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Ustad Hotel

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Comedy, Drama, Musical

Music director
Gopi Sunder


Ustad Hotel movie poster

Release date
13 July 2012 (2012-07-13) (Kerala)


(Faizi), (Fareeda), (Abdul Razak), (Shahana), (Fareeda), (Ummar)

Ustad Hotel is a 2012 Indian Malayalam-language drama film directed by Anwar Rasheed, written by Anjali Menon and produced by Listin Stephen under the banner of Magic Frames. The film's distribution was handled by Central Pictures. The film stars Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen in lead roles, with a stellar side cast including veterans Thilakan, Siddique, Mamukkoya, and Lena Abhilash, along with Asif Ali and Jishnu in cameo roles.


Ustad Hotel movie scenes

The film is about a young man named Faizal, known as Faizi (played by Dulquer), who studies in Switzerland as a chef against the wishes of his father (played by Siddique). When this matter comes to light, his father snatches away his passport to prevent him from taking up his new job in UK. As the relation between father and son deteriorates, Faizi is forced to work as a cook in a restaurant at Kozhikode (Calicut) run by his grandfather Karim (played by Thilakan) till he can plan something alternate.

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A strong bond develops between Karim, an elderly Sufi Muslim, and his educated grandson who over the course of the story, learns about servitude and the purpose of his profession. He eventually decides to work permanently in the restaurant.

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The film goes beyond its fun-filled moments to discuss issues of poverty, under-privilege and tensions between rich and poor in India. Food and its role in basic sustenance and bonding between people, becomes a central character in the film.

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Ustad Hotel was released on 13 July 2012. It was a commercial success. The film won three National Film Awards, for Best Popular Film, Anjali Menon won the award for Best Dialogues and Thilakan got a Special Mention. The film has been remade in Kannada as Gowdru Hotel (2017).

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Abdul Razaq (Siddique) and Fareeda (Praveena), a Muslim couple in Kerala, are expecting their first child. Razaq wants the child to be a boy, and wants to name the child Faizal and call him Faizi, but to his disappointment, the child is a girl. Fareeda gives birth continuously to three more girls, which irritates Abdul Razaq, who migrates to Dubai. Finally, Fareeda gives birth to a boy, but because of her continuous deliveries, Fareeda becomes ill and dies. Abdul Razaq takes his five children to Dubai. Faizi is looked after by his sisters whom he affectionately calls "Ithathas & Company" (Sisters and Company).

As Faizi (Dulquer Salman) grows up, his sisters get married one by one, and his father marries for a second time. Faizi hopes to be a chef, much against his father's aspirations. Faizi goes to Switzerland to study hotel management at the University of Lausanne and when he returns with much fanfare after the course, it is revealed that he has secretly studied to become a chef and not hotel management. This shatters Razaq's dream of opening a five-star hotel in his home town Kozhikode and costs Faizi a marriage proposal from a wealthy family. Razaq had wanted Faizi to marry a close friend and business tycoon's daughter Shahana (Nithya Menen). Angered by the humiliation (since being a chef is equated with a job of less dignity in most parts of India), Razaq virtually disowns Faizi and takes custody of his passport and credit cards so that Faizi cannot go to London, where he has bagged a job as a sous chef at The Ivy restaurant. In anger, Faizi travels to Kozhikode to join his grandfather, Kareem (Thilakan) who is affectionately called "Kareem Ikka" locally. Kareem has been managing "Ustad Hotel" (named by local people since Ustad means master in malayalam) for the last 35 years.

Faizi stays in Kozhikode longer than he had anticipated. During his stay with his grandfather, Faizi gets involved in the daily activities of Ustad Hotel. He also strikes a friendship with the members of the band "Kallumakkayees"(mussels). A five-star hotel named "Beach Bay" next door wants to acquire the land on which Ustad Hotel stands. Kareem having incurred lakhs in debt was at the mercy of his bank which was conspiring to seize the restaurant and give the property to the five-star hotel. Faizi tells the owner of the five-star hotel that he will not allow him to take over Ustad Hotel's property. The owner of the five-star hotel then bribes the local health department and gets Ustad Hotel closed down because of unhygienic conditions.

