Ustad Hotel

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Ustad Hotel
Ustad Hotel (2012) - Poster.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Anwar Rasheed
Produced by Listin Stephen
Written by Anjali Menon
Starring Dulquer Salmaan
Nithya Menen
Assim Jamal
Narrated by Mamukkoya
Music by Gopi Sunder
Cinematography Loganathan Srinivasan
Edited by Praveen Prabhakar
Magic Frames
Distributed by Central Pictures & PJ Entertainments Europe
Release dates
  • 13 July 2012 (2012-07-13) (Kerala)
Running time
151 minutes
Country India
Language Malayalam
Box office 19.5 crore[1]

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 and was distributed by Central Pictures.[2] The film stars Dulquer Salmaan, Thilakan, Siddique, Mamukkoya, Nithya Menen and Lena Abhilash, along with Asif Ali and Jishnu in cameo roles.

The film is about a young man named Faizal (known as Feyzee), who studies in Switzerland as a chef against his rich father's wishes. As the relation between father and son deteriorates, Feyzee is forced to work as a cook in a restaurant at Kozhikode (Calicut) run by his grandfather Karim. A strong bond develops between Karim, an elderly Sufi Muslim, and his educated grandson who eventually decides to work permanently in the restaurant. The film also discusses issues of poverty, underprivilege and tensions between rich and poor in India. Food and its nuances becomes a central character in the film.[3]

Ustad Hotel was released on 13 July 2012. The film was one of the highest grossing Malayalam films of 2012 The film was named number-one in the list of "Top 10 Malayalam films of 2012" compiled by[4][5] The film won three National Film Awards: the film won the award for Best Popular Film while Anjali Menon won the award for Best Dialogues and Thilakan got a Special Mention.[6]


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 wants Faizi to marry a business tycoon's daughter Shahana (Nithya Menen). Razaq virtually disowns Faizi and takes custody of his passport and credit cards so that Faizi cannot go to London, where he already has a job as a sous chef in the IV 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 after him by people) 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 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 had incurred lakhs of debt and the bank was planning 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 it 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 environment.

Faizi collects money from the employees and renovates and with Shahana's help, reopens the restaurant, which becomes very successful, enabling them to clear the debts. Faizi wants to go to France to pursue his career and he gets an 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 are struggling for food, 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 goes on a pilgrimage to the North, 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 acts 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.[3] 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.[11] 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."[12]


Sun setting over Calicut beach. A large part of the film takes place on the beach at Calicut.


Ustad Hotel was scripted by Anjali Menon, the director of the award-winning feature Manjadikuru and the short film Happy Journey from the Kerala Cafe anthology. It was the first script she wrote for someone else.[2] 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.[12] 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."[13]

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."[12] 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."[12] 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."[14] 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.[15] Tamil actor Siddharth was also considered for the lead role, which was later given to veteran actor Mammootty's son Dulquer Salmaan.[16] 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 Faizee too."[17] 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".[17]

Nithya Menen was cast for the female lead role despite a ban imposed upon the actress by the producers's association.[18] 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.[19] 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."[20]


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 !"[17] Filming also occurred at Hotel Holiday Inn in Kochi, and in locations in Rajasthan, Madurai and Dubai.[21]


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.[22][23][24] 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."[25]

Ustad Hotel was released on 29 June 2012 in 73 screens across Kerala. The film was awarded with "U (Universal)" certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification.[26] A new release system, which imposed restrictions on the number of movies released in the state each week was passed earlier that year, but was withdrawn that week which resulted in three releases on the same day: Ustad Hotel, Namukku Parkkan and No. 66 Madhura Bus.[27] Ustad Hotel was also released in major cities outside Kerala and in the United Kingdom, United States and Gulf countries. After its release, claims arose that the film has faint resemblance to the 2009 German comedy film Soul Kitchen.[28] Anjali Menon denied the 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.".[14] 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".[29]

Box office[edit]

The film was the third highest grossing Malayalam films of 2012 after Mayamohini and Thattathin Marayathu. The film collected 99.9 lakh (US$150,000) on its opening weekend release. The film collected around 15.4 lakh (US$23,000) in Kochi and 9.91 lakh (US$15,000) in United Kingdom.[30][31][32] The film grossed 7.65 crore (US$1.1 million) in 28 days from 60 screens in Kerala and finally collected 9 crore (US$1.3 million) from its worldwide theatrical run.[33][34][35]

Home media[edit]

In October 2012, Movie Channel released Ustad Hotel on Bluray 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.[36]


Ustad Hotel
Soundtrack album by Gopi Sunder
Released 2012
Recorded 2011
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 23:46
Language Malayalam
Label Satyam Audios
Producer Anwar Rasheed
Gopi Sunder chronology
Ustad Hotel

The film's five-song soundtrack was composed by Gopi Sunder, with lyrics by Rafeeq Ahammed.[37] Satyam Audios bought the audio rights of the film.

