If you catch whiffs of ‘Chocolat’, you’re not imagining them: this middlebrow culture-clash foodie fable, based on a novel by Richard C Morais, shares more than just a director with that Juliette Binoche confection from 2000. There’s also the quaint, postcard-ready French setting, the heavy-handed musings on the mystical power of spices and a prickly, purse-lipped antagonist butting against change.
The latter, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, in a deliciously salty turn), oversees a starched-linen fine-dining temple in southern France. Her primary concern is securing yet another Michelin star – that is, until thrifty Mumbai import Papa (Om Puri) and his brood move in across the road to open a vindaloo-stirring, AR Rahman-soundtracked eatery of their own, helmed by kitchen-prodigy son Hassan (Manish Dayal).
The movie’s never tastier than when screen vets Mirren and Puri are sparring. But when that rivalry reduces to a low simmer in favour of Hassan’s rags-to-riches rise in the food world, the story turns bland. The film should have taken a cue from its spice-loving subjects and jacked up the heat.