Faizi collects money from the employees and renovates the hotel. Shahana too has meanwhile realized the futility of her family's orthodox nature and comes calling. She joins Faizi and together they reopen the restaurant, which becomes very successful, enabling them to clear the debts. Faizi then receives a new job offer to work as an executive chef in a restaurant in Marseille, France. But when he breaks this news to his grandfather, Kareem undergoes a heart attack, and is hospitalized.At the hospital, Kareem asks Faizi to visit his friend Narayanan Krishnan in Madurai, whom Kareem had been funding to feed the poor. On seeing how poor Indian people struggle even for their daily bread, Faizi now understands the meaning of Kareem's words that "anyone can fill a stomach, but only a good cook can fill the heart as well". By the time Faizi comes back, Kareem decides to leave everything behind and go on a pilgrimage to the Sufi shrines in North India, which had been his lifelong ambition. Faizi changes his mind and decides to stay with Ustad Hotel, and marries Shahana, who helps him run the restaurant. Faizi's rich father also changes his mind and supports the restaurant, changing it to a profitable one.


Food and its nuances becomes a central character in the film, and act as a catalyst of personal transformation. The film has many references to Malabari cuisine, including long sequences of cooking, of main characters enjoying cooking and of actors talking about food. In one of the most famous scenes from the film, the obsession with a good cup of Suleimani (Black Tea) and the paraphernalia that surrounds it is shown. When asked about the origins of this story, Anjali Menon replied, "I am a complete foodie and I believe that every time we consume something we must give it full attention to enjoy every flavor. That is the root of the story. Distinct flavors of tea, sweetness and sourness come together in a Suleimani creating a blend of experience that stimulates us – quite like romance, I think."

The story revolves around a typical Mappilla community from Kozhikode, with several lingual references, accent references and other signifiers. Anjali says, "Any script or film deserves to be treated with full respect for where it is located because at the end there is a reason why a certain story is set in a certain place. To me, it is the most basic thing to find signifiers from within the location to propel the story ahead."


Ustad Hotel was scripted by Anjali Menon, it was the first script she wrote for someone else. The film was born from the friendship Anjali and Anwar Rasheed shared when they worked together in Kerala Cafe, in which Anwar directed the featurette Bridge. Narrating the way the idea of the film evolved, Anwar Rasheed said, "the thread of the movie came out in a telephonic conversation with Anjali Menon, script writer of the movie. Post Bridge, we decided to do a movie together. After discussing two-three projects, we thought why cant we do a food related movie. We postponed the movie idea and then Salt N' Pepper was released. This movie has no similarity with Salt N Pepper except that both deals with food."

Anjali says, "When we met and talked about his past films, Anwar Rasheed told me once, 'Anjali, I want to make a film in which I compromise the least.' That kind of stuck in my head. I wanted to write something in which he wouldn't have to compromise." Anjali wrote the script during a stay in Calicut. She says, "Soon after I discovered I was pregnant, I moved to Calicut to be with my mother. As she and the rest of the family showered me with affection as only Kozhikodans truly can ... I began to think of the peculiarity of the local culture especially with food and hospitality. I started to read up about the Arab past and for some reason ended up with Sufi philosophy. Many folks ask me if I had researched the hotel industry, food preparation etc but the truth is that the core of my research was around Sufism, which celebrates food, music, dance, creativity, art, romance and finds the divine in all such aspects of life. It seemed natural that the film, too should be such an exploration of a new generation person into such mode of thought and life." Anjali wrote the film in English, in which it remained until the seventh draft, then rewrote it in Malayalam. She said, " I remember the opening line – ‘The idea of Faizi began before him.' When I wrote in Malayalam it became, 'Faizi-nte katha oon janikinnekal munpe todangi.' That is when it really hit Anwar." The film was produced by Listin Stephen, and production began on 21 November 2011 with a pooja ceremony organised at Hotel Sarovaram in Kochi. Initially planned for release in April 2012,


