The Mistress of Spices

Synopsis: In India, Tilo has the ability of foreseeing the future. When their parents are killed by bandits, she is kidnapped but escapes and is raised by the First Mother in a sort of traditional cult of spices. She becomes the Mistress of Spices and is sent to the Spice Bazaar in San Francisco, with the mission of following three basic rules: help her clients to accomplish their desires with the spices, but never hers; never leave the store; and never be touched in the skin. When she meets the handsome American architect Doug, she feels a great attraction and desire for him, breaking the first rule and being punished by the spices.
Rotten Tomatoes:
92 min

Are you ready to give up your own

lives forever, for the spices?

To never love anyone but the spices?

I am, First Mother. I know the rules.

Mistresses, I have taught you all I can.

We must now decide where you are to go.




Los Angeles.

Hong Kong.


San Francisco.

There's a need for you in all these places.

You will not burn.

You will not feel pain.

You will wake up in your new home

free of all your own desires.

But if a mistress fails her duty...

the spices will punish her.

I love being a mistress of spices.

The spices are my love.

I know their origins, colors,

smells, their magic powers.

Yes, the old, old magic.

Every spice has a purpose.

And for each person, there's a special spice.

I am named Tilo...

after the sesame seed...

the spice of nourishment.

But here no-one knows who I am.


Yes, Haroun?

Ah! Ladyjaan.

Ah, please!

I am sick of old lady Kapadia.

These rich Indians,

they think they're still in India.

They treat us like animals.

Do this, that. Drive me here, there.

Not even a nod of thanks.

Ladyjaan, you must read my fortune today.


- you know I can't read your for...

- Yes, but Ahmed said.

You helped him get a green card.

He was nervous before the interview, so I just

gave him some brahmi leaves to chew on.

But he remembered

the Allegiance Pledge. First time, in English.

That wasn't me. It was the dashmul.

The herb of ten roots.

Lady, you are just playing with me.

Look at these eyes.

You see these dark circles?

Poor Haroun,

who came for the American Dream.

that now works for an Indian nightmare.



What's this?

Oh, it's from tire irons and wrenches,

from Arco Garages, my first job.

And erm... before that?

Back in Kashmir we are boatmen.

My grandfather, my father and I,

we would row our shikara for tourists,

from America, Europe.

One year, money was so good,

we lined the seats with red silk.

Chandan, the powder of the sandalwood

tree, that relieves the pain of remembering.

Rub it in.

One day the fighting started.

The soldiers arrived

and the tourists stopped coming.

The rebels came to take the young men.

There was blood.

Blood and more blood...

redder than the red silk of the boat.

I wish I had...

Hurry, now.

Faster, Haroun.

I wish I, too, had...

What was I saying?

You wanted to know your fortune.

Oh, yes.

- It is good.

- Mm-hm.

Very good.

Great things will happen in this new land for you.


riches and happiness...

...and maybe even... love.

Oh, Ladyjaan.

Thank you.

I know you have the gift.

Thank you.

I must go.

Poor Haroun.

I, too, was taken from home.

When I was born, my parents' faces

were heavy with fallen hope at another girl.

A daughter meant nothing more

than a dowry debt.

Maybe because I was left

to wander around alone.

I discovered I could see things others could not.

I knew which servant girl

was sleeping with her master.

I told a wealthy landowner

where to find his lost ring.

And I warned the village headman

of the floods before they came.

My fame spread far and wide.

And then the bandits came for me

to lead them to riches.

Mummy! Papa!

Mummy! Papa!


I did not know it,

but I had arrived at my destiny.

First Mother said I had been brought

to her to fulfill my duty as a mistress of spices.

Don't you know it's very important that you know

what the names of these spices are?

Because you will be using them in your work

and you will get the power from them.

Those are red chillies.

Red chillies.



Do you listen to the spices?

I was taught the power of the spices

and the consequences for breaking the rules.

First rule...

you are here to see to the other's desires,

never to use the spices for your own.


Second rule... you may never leave the store.

So there is no danger

of your straying away from the spices.

Is this turmeric?

Give it to me! Give it to me!


Final rule... you may never touch another's skin.

Why are you warning me, chillies?


I was wondering if you could help me.

I've seen you here from the salon.

Do you know how to do this?

My girlfriend says it's an Indian thing.


When are you getting married?

What's that got to do with anything?

Mehndi is normally done on brides.

I was just hoping to wear it to a hair show.

If I have to wait until I get married...

girl, I may never get a chance

Saffron, for lonely nights.

To glow, and attract love into your life.

What is that?

To give you energy for the long hours.

- Thank you.

- You're welcome, Myisha.

I'll see you real soon, girl. Take care.

See you.

You're cooking for her again?

She loved the coconut korma.

Nothing like its delicate flesh to bind new hearts.

- You ready for garlic now?

- I don't know about garlic.

- You see, me and garlic...

- Some religious groups in India never eat it.

That's what I'm talking about. That garlic...

Because they fear its reputation

as an aphrodisiac.

You should try the eggplant bhurtha.

You grill the eggplant over a flame.

Scoop the insides out

and then fry it with ten cloves of garlic,

cumin seeds, little red onions and tomatoes.

And you sprinkle it with coriander leaves.

To feed your passion through the night.


Listen, if you get all the ingredients together,

I'll pick it up when I come back from class.

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Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha, (born 10 January 1960) is an English film director of Kenyan Asian origin. Most of her films explore the lives of Indians living in England. This common theme among her work showcases the trials of Indian women living in England and how they must reconcile their converging traditional and modern cultures. Although many of her films seem like simple quirky comedies about Indian women, they actually address many social and emotional issues, especially ones faced by immigrants caught between two worlds. Much of her work also consists of adaptations from book to film, but with a different flare. She is best known for the hit films Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), and the comedy film It's a Wonderful Afterlife (2010). Her latest feature is the partition drama Viceroy's House (2017). more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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