'The Hundred-Foot Journey': A delicious culinary tussle
The Hundred-Foot Journey | Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
It has been a rewarding month or so with two delicious food movies for cinema-goers.
First, Jon Favreau's Chef, a family film about a failed restaurant chef who becomes a food-truck success, and now, 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'.
Adapted from Richard C Morais's book of the same name, it is a feel-good story of an immigrant family setting up an Indian restaurant in the south of France, across from a Michelin-starred French fine-dining establishment.
If it is the stunning visuals of food you are after, you will not be dissappointed. 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' delivers food porn as the camera caresses a murgh masala with as much love as it does the pigeon aux truffes.
Helped along with the picturesque setting of a charming French village, vibrant farmer's markets and exotic spices, the film is a visual delight.
FOOD IS MEMORIES
While director Lasse Hallstrom ('Chocolat', 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen') takes plenty of cinematic liberties with a largely idealistic script, you forgive it because it is essayed by an excellent cast.
Leadin the cast is Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, who plays Madame Mallory, the uptight proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant.
The restaurant is threatened when the Kadam family and its patriarch (played by National Award-winning Indian actor Om Puri) set up Maison Mumbai, an upscale Indian dhaba (restaurant by the road) only 100ft (30.5m)away.
What ensues is a culinary tussle and several moments of hilarity as the newcomer restaurant, led by passionate chef Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), goes head-to-head with the village stalwart.
"100 feet across the street, the restaurant has a Michelin star. The President of France dines there." Papa: "Can Mr. President order murgh masala cooked the way Hassan cooks?"
In the real world, Maison Mumbai would incur heavy losses and go out of business in a matter of months. In this 'Journey', amid swirling pots of curry, and Hassan's mother's secret blend of spices and witty banter between papa Kadam and everyone else, Maison Mumbai manages to melt the cold exterior of Mallory and write their own recipe for success.
While curry is Hassan's forte, he yearns to learn the techniques of French cooking and begs for the help of Marguerite, sous-chef at Le Saule Pleureur, played by Charlotte Le Bon. A love story simmers alongside some bechamel sauce and Hassan's flair for French food wins over the uppitty madame, who offers him a job in her Michelin-starred kitchen.
This takes the film towards the journey of Hassan's success in the culinary world, and that is when the film's narrative takes a nosedive towards being boring.
The best bits are scenes that feature the feisty Om Puri. While the other characters add tadka (tempering of flavour) to the mix, it is the veteran actor as papa who holds it all together with mirthful dialogues. His scenes with Mirren are endearing, in particular, when he calls her his "almost girlfriend" and proceeds to dance the salsa with her.
Manish Dayal effectively plays Hassan's character as it evolves from a confident chef to a vulnerable family man, and back.
THE SEA URCHINS TASTE OF LIFE
Like in most food movies, we left feeling hungry.
Hungry for the sea urchin curry made by Hassan's mother (Juhi Chawla), the luscious omelette made by Hassan, and even the boeuf bourguignon scoffed at by Hassan's siblings.
Even though there were several visually appealing food shots captured by cinematographer Linus Sandgren's, we still wanted more.
‘The Hundred-Foot Journey' opens in cinemas 28 August 2014
Read also: Our very own The Hundred-Foot Journey
Adapted from Richard Morais' bestseller by Steve Knight and produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake,...