Maison Mumbai

The Hundred-Foot Journey

hundredfoot_journey

Director: Lasse Halstrom

Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon, Manish Dayal, Clement Sibony, Amit Shar

Chocolat and The Cider House Rules Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom and scriptwriter Matthew Knight bring the charming and utterly delicious tale, The Hundred-Foot Journey based on the novel by Richard C. Morais to the big screen, a gorgeous film which traces the journey of an Indian family who move from Mumbai to London and then to the Continent.

The Kadam family after a near fatal accident on a French country road, the family headed by the incorrigible Papa played by Om Puri decide to set up roots in a small French town to start an Indian Restaurant and do what they do best – cook. The only problem is that a 100 feet away is a Michelin Star Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant headed by the strict and snobbish, Madame Mallory wonderfully played against type by Oscar Winner Helen Mirren (The Queen, The Madness of King George).

With a flourish the Maison Mumbai is opened in direct competition of this Michelin star restaurant which generates fierce culinary rivalry between the two establishments pointing to a much deeper prejudice about foreigners in Europe exemplified in the xenophobia displayed by Chef Jean-Pierre played by Clement Sibony (The Tourist). Inspired by his mother’s sea urchins, the young Hassan, an aspiring cook soon studies all the bibles of French cuisine and naturally is quite enchanted with the sous chef Maguerite played by French actress Charlotte Le Bon, hinting at a potential romance.

As the characters develop and the story unfolds, Madame Mallory soon entices the young chef Hassan played by Manish Dayal to come and work at the French Restaurant which with a liberal dash of exotic spices soon earns the Restaurant another Michelin star attracting all the Parisian culinary offers. Hassan travels to Paris where he works in a top Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower creating exotic fusion combinations which soon earns him fame and respect. This is food porn on acid, with some luminous shots of many exotic dishes being prepared in sleek industrial Parisian kitchens, think Babette’s Feast for the 21st century.

With the current trends of TV reality shows like Master Chef sweeping the Global, The Hundred-Foot Journey should definitely find a niche audience and points to a growing hybrid cinematic genre in the tradition of A Million Dollar Arm, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Slumdog Millionaire of Hollywood films with a distinctly Indian influence, adding an exotic tinge to the Western dramas.

With producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Hundred-Foot Journey is as delightful as it is sumptuous to watch with glowing cinematography provided by Swede Linus Sandgren (American Hustle) with a narrative beautifully accentuated by a superb on screen chemistry between Madame Mallory and Papa complimented by the developing romance between the young lovers Hassan and Marguerite.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is recommended viewing for foodies, chefs, romantics and lovers of genteel cinema. This is a gorgeous spicy cinematic dish, served with all the necessary garnish and flavour to make it palatable and appreciated.

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