Call it Serendipity or what. But I watched “Chef” and “The Hundred Foot Journey” in a span of 7 days. Totally unplanned but I did watch the second movie before the taste of the first one could leave my mental palate all together. If one were to point out how the stories of these two movies are so entirely different, I definitely won’t argue with them. Instead, I will focus on just one point. Food. There is plenty of food and food related discussions in both those movies that I wonder how anyone could walk out of these movies not feeling hungry.
‘Chef’ was a heart touching movie whose story is all about one Chef and his passion for doing something unique & how he finally ends up chasing his passion, as opposed to compromising.
‘The Hundred Foot Journey’, even though at the outset is certainly all about a clash of two cuisines, I feel the crux of the movie again lies in a Chef finding where his passion really lies and accepting that chasing it means compromising some grander opportunities.
My biggest gripe on the THFJ is the screenplay. I haven’t read the book but from what I have heard, the screenplay of the movie doesn’t do justice to the book. But that is a common complaint one hears when a book gets adapted to the screen and the book lovers typically have a negative view of the screen adaptation for multiple reasons.
For me ‘THFJ’ starts off beautifully, the plot thickens at the right place with the perfect tempo during the first hour or so. All the necessary ingredients and spices get added during this time. And then, quite unfortunately,the pot perhaps boils too quickly and it almost feels like the director and the writer wanted to simmer the pot for some time, before serving the climax for the audience to taste. In the end, what gets served during the climax, though tastes exactly like what the audience is expecting all through the movie due to the nice aroma arising out of the first hour or so, the extra 10-15 minutes of screenplay which simmered the plot a bit too long, kills the appetite a bit.
My biggest pride of the movie is of course AR Rahman’s OST. I actually started listening to the album with closer ears after I watched the movie. It may have helped me appreciate the music more. ‘The Gift’, ‘The Village of Saint Antonin, ‘You Complete me’ and ‘New Beginnings’ are quite the new experiences one gets out of a new AR album, while ‘The Clash’ stands out as an absolute masterpiece, especially in the context of the film. ‘My mind is stranger’ and ‘Afreen’ are two voice based songs that appear in the album, with the latter finding place during different parts of the movie and the former not finding a place at all (I wonder why and I hope it was a a problem with the screening in my theater).
Helen Mirren delivers a character what she only can – That of an unrelenting, brood French Restaurateur/Chef widow. And Om Puri portrays a stereotypical middle aged man embellished with his family of 3 sons and a daughter, quite well. Manish Dayal, who plays Hassan, does deliver what is expected out him. But I actually rate Charlotte Le Bon’s Marguerite character a few notches above Dayal’s Hassan.
Overall, I am glad Lasse Hallstrom did this movie – A very healthy recipe of French and Indial cultures served with some stereotypes of both cultures, which could have been avoided, but then perhaps are necessary for a neutral & an unaware audience.
A few months from now, when I think of this movie, I am pretty sure Madame Mallory and AR Rahman will be the only two faces that will smile at me, as I expect the taste (and the after-taste) of the movie to be long gone from all my senses. But then, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t enjoy the taste all together.