Sunday, February 22, 2015


Helen Mirren, Om Puri,
Manish Dayal,  Charlotte Le Bon

It was the last night of my Lunar New Year holidays in HK with sis dearest so I wanted to watch a light, feel good film. Not too much drama, no intriguing plot to figure out so we settled on a clashing cuisines comedy.

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolate, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) amuses us with a tale about racial tolerance, cultural conflict and triumph amidst diversities. 

The Kadam family leaves London (where they stayed for a year but decide to move because of its cold climate) for France where they set up an Indian restaurant, right across Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

Set in a picturesque small town in the South of France, the tit for tat ensues as soon as the tacky banner of the Maison Mumbai lights up for opening day. From buying out all the vital ingredients needed by their rival to vandalism of the opponent restaurant's fence, all these scenes unfold in a light humor manner.

Beneath the rivalry, a romance blooms between Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), the son/soulful cook of Maison Mumbai and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), a sous chef who works for Madame Mallory. A typically predictable plot line that is to be expected in this genre. 

As quickly as you can fry some lamb chops, the rivalry basically evaporates like steam from a pressure cooker. Soon enough, Madame Mallory takes Hassan under her wings and teaches him the rudiments of French cuisine albeit with some Indian flare.

From that point on, the plot ventures into the preposterous and highly unrealistic zone with Hassan landing a job in a top Parisian restaurant. He is the toast of the culinary world, his picture and his rise to fame story is featured in all the major dailies and magazines. Really ridiculous if you ask me because there is no way on earth that classically prepared French food would accept any form of variations least of all, the strong flavors of Indian spices. Quel horror!

Despite growing up in New Delhi (India), I have never developed a liking for Indian food. Too spicy and just too many spices for my palate. We've also lived in Belgium and had our share of French fare as Paris was just a short train ride away. So I can say with authority that Indian and French cuisine are totally different from each other in every way! 

But nevertheless, this movie was cozy and entertaining regardless of the flaws in the plot line. It certainly felt like a bland dish which needed more salt to make it more tasty. That's why they have a small corner with condiments in most restaurants. We all have different palates so it is up to us to season according to our discerning tastes.

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