For Biswas, 45, from Assam, the movie is a groundbreaker, as it is the first comedy she has made out of theatre, and speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, she acknowledged that it was a challenge for her. "So, for me, it was a big responsibility to do it," the Globe and Mail quoted her as saying during the premiere of Cooking with Stella. "I didn't want it to be a shock for them. You know: ''Oh my God, it's the wrong casting''," she said.
But there was never any doubt in director/co-screenwriter Dilip Mehta's mind. "Seema was my first and my last choice to play the title character," he said. "There was no audition. She is so versatile, I just have this implicit faith in her. I mean, I didn't know if she had the timing you need for comedy -- but once we got going, she was way beyond what I ever hoped for," he stated.
The movie's story is about Stella Elizabeth Matthews, who's been the chief cook and major domo at one of the diplomatic residences in the Canadian High Commission for 30 years. A devout Christian, Stella initially seems the essence of deference and rectitude when a new Canadian couple (Lisa Ray, Don McKellar) and their baby move into the home.
But the viewer quickly realizes she has a cunning side: To pad her modest salary, she discreetly pilfers items and occasionally overcharges while simultaneously running a phone-order "duty-free" business selling detergent, booze, food and the like from the commission pantry.
This profitable arrangement threatens to unravel when the couple - Ray is, in fact, the diplomat, McKellar the stay-at-home husband and chef eager to discover "the real India" by enlisting Stella as his "cooking guru" - decides to hire a seemingly straight-arrow nanny (Shreya Saran) who eventually gets wise to Stella's subterfuge.