Star rating: 3 stars
Bottom-line: ‘Oui’ (yes) to this delectable fare.
“Food is memory.”
Young Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) has a divine gift. He can make a beetroot dish look like a work of the most artful French cuisine. He is a master of inventions. One of his concoctions includes something as bizarre as cauliflower ice cream. When it comes to a really special French pigeon truffle dish, his dear Papa’s sharpest opponent, a rival restaurant owner, Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren, who even masters her snobbish nose angle perfectly), has to acknowledge his genius with a reluctant, angry tilt of the chin. After all, all the most difficult and delicious dish has been mastered overnight by an Indian boy whose only training has come from his dear mother (Juhi Chawla in a cameo).
A box of her special Indian spices smell of his poignant childhood memories.
They also carry his future as he gets ready to take the hundred steps across from his Indian restaurant to the posh French one. Much to the anguish of his dear Papa (Om Puri). The affable and paunchy Puri brings in much humour to his forthright and sometimes downright shameless behavior in his attempt to bring customers to his humble dhaba like restaurant. Only when he plays the loud music to irritate the neighbouring mistress of subtle spices, one wishes for a better score from A.R.Rehman. Or perhaps it’s deliberate, in keeping with Madame Mallory’s lines that suggest it sounds more like a funeral instead of a wedding.. “the death of good taste”.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” based on a novel by Richard C Morrais, could have turned into a classic and predictable conflict recipe cooked to ashes, between father and son. But the narrative flows easily and gently, much like the gentle whisking of spices and egg mixture.
The story effortlessly blends in business rivalry, comic clashes, a budding romance between both the young and the old couples and a most touching parental affection of both a parent and a mentor. There is a lovely lump in the throat moment when Om Puri switches from a short tempered tantrum to deep pride as he points out his son’s picture on the cover of a magazine and says, ”This is my son.”
You can see the loving and nurturing hands of both the director, Lasse Hallstrom (of Chocolat fame) and cinematographer, Linus Sandgren (American Hustle), in the way the lenses take in the simple frothiness of the making of an omelette. The visuals begin at a war like tone, showing rapid close ups of a chopping crescendo on the kitchen table, and gradually move on to silent and sensuous tasting of spoonfuls of mouthwatering dips by Hassan’s new friend, the prettiest chef in the making, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).Her ‘Oui’ is the sweeter than any dessert.
Newcomer, Manish Dayal as Hassan, is like a raw mango with plenty of potential. Om Puri as the jovial but sharp Indian restaurateur, along with Helen Mirren are a delight to watch as they spar with effortless ease. The chemistry between Hassan and Charlotte does not quite match the older, seasoned actors.
From taking you up-close to the object of culinary delight, the camera constantly takes a sweeping but steady bird view of two lone and beautiful buildings facing one another across an empty stretch of long village road. It’s a picturesque, constant reminder of the long distance between cultures that can amount to the shortest hundred yards of love.
Reason enough to draw in producers like Steven Spielberg an Oprah Winfrey.
Go, walk that distance to see “The Hundred-Foot Journey”. Worth it, Oui.