Ten years ago, I came across a figure of elegance, charm and kindness at a gala at the Rubin Museum. The man turned out to be chef Vikas Khanna, a master in the art of cooking but also a wondrous survivor of events that would destroy most of us. Born with a foot defect, Chef Khanna overcame that, with the help of his courageous mother and went on to become one of the most beloved and known names in the firmament of celebrity chefs today.
There are bankruptcies, accidental meetings, various NYC restaurants, a documentary made by Chef Khanna and one about him (I watched it at the Venice Film Festival two years ago), appearances on TV’s best loved cooking shows, a TEDTalk, the Dalai Lama telling him the best thing to be is “free!” and even a stint with Gordon Ramsey in this man’s background. They all served a purpose, if we believe in life seen through fatalistic lenses. They made Vikas Khanna the great man he is today — generous, talented beyond belief and ever ready to feed those of us who need nourishing.
So, still not satisfied with his celebrity chef status, as well as having written about three dozen books and having garnered a Michelin Star six times — unheard of from an Indian chef! — for his restaurant, Chef Khanna decided there was a story he needed to make into a film. And in typical enlightened man fashion, which Khanna is through and through, the film is about women. Specifically about widows in Varanasi, India who are allowed to find color once again in their discolored, dutifully whitewashed lives, but more widely, about our power as women when we work together and find a common voice. It’s a beautiful film, straight from the heart and one that keeps coloring my own thoughts weeks after viewing it.
What is left for this master chef and wondrous human being? Well, if the past is any indication, loads of surprises are ahead for those of us who are lucky enough to call Vikas Khanna a friend. But also for the world at large, which is just a little bit more bright and flavorful thanks to his presence.
Watch out for ‘The Last Color’ at a film festival or a movie theater near you, in the upcoming weeks. Inshallah.