Home / 2014 / July

Monthly Archives: July 2014

#FoodieCinema: Om Puri, Helen Mirren-starrer ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ promises feast for senses

Following his severe identity crisis in the West Midlands, Bollywood veteran Om Puri is set to rustle up a unique new cultural clash on the big screen, this time in idyllic rural France.

The 'East is East' star returns to UK screens opposite Dame Helen Mirren in 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' this summer in a film that's backed by Hollywood royalty and which promises a fresh new take not only on the eternal struggle of the South Asian immigrant but father's and sons and culinary romances with two great world cuisines thrown in for good measure.

Directed by Lasse Halstrom - the man behind the chocolaty romance 'Chocolat' - the film tells the story of the Haji's, an Indian Muslim family who flee violence in Mumbai and move to the South of France.

There they set about transforming a derelict old cottage into a restaurant, a hundred feet away from a Michelin-starred French eatery owned by Mirren's fearsome Madame Mallory.

Madame Mallory is the very embodiment of the famously insular world of French cuisine.  She has given her all for her restaurant and counts the President of the Republic as a regular patron. 

Her sophisticated set-up is jolted by the opening of the Haji's 'Maison Mumbai', an eatery of a different sort of sophistication.  Madame Mallory turns her perfectly-formed French nose up at the upstarts and mocks Indian tastes for both music and food.

Cue plenty of cultural mishaps as the equally formidable Papa Haji (Om Puri) and his talented cook son Hassan (Indian-American TV actor Manish Dayal) along with Mama Haji (Juhi Chawla) square up to Madame Mallory.

Fusion cuisine, one-upmanship and of course, romance ensues in one of the most beautiful and romantic corners of the world.

'The Hundred-Foot Journey' is produced by Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey and adapted from the book of the same name by Richard C. Morais who, intriguingly, has said that he was inspired by the exploits of famous India-born film producer Ismail Merchant of Merchant-Ivory fame.

As seems to be de-riguer these days, A R Rahman has composed the soundtrack for the film which will doubtless join Disney's 'Feel Good' stable of films inspired by Indian stories this summer, alongside the wonderful 'Million Dollar Arm'.

Whilst Dame Helen will hog much of the headlines, the film has already been described as a return to form for Om Puri, one of India's most respected thespians who's had a difficult year after becoming embroiled in an ugly public spat involving his estranged wife Nandita and ex-wife Seema Kapoor.

Producer Spielberg is reportedly "delighted" with Puri's on-screen performance, in particular his chemistry with Mirren.

Puri will also be the focus of a special tribute at New York's prestigious Museum of the Moving Image later this week. 

The actor will be interviewed by actor, gourmand and author Madhur Jaffrey during the August 3 tribute which will play clips from Puri's most famous performances and culminate with a preview screening of 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'.

“The Hundred-Foot Journey’ is a warm, richly textured film, and a showcase for Om Puri, who has a memorable role opposite Helen Mirren,” said David Schwartz, the museum’s chief curator.

“The evening at the museum is a great opportunity to pay tribute to one of the world’s most beloved and admired screen actors,” he added.

'The Hundred-Foot Journey' is in UK cinemas September 5.

Read More »

#GAFFE: US politician mistakes senior Washington officials for INDIANS

A newly-elected US congressman has caused embarrassment in Washington after mistaking two senior Indian-American officials for foreigners.

Representative Curt Clawson - a Republican Congressman from Florida - was addressing Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia at the US State Department, and Arun Kumar, who works for the US Department of Commerce, during a congressional hearing on Friday.

During a minute-long monologue, Mr Clawson said, "I am familiar with your country.  I love your country.  I'm hopeful with the new change in regime that the future and the land of promise and the land of opportunity of India can finally become so".

As Ms Biswal and Mr Kumar - two of the most senior and prominent officials of South Asian extraction in Washington - stared in disbelief, Mr Clawson requested that India become open to more investment from the United States.

“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcomed there,” he said. "Can I have that?"

There was a moment of silence before Ms Biswal answered.

"I think your question is to the Indian government," she said. "We certainly share your sentiments and will advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government."

Realizing his mistake, Mr Clawson said he was merely "asking for their opinion" but it was too late as bloggers and commentators seized on his gaffe.

According to USA Today, the politician has since apologized.

“I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I’m a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball,” Clawson told the newspaper.

It's extremely rare for officials of foreign countries to testify before congressional committees and Mr Clawson had been given information about Ms Biswal and Mr Kumar prior to the hearing with detailed background information. 

Nisha Desai Biswal heads the US State Department's South and Central Asia bureau, which oversees US policy and relations with crucial states such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Biswal has enjoyed a long and successful career in several important international aid and development organizations, including the American Red Cross, Office of US Foreign Disaster  Assistance and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mr Kumar was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service in March 2014. 

In his role, Mr Kumar leads the trade and investment promotion efforts for the U.S. Government in key markets around the world.

Their 'inquisition' comes as US Secretary of State prepares to visit India, the first visit by a prominent US politician since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.

"The United States and India can and should be indispensable partners for the 21st Century, and that is, I assure you, the way we approach the Modi government," Mr Kerry said in a speech to an American think tank in Washington on Monday.

"India's new government has won a historic mandate to deliver change and reform and, together, we have a singular opportunity to help India to be able to meet that challenge," he added.

Read More »