The project was announced in November 2011, and the first actors cast included Dulquer Salmaan, Nithya Menen and Thilakan. Initially, Tamil actor Siddharth was considered for the lead role, but he rejected the offer, which was later given to Dulquer Salmaan. When asked why he chose Ustad Hotel as his second film, Dulquer said, "This is a coming-of-age film and it is a Genre I rather like; I enjoyed films such as Wake Up Sid and Udaan and wanted to do one like that myself. I like the character of Faizi too." Director Anwar Rasheed was sure none other than Thilakan could do justice to Kareem Ikka's role, and despite his health problems, the role was instantly given to the veteran actor. Thilakan said, "It is a great role, the kind that I enjoy doing at this stage of my career. I want to do roles like this that offer me some challenges as an actor".

Nithya Menen was cast for the female lead role despite a ban imposed upon the actress by the producers's association. Footballer Suvith Krishna, who represented the Kerala team from 2004 to 2010, who is also a professional model, made his film debut as a keyboardist in the song sequence "Appangalembadum". Singer Reju Joseph’s son Jagan Reju played the role of teenaged Kareem. Anwar Rasheed says that he accidentally saw Jagan's Facebook profile and was stunned by the boy's resemblance to Thilakan in his teenage years. Jagan says, "Anwar Rasheed Sir just saw my photos on Facebook. It was an unexpected call and when I went to meet him, he was surprised and asked me whether I will play the teenage role of Thilakan Sir." The only drawback was that Jagan was too tall compared to Thilakan and covered this flaw by taking some close and mid-close shots. Jagan was shown only in flashback without any dialogue. The cinematographer was Loganathan Srinivasan, the film is produced under the banner of Magic Frames, and the songs were composed by Gopi Sunder with lyrics by Rafeeq Ahmed. Praveen Prabhakar edited the film, art direction was by Bipin Chandran and Sameera Sanish designed the costumes. The sound designing was done by M. R. Rajakrishnan.Ustad Hotel was in production for one-and-a-half years. Anwar says, "From the time the script was written till it hit the screen, I was out of the house. It took one-and-a-half years."


Filming began in January 2012 and the main location was Calicut Beach. It took a full day for art director Anand to build the restaurant on the beach-side. A report by The Hindu said, "There are quite a few people on the beach and they are surprised to see a new hotel named 'Ustad Hotel' that has sprung up overnight. It is only a little later that visitors to the beach realise that it's not a real hotel, but the set for Anwar Rasheed's new film Ustad Hotel !"


The film was scheduled for May 11 release but due to some issues the release was delayed and in July 2012 some media reported that the film's release would be delayed again as it was not approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which received a complaint stating that camels were used in a song sequence without permission. The reports said that the releasing board prevented the film's screening. But director Anwar Rasheed denied the charges, and said, "The song sequence was shot in Rajasthan after getting the permit and there is no complaints against the movie."

Ustad Hotel was released on 29 June 2012 in 73 screens across Kerala, alongside Namukku Parkkan and No. 66 Madhura Bus. Ustad Hotel was also released in major cities outside Kerala and in the United Kingdom, United States and Persian Gulf countries. After its release, claims arose that the film has faint resemblance to the 2009 German comedy film Soul Kitchen. Anjali Menon denied the accusation outright and stated, "I haven't watched Soul Kitchen. There are a lot of food films all over the world and many that are centred around the renovation of a restaurant. I am a big fan of food films.". It also has resemblances with the 2009 comedy film "Today's Special (film)".

The film became controversial when some accused the film for promoting Love Jihad. Anonymous posters urging Keralites to be cautious against Love Jihad appeared throughout Kerala alongside the posters of Ustad Hotel and Thattathin Marayathu – the latter film's plot involves a Hindu boy falling in love with a Muslim girl. The campaign was also active on social networking sites such as Facebook. The film crew denied the accusations; Anjali Menon said, "Those who have pasted these posters have obviously not seen the film." Shaan Rahman, music director of Thattathin Marayathu said, "I noticed a photo on Facebook uploaded by a friend of mine in which a Love Jihad post was pasted in the Ustad Hotel poster. The trend is disturbing. It's quite unfortunate that some people are not even sparing films from their stupid ideas".

Box office

The film collected around 15.4 lakh (US$24,000) in Kochi and 9.91 lakh (US$15,000) in United Kingdom. The film grossed 7.65 crore (US$1.2 million) in 28 days from 60 screens in Kerala and finally collected 9 crore (US$1.4 million) from the box office. The film collected US$2178 from UK box office. The film became box office success and ran over 100 days in theatres.

Home media

In October 2012, Movie Channel released Ustad Hotel on Blu-ray and DVD. Following a petition filed by Movie Channel, the 6th Additional District High Court of Kochi issued a John Doe order which empowers the film's owners to restrain suspected and unknown defendants from illegal distribution of the film. Ustad Hotel was one of the first Malayalam films to be granted the John Doe order – so called because it is an injunction sought against someone whose identity is not known.


The film's five-song soundtrack was composed by Gopi Sunder, with lyrics by Rafeeq Ahammed. Satyam Audios bought the audio rights of the film. The film's score features adaptations of tracks "Nemo Egg (Main Title)" from Finding Nemo and "Road to Chicago" from Road to Perdition, both original scores composed by Thomas Newman and nominated for Academy Award for Original Music Score.

Appangalembadum sung by Anna Katharina Valayil is based on a traditional Mappilappattu, which is sung during Muslim weddings. The song is portrayed in the film as being performed by a fictional band named "Kalumekkaya" (meaning Mussels) which is known for combining traditional folk songs with western music. The song became popular among children and young adults and was one of the biggest hits of the year.

Mel Mel Mel which sung by Naresh Iyer, and the folk song Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil sung by Haricharan also became a success . The fourth song Subhanallah which is a Sufi-Spanish mix, the track features in the background score of the film.

Critical response

Aswin J. Kumar of The Times of India gave the movie 3.5/5 stars, and wrote, "There is a certain warmth about Ustad Hotel. In a film that gently meanders along touching upon facets of love between a man and a woman, a father and a son, and a grandfather and grandson, the elements are infused with precision." Dalton L of Deccan Chronicle gave the movie 3/5 stars, and wrote, "Fusing the conservative with the modern, a virtuous woman happily swaps her purdah for a pair of jeans and a mike, and a traditional Mappila song reverberates, powerfully, with a rocking punch." In her review for The Hindu, Nidhi Surendranath stated, Ustad Hotel "is a mix of endearing characters and poignant images that hits the audience with warmth and energy." Anil R. Nair of The New Indian Express called Ustad Hotel an "appealing film which seems to have got everything simply right especially because of the star cast." He praised the film's script, direction, cinematography and music.

Paresh C. Palicha of Rediff gave the movie 3.5/5 stars, saying that "Writer Anjali Menon and director Anwar Rasheed have given us a delicious meal at Ustad Hotel." Sify gave the movie a verdict of "Go for it", and wrote, "Ustad Hotel may not shock you with some thrilling plots or dramatic twists, but it is an entertaining watch that can bring smiles on your faces or at certain other instances can make your eyes moist. It could definitely have been less lengthy and more gripping, but it is worth a watch even in this form."

Malavika Velayanikal, in an article written for Daily News and Analysis (DNA), criticised the Mappila dialect used by the lead actors in the film and wrote, "They [the lead actors] have acted well, but messed up the accent. Salmaan can be forgiven since his character supposedly lived in the Persian Gulf and studied in Switzerland. But the others have no such excuse. I enjoyed the film, loved its spunky and real characters, but the wrong pronunciation took away some of the pleasure."

A restaurant named Ustad Hotel, said to be inspired by the film, was opened at Pettah Junction in Trivandrum. The restaurant board, its use of colours and the tyre with the name Ustad Hotel mimic those portrayed in the film.


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