Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal) has had the best cooking teacher ever, his mother. She has taught him to cook with feeling, to make the spices and flavours speak and to bring dishes to life with soul. Hassan now loves to cook and he’s a natural. The Kadam family run a successful restaurant in Mumbai, but suffer a terrible tragedy and move away from India for good. Papa Kadam (by Om Puri) brings his children to England but they find the produce too bland and can’t live in such a cold climate, so they move further south – to France. Purely by chance, they encounter the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, where they meet beautiful young French woman Marguerite (by Charlotte Le Bon). Her hospitality is so warm and they find such vibrant fresh produce that Papa decides the family will stay in the area. Soon Papa’s business acumen is sparked when he notices a restaurant sitting empty in the village. Innovative as ever, Papa establishes the first Indian restaurant in the area – much to the chagrin of Maître d’ at the village’s Michelin star French restaurant, Madame Mallory (by Helen Mirren). With Hassan as head chef, the Kadam’s restaurant builds a loyal following in the area and Marguerite helps him develop his skills in French cuisine. A fierce rivalry develops between the two proprietors and they constantly bother the village Mayor (by Michel Blanc) with their feud. One night, the rivalry goes too far and severe consequences ensue. This has gone on long enough … but will these people of such distinct cultures ever find a way to understand each another? … and can their businesses really co-exist successfully in this tiny village?
Given that the plot line is somewhat trite, even cringe-worthy, the director and actors have created a sweet movie here. Of course, there’s no denying that the French countryside is a nice backdrop for anything, but this plot manages to stay on a reasonable course and not meander into total drudgery, or obvious tedious comedy. As Hassan, Manish Dayal is lovely – he portrays the young chef beautifully. I’ve seen Helen Mirren much better than she performs here, but she is fine for this type of movie. Margueritte is played perfectly by Charlotte Le Bon too – she is delicate, but smart – she does well. If you enjoyed “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” you will probably like this too as there are some parallels. The comedy also comes from the sensitive way Papa Kadam is portrayed as so blindly set in his ways that a compromise is out of the question – he’s determined to make the stoic French see things his way. He does a good job at persuading the locals that food is all about feelings, love and soul – not just haute cuisine. It’s a nice movie with several plot lines – it was adapted from Richard C Morais‘ book.
Made in 2014. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom