What hath "Slumdog Millionaire" wrought? The Oscar-winning heartstring tugger was a glimpse into a brand-new world for many moviegoers and, of course, as it is wont to do, Hollywood followed up on that success with several more films focusing in some way or another on India.
In particular, it seems, Tinseltown has gotten fond of the east-meets-west motif. There was Ang Lee’s worldwide Oscar-winner "Life of Pi," based on the spiritual bestseller. John Madden’s "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," in which a parade of fantastic older British actors (including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith) played a group of pensioners who travelled to India for a stay at an luxury hotel that ended up being not quite what they expected. (A sequel could well be on its way.) And then there was "Million Dollar Arm," Disney’s feel-gooder that brought India to the U.S. through the story of a baseball agent (Jon Hamm) who scouts cricket players in India who he thinks might make it big in the states.
Next up is "The Hundred-Foot Journey," directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, the film stars Manish Dayal and Om Puri as the father and son of a family displaced from India who decide to settle in the south of France and open a restaurant called Maison Mumbai. When the chef/proprietess of a nearby Michelin-starred establishment (played by Helen Mirren) catches wind of the newcomers, she begins a war against the rival restaurant just a hundred feet from her own. That is, until Dayal’s young cooking ingenue shows her the possibilities for weaving their two culinary traditions together.
It doesn’t take a psychic to see why the studios are snapping up films like this: these kind of two-cultures-colliding stories make for the natural comedy of miscommunication and rivalry and the eventual reconciliation when the characters realize that (duh) we should all just get along. Add in a dash of foodie porn in the case of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" and you’ve got a film that American audiences starved of sophistication can flock to. (Plus, is Mirren ever anything but excellent?)
Below, take a look at Spielberg and Winfrey discussing Hallström’s film in a brand-new featurette. Meanwhile, we’ll be wondering why there hasn’t been a fusion cuisine cooking show on the air yet…and maybe planning our pitch!