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.