Mistress of Spices

In a scented shop in the enchanted town of Oakland, California, the mistress works her magic. One of a secret clan of women, Tilo deals in fenugreek, lotus root, chilies, cinnamon – roots, plants and powders from all over the world. Drawing on ancient wisdom, she measures out remedies to cure heartache, banish bad luck and rescue the wretched from life's wrong turns.

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It is a captivating story, but Oakland? The city is hardly Shangri-La, but the collision of romance and the real world is exactly what makes The Mistress of Spices such a charmer. Adapting Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's acclaimed novel, director Paul Mayeda Berges and producer Gurinder Chadha concoct a film in which spices not only excite the senses, but can heal the spirit.

In the novel, Tilo takes the shape of both an old woman and a young beauty. Here, she is an old soul inhabiting the spectacular form of Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai. As luminous as she was in Devdas, Chokher Bali and Bride and Prejudice, here Rai shows a maturing, nuanced style, evolving just as her character adapts to America.

Tilo opens her shop doors to the whole neighbourhood: Haroun (Nitin Ganatra), the taxi driver with a dark cloud over his future; Geeta (Padma Lakshmi), the woman in love with a forbidden man; and Jagjit (Sonny Gill Dulay), the adolescent drifting from his family into a thug life. Tilo has a remedy for each, so long as she abides by the rules of her craft: use her power for others, not herself; never leave the spice shop; never touch another's skin. All this seems simple, until she meets an American man (Dylan McDermott) who tempts her far beyond her boundaries.

Berges has worked in close collaboration with his wife and writing partner Chadha for many years, co-writing her last three films including Bend It Like Beckham, for which he also served as second unit director. He directs his debut with the perfect mix of romance and magic. Even better, he lets the whole story play in the light of Aishwarya Rai's eyes.

Director:Paul Mayeda Berges
Producer:Deepak Nayar, Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Dylan McDermott, Nitin Ganatra, Anupam Kher, Sonny Gill Dulay, Padma Lakshmi
Music: Craig Pruess
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan
Editing: Alex Rodriguez
Screenplay: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, based on the novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni