NEW DELHI: The Hundred-Foot Journey directed by Lasse Halstrom, a film about the adventures across the world of a young Muslim who flees Mumbai along with his family after a riot, is set for release in Hollywood on 8 August.
Co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey is based on the 2010 book of the same name authored by Richard C. Morais. The film has Manish Dayal in his debut role as a lead actor. The film also stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri and Juhi Chawla.
Dayal plays Hassan Haji, whose family ends up in southern France after a stint in England. Haji is a chef cooking at his family-run, Indian eatery ‘Maison Mumbai,’ an establishment his father, played by Puri, opens a hundred feet away and across from a Michelin-starred French restaurant helmed by the snooty Madame Mallory, played by Mirren.
A grand culinary battle ensues until Haji’s young cooking ingénue shows her the possibilities for weaving their two culinary traditions together. Haji, a gifted cook who’s fascinated with French culinary tradition, falls for Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, Madame’s sous chef.
Dayal was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, as Manish Sudhir Patel. He attended George Washington University and after graduation, studied acting at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts (formerly The School for Film and Television) in New York City.
The 31-year-old actor now shuttles between New York and Los Angeles.
Speaking to the United Kingdom’s The Gaurdian, Dayal who has a southern accent said he had to first deliver his lines for the film in an Indian accent, transitioning to an Indian learning to speak French, and finally to that of a long-time French resident.
He also took French cooking lessons to prepare for his role. But the actor is no stranger to cooking, as he says it was an important part of growing up in his Gujarati family.
“I think that more movies about South Asian diaspora are going to result from this partnership,” he told the paper. Dayal says he was not a huge fan of Bollywood while growing up, but is open to Indian cinema minus the song and dance. He is best-known for playing the role of Raj Kher in the hit television series 90210, and also appeared in films like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010), Walkaway (2010) and Breaking the Girls (2013).
Prior to actual filming, Dayal and Le Bon also spent a considerable amount of time going to restaurants and observing and learning in kitchens. To sign off on the food featured in the film, producer Juliet Blake consulted an Indian-born chef Floyd Cardoz who has made a name for himself in the culinary world with fusion cuisine.
The film produced by DreamWorks in which India’s Reliance Entertainment is an investor, is the latest among Hollywood films in recent years that have told Indian stories including ‘The Namesake’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and the latest ‘Million Dollar Arm.’
Variety magazine, in its review of the film says “The Hundred-Foot Journey is a “genteel, overlong adaptation of Richard C. Morais’ 2010 novel about two rival restaurants operating in a sleepy French village,” accentuated by “a high-energy score by A.R. Rahman, exquisite gastro-porn shot by Linus Sandgren, the winningly barbed chemistry of Mirren and Puri.
“With the formidable backing of producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, the DreamWorks concoction should cater to a broad array of art-house appetites, particularly among those viewers who embraced the similar East-meets-West fusion cuisine of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” the magazine says.
Calling the film “chicken tikka masala for the soul,” The Hollywood Reporter in its review, says “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a movie designed to comfort. “Stimulating taste buds and little else, Lasse Hallstrom’s latest film picks up where his 2000 hit ‘Chocolat’ left off, in terms of the affectionate shaming of provincial Gallic villagers,” the review says. “Top lining Helen Mirren and Om Puri as rival restaurateurs in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France, the film tracks a tension-free lesson in cultural exchange that culminates, predictably, in romance,” it adds.
“But the main course is the dance between Madame Mallory and Papa, however transparent the clash between her carefully composed plates and his bold flavors. Whether they’re filing ridiculous complaints about each other to the unflappable mayor (Michel Blanc), arguing over the proper presentation of ingredients or sharing a cafe table, Mirren and Puri bring an effortless command to their roles.”