, through Anbu’s cooking. This element, along with some subtle moments of humor and some elements of nostalgia are the main elements that keep the film from becoming a melodrama, and the main sources of entertainment, along with the drama, of course.
Technically, a duality permeates the narrative, with the location providing the dichotomy, although realism remains the rule in both cases. In that fashion, the scenes in rural India take place mostly during the day, and feature more intense light and a focus that is on the setting as much as the events. On the other hand, the ones in Singapore are less lighted, the colors somewhat bleaker, and the night scenes focusing on the moon are as many as the day ones. The editing implements a relatively slow pace, although the well-placed flashbacks and the back-and-forths between locations give a sense of speed to the film, that also works well.
Magalakshmi Sudarsanan highlights the misery, despair and courage Anbu shows in the best way but the one who steals the show is definitely A. Panneeirchelvam as Raja, whose erratic behaviour is the source for both drama and comedy for the film.
“A Piece of Moon” is a down-to-earth, sincere film that highlights a particular issue thoroughly, while not omitting to be entertaining at the same time.