Asking for a discount doesn’t mean I’m poor. It means I’m thrifty.
– Om Puri’s character Papa in The Hundred Foot Journey
Filmed in Mumbai (a short-bit) and France, The Hundred Foot Journey is visual splendor.
Linus Sandgren’s photography – of rural France, Indian and French food, the markets, the cast etc – is like a bewitching painting that leaves you in thrall to its beauty.
Plus the movie features two acting legends Om Puri and Helen Mirren in key roles.
With so much going for it and all the talk about Indian spices, Murgh Masala, Tandoori Goat and the like, you’d think this English film with a strong underlying ‘Indian‘ content would be a spicy treat for a desi palate like mine.
Alas, because of a limp story the Hundred Foot Journey turned out to be an unsatisfactory repast.
Sure, the movie has a few good moments (mostly centering around Om Puri and Helen Mirren) but the overall effect is of an uninspiring feel-good film with a banal ending.
The Dreamworks-Reliance Entertainment production is directed by Lasse Hallström based on the eponymous novel by Richard C. Morais.
Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah and Farzana Dua Elahe are other key members of the cast.
Yesteryear Bollywood ‘actress’ Juhi Chawla has a small role (Thank God).
So what’s the movie about?
The Hundred Foot Journey is a smorgasbord of a culture clash in a small French town, rivalry between owners of an established French restaurant and a new Indian curry house, young romance between two budding chefs and some comedy.
After Papa’s restaurant in Mumbai is set afire following an election riot, the disturbed family minus the dead mama (Juhi Chawla) leaves India to try their luck in Europe.
First, they drop anchor in London and after some desultory wandering in Europe, a brake failure in their rickety van leads them to settle down in a small French town.
When Papa (Om Puri) opens an Indian restaurant Maison Mumbai across the street from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin starred restaurant in the town, sparks are bound to fly and indeed they do quickly
Xenophobia rears its ugly head, barbs are traded, the two restaurateurs resort to dirty tricks to create trouble for the other, a racial attack ensues in the small town, love blossoms between Papa’s talented son Hassan (Manish Dayal) and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), Hassan becomes a legendary chef in France etc etc etc.
But the various events feel episodic rather than a compelling narrative with a strong underlying thread.
The end result being not enough drama to get my adrenalin rushing.
Of course, it’s naive to expect Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon to be in the same league as Om Puri or Helen Mirren. But I was disappointed the pretty Canadian man-chester is not even in the class of Manish Dayal or the sexy Farzana Dua Elahe, who despite a tiny role as Hassan’s sister leaves an impact.
A.R.Rahman’s music, like the movie, has some good moments but not enough to register in a strong way. The over-worked Rahman is more miss than hit these days.
The Hundred Foot Journey is releasing in theaters across the U.S. today.
Go if you love Om Puri and Helen Mirren or crave ‘Indian‘ content in a Hollywood movie.