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.[2] The song became popular among children and young adults and was one of the biggest hits of the year.[38]

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.[38]

No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Appangalembadum"   Rafeeq Ahammed Anna Katharina Valayil 4:48
2. "Mel Mel Mel"   Rafeeq Ahammed Naresh Iyer, Anna Katharina Valayil 4:11
3. "Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil"   Rafeeq Ahammed Haricharan 6:05
4. "Subhanallah"   Rafeeq Ahammed Navin Iyer 4:52
5. "Sanchari Nee"   Rafeeq Ahammed Gopi Sunder 4:30
Total length:


Critical response[edit]

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."[39] 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.[40]

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."[41] 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."[42] Indiaglitz gave the movie 7.5/10 stars and said, "A take on the dialogue of the movie about making 'Sulaimani', anyone can make a mass movie; but it can only be from the likes of Anwar Rasheed who can serve it with the rightest ingredients of love and precision that can move the hearts. No doubts here about that..... Definitely this USTAD HOTEL has got a very yummy, mouth watering menu that must be tasted at least once..."[43]

P. T. Ravishankar wrote a positive review in Madhyamam, and stated, "Anjali Menon and Anwar Rasheed must be praised for creating a wonderful film without using any formulas set by the so-called new-wave Malayalam cinema. The movie also captures new heights in cinematography and music as well as the acting by Dulquer Salman, Nithya Menen and Thilakan." City Journal gave the movie a verdict of "Truly Delicious" and said, "Ustad Hotel is a moving film, the story well written by an extremely gifted artiste, the film directed by a young and genuine talent and Anwar has definitely won the first round effortlessly."[44] Unni R. Nair of Kerala9 gave the movie 3.5/5 stars and wrote, "It’s one film that you won’t want to criticize. It’s a film that you’d want to see again and take others to see…It’s one of the best films to come out in Malayalam in recent times."[45]

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 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."[46]


Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref.
National Film Awards Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainments Magic Frames Won [47]
Best Dialogues Anjali Menon Won
Special Mention Thilakan Won
15th Asianet Film Awards Best Film Magic Frames Won [48]
Best Script Writer Anjali Menon Won
Best Music Director Gopi Sundar Won
Best Lyricist Rafeeq Ahammed Won
60th Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut – South Dulquer Salmaan Won
Best Film Magic Frames Nominated [49]
Best Director Anwar Rasheed Nominated
Best Actor Dulquer Salmaan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Thilakan Nominated
Best Music Director Gopi Sunder Nominated
Best Playback Singer - Male Haricharan

(for "Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil")

1st Mohan Raghavan Awards Best Director Anwar Rasheed Won [50]
2nd South Indian International Movie Awards Best Film Magic Frames Won [51]
Best Director Anwar Rasheed Nominated
Best Cinematographer Loganathan Srinivasan Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Thilakan Nominated
Best Music Director Gopi Sundar Nominated
Best Female Playback Singer Anna Katharina Valayil

(for "Appangalembadum")

Kochi Times Film Awards Best Film Magic Frames Won [52][53]
Best Singer – Male Haricharan

(for "Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil")

Best Singer – Female Anna Katharina Valayil

(for "Appangalembadum")

Best Music Director Gopi Sunder Won
Best Actor – Male Dulquer Salmaan Nominated
Best Director Anwar Rasheed Nominated
Best Lyrics Rafeeq Ahmed

(for "Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil")

Asiavision Awards Family Movie Magic Frames Won [54][55]
Character Actor Thilakan Won
Promising Singer – Female Anna Katharina Valayil

(for "Appangalembadum")

Vanitha Film Award Best Film Magic Frames Won [56]
Best Script Writer Anjali Menon Won
Best Pair Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen Won

In popular culture[edit]

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.[57]


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External links[edit]