This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
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USA: Oye! Times readers Get FREE $30 to spend on Amazon, Walmart… Escaping the wrath of a marriage gone horribly wrong, Om Puri left this week for the small French town of Albi to play the lead opposite, ahem, Helen Mirren. No less!
One doesn't know how the distinguished British actress 'Dame' Helen Mirren feels about working with our very own Om Puri in The 100 Foot Journey. But we have a lot to be proud of. Unlike other actors who are happy to play cameos in international projects, Om plays the lead opposite the versatile Ms Mirren in a film that the prolific Lasse Hailstrom directs.
Hailstrom has to his credit such remarkable films as The Cider House Rules, An Unfinished Life and Safe Haven. "He has directed 35 films, most of them very successful. This is not a small film. As for Helen Mirren, she is legendary on British stage and in cinema. I am very happy to be working with a co-star who can challenge the best out of me," says Om with pride.
Om plays the lead in The 100 Foot Journey. When asked to shed light on his part, Om says, "I play a man who has lost his wife and property in the Mumbai riots. He leaves the country and lives in London for five years. Then he travels to other parts of Europe until he finally settles down in a small French town called Albi. That's where we're shooting the film."
What excites Om is that he plays a restaurateur in the film. "I've been fond of cooking from the time I was very young. I make the usual meals and all kinds of biryanis and kebabs. Trust me, when I was offered the role, they didn't know I could cook. But now I wonder if Helen Mirren can cook. If she can't I'd be happy to teach her some Indian dishes."
Helen and Om play owners of two rival restaurants across the road from one another in Albi. Says Om, "The film gets its title from the 100 feet that separate Helen's restaurant from mine. We are actually shooting in Albi and I am very excited because I will be staying in my own rented apartment, doing my own cooking during the shooting. The change of country and climate would do me good."
The 100 Foot Journey is not the first international film that Om would shoot while staying in a rented apartment. "Whenever I've done international films I've preferred to live in a rented apartment rather than a hotel. In fact for this project with Helen Mirren the producers gave me a choice of 5 apartments. I chose one that was in the countryside close to the location where we would be shooting."
Om is very pleased by the team's meticulous approach. "They've informed me that my name would come second in the credit titles after Helