Hassan's family starts a desi joint in a French village - opposite a Michelin-starred restaurant. What happens when rival Madame Mallory discovers Hassan's talent?
So, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an interesting dish - it's about food but actually, it's not. It's about relationships, loss and the fulfillment a great meal - and a new bond - brings. After losing his wife (Juhi Chawla, wasted in a blink-brief role consisting of stirring pots while mouthing cringe-inducing cliches like, "Sea urchins taste of life") in a Mumbai riot, restaurateur Kadam (Puri) and his five children, including gifted Hassan (Dayal), relocate and start a desi eatery in a French village - opposite haughty Madame Mallory's (Mirren) Michelin-starred restaurant.
As the two restaurateurs declare war via vegetables and fish, Hassan learns French cooking and kissing with Madame's sous chef, pretty Marguerite (Le Bon). But what happens when Madame discovers Hassan's genius can help her win another Michelin star? And once Hassan begins his hundred-foot journey towards French cuisine, can he come home to Maison Mumbai?
Despite its cliches ("You cook to make ghosts"), this is a poignant, pretty film. Its prettiness is a drawback though as shots of sweetly charming French rural life, cobblestoned streets, cheery farmers' markets, forest-green lanes, et al take over. Sinking pleasurably into its own charms, the movie hesitates to bite deep into stronger flavours - but when it does, it's a pleasure. The chemistry between ace actors Puri and Mirren crackles like tadka - and when they dance, their loneliness mingles, like caramel, like sugar stirred into tea.
Dayal too cuts an endearing figure as talented Hassan, turning into hot property via "Maydam", one coriander omelet at a time. His romance with Le Bon could've had more steam - but there's one scene of jagged jealousy, where Marguerite resents Hassan's success, that stands out. Similarly, Madame's head chef Jean, who smoulders with resentful racism, brings a dash of bitter reality to this picture-postcard land.
But such reality-bites are fleeting here. This is a food fairytale which prefers the sweet to the tart, cream to the karelas of life.
Yet, it takes all those tastes to create a great dish.
This one's a nice one.