The Hundred Foot Journey

Movie Review by Meena Yeggina
The Hundred Foot Journey

Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Juliet Blake
Written by: Steven Knight
Based on The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon
Music by: A. R. Rahman

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a story of the clashes and final amalgamation between two cultures through culinary competition.  It’s a story about tolerance and growth of mutual understanding between two cultures that are centuries old and are rather cliched.

In other words, this movie centers on a pleasant journey of food and taste with a hint of initial racial adversity and biased opinions.

The Kadam family of five children, headed by Papa (Om Puri), eventually moves to France after their restaurant in Mumbai is burned away in communal clashes. Mama (Juhi Chawla) is killed in the fire, leaving behind an everlasting impact on her second son Hasan (Manish Dayal) about food and taste. Born with natural talent for flavor and palate, Hasan enjoys being a cook in its truest essence.

After an excruciating journey in their jaded car looking for a spot to settle in France, they end up in the picturesque and old-fashioned village of Saint-Antonin- Noble-Val in southern France, when the “brakes are broken for a reason.” Filled with charm, it is breathtakingly beautiful and quaint, with exotic market places and warm wilderness. Against the wishes of his family Papa Kadam insists on settling down and opening an Indian restaurant -- the Maison Mumbai. The restaurant sits directly across the Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren), who gets wind of it. Her chilly, nose-in-the-air and pretentious protests against the new Indian restaurant one hundred feet from her own, escalate to an all-out war between the two establishments - until Hassan's passion for French haute cuisine, Mme Mallory and Mallory's enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), combine with his mysteriously delicious talent to weave magic between their two cultures. At first worried and culturally biased, Mallory tries to sabotage her competition but is completely taken aback by the malice of her staff member when he tries to set fire to Kadam’s restaurant. Her attempt to clean the racial graffiti on kadam’s outer wall is a very sweet scene between Papa Kadam and Mme Mallory, as well as the beginning of a heart-felt romance.

She eventually recognizes Hassan's gift as a culinary master and takes him under her wing. With his help the French restaurant blooms to new heights and receives a second Michelin star after which Hasan is whisked away to Paris to achieve his crowning moments as a chef.

His romance with Marguerite is sweet but uninspiring and as they become competitive with each other the romance somewhat sizzles out.

The best dialogue is from Om Puri and Helen Mirren, both of whom are superb in the movie. Puri with his unapologetic, nonchalant, proud, in-your-face Indian attitude gives you a tingle of happy comfort. Yes we are thrifty, yes we bargain, yes we are loud, yes we put up a show...SO WHAT? - kind of spunk in Papa Kadam is very enduring mainly because it is very harmless. He has several dialogues in the film that elicit an indulgent laugh. He is such a typical yet loving Indian patriarch! Om Puri and Helen Mirren are outstanding in their performances and are extremely convincing in their roles.

There are a lot of cliches in the movie but tolerable. In addition, why the younger siblings of Kadam don’t go to school but are shown helping in the kitchen is a mystery. And why the older daughter wears such gaudy makeup and horrible saris is yet another mystery. Indian girls are so much more sophisticated!

I am impressed by Amit Shah, who plays the grumbling, complaining yet obliging older sibling that is always embarrassed by his father’s “thrifty” behavior. He reflects the bearing of oh-so-many American-born-Indian-kids here in the US that are forever ashamed of their parents’ heritage.

Manish Dayal as the talented chef is decent in acting but great in looks. His romance with Charlotte Le Bon however, does not sizzle.

Unfortunately, Juhi Chawla is easily forgotten in her two-scene appearance. She looks more like a witch in her second scene when she spews some mumbo jumbo about spices! People dont age so drastically in ten years! Nevertheless, she looks gorgeous in her first scene.

I wish I could have seen my favoriteof- all-time Naseeruddin Shah enacting this role of Papa Kadam. The romance would have been extremely charming between him and Mme Mallory! Regardless, Om Puri played his part as the rustic restaurateur to the hilt.

Ultimately, I did feel the movie is a tad too long and got bored a little here and there, but over all, it is definitely worth watching one time in the theatre (for the breathtaking scenary of the French village -- it’s absolutely beautiful! What a place to live and eat and have a good time!).

You should also watch it once at home to re-live Om Puri and Helen Mirren’s wise-cracks! You can easily miss out the junk commercial Indian movies such as Kick and Entertainment (what kind of name is this, even for a dog?) and check out this one instead!