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Sweet with a touch of spice – ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ (Review)

Sweet with a touch of spice – ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ (Review)

September 5 2014

US Media magnates Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey are behind the release, ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ and they found the combination of food and romance as seductive as our reviewer…

Suman Bhuchar

THIS is an enjoyable film about food and culture. It tells the story of an Indian family – The Kadams who open a restaurant opposite a posh Michelin star eaterie, Le Saule Pleureur run by an imperious French woman, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

It starts off in a sentimental way when Mummy Kadam (in a cameo by Bollywood star Juhi Chawla) takes little boy, Hassan to a market in Bombay (Mumbai) to buy sea urchins – there’s a lot of hustle and bustle – everyone is vying for this delicacy, but the young ingénue manages to catch the eye of the vendor and it’s his – because he has an innate understanding of food.

Before you know it, some sort of riots interrupt the family and they have to flee Mumbai, pass through England (and decide not to settle there as it’s too cold!) and end up in France, minus Mummy, who perished in the violence in Mumbai.

Papa (played by Om Puri) and his brood of five children; eldest Mansur Kadam (a very dependable, Amit Shah), his younger brother, Hassan (Manish Dayal – the hero of the story) with sister, Mahira (Farzana Dua Elahe); two younger siblings, Mukhtar (Dillon Mitra) and Aisha (Aria Pandya) – decide to settle in a small town and open up ‘Maison Mumbai’ – a cheap looking Indian restaurant complete with a fake Taj Mahal façade. The family look to create authentic Indian home cooking with heartwarming spices and smells of back home.

From Maison Mumbai to Le Saule Pleureur is exactly, one hundred feet – hence the title of the film – but the two cultures it depicts couldn’t be more different.

The film is based on a novel by journalist and writer, Richard C Morais, and it follows the progress of Hassan who wants to become a ‘proper chef’ and learn cordon bleu cooking and after a few knockbacks, finds himself trying to impress Madame Mallory with his spicy omelette in order to get into her good books and earn a place as her sous-chef. She says she can judge the quality of a chef by the way he or she cooks an omelette.

Shot on location in Saint-Antonin Noble Val in the South of France, the lush countryside has a beautiful and timeless quality.

There is a love interest in the shape of the lovely Marguerite (played by French-Canadian Charlotte Le Bon) who also works at Le Saule Pleureur, and Hassan and her go wondering off to the market to find real vegetables and other produce in order to create perfect gastronomic delights.

Although, the younger couple are the ‘romantic leads’ it is really the older thespians who steal the show, as the best scenes are between Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory.

They excel in the comedic and poignant moments – when for instance some of Madame Mallory’s more xenophobic staff scrawl abuse on the walls of the Kadam abode, it is Madame Mallory who gets her gloves and deploys a scrubbing brush to clean off the stains, and when it starts to rain, it is the ever gallant Papa who gets her an umbrella. The dancing scene between the two of them is worth the price of the ticket itself.

The final act of the story takes Hassan away to Paris and there, cooking sophisticated French nouvelle cuisine, he has an epiphany.

This is a really feel good movie with a lot of heart and the food also looks good too. Although it’s never decided whether French or Indian cuisine is better, expect to leave the cinema yearning for a spicy curry.

ACV rating:**** (out of five)

Picture: Hassan (Manish Dayal) and Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren)

Out on general release in the UK from today…

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Directed by Lasse Hallstrӧm
Running time 117 mins Certificate PG
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe
With music by AR Rahman

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture