Cast: Om Puri, Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Juhi Chawla
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Rating: * 1/2
Can the coming together of two acting greats in a film brimming with food and feasting be barely edible? We are talking Om Puri and Helen Mirren here, not just any old thesps. Barely a couple of minutes into ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’, you know you are in for a dish that is less an interesting mix of biryani-and-truffles, more flat soufflé.
After a riot, Papa Kadam ( Puri) flees Mumbai with his children. England proves to be ‘too cold’, so they fetch up in a picturesque French village. The family opens an Indian restaurant called Maison Mumbai, right across an established one Michelin star eatery run by the toffee-nosed Madame Mallory ( Mirren), inviting a culinary war.
We know how things will unfold from hereon. Madame Mallory will purse her lips at the Indian interlopers . They, in turn, will crank up the music. And the story will get busy trotting out stereotypes. Indians are loud and cook only curries. The French stir up sauces, and lick spoons while tasting. Puri gets to say this : “I will turn up the heat.” No, I am not kidding. Kitchen, heat, get it?
The romance between the brilliant dishy chef Hassan ( Dayal), the younger Kadam son, and his pretty rival Marguerite ( Le Bon) doesn’t spice up things either. Because this too plays out just as you know it will : they will come together, pull apart, and come back right on cue. He also uses something called ‘Madras Masala’, and wants us to take him seriously.
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The story, based on a novel of the same name, rings up other changes that we see so often in these kind of films. Chefs who are lured away by the bright lights will find that ‘molecular gastronomy’ is flim-flam. Not for them blowing into chemistry tubes and arranging tiny slivers on a pretty plate. Home is where hearty cooking is. So what’s new?
Dayal shows promise, but the story doesn’t give him space to maneuver. Chawla is strictly blink-and-miss. Mirren too has to wriggle out from under, but comes into her own half-way into the film. It is Om Puri, solid as ever, who saves this dish from monotony, which comes up with such hooey as this line : `Food is Memories’. And this one : ‘Brakes break for a reason.’ Right.
One and a half stars ( 1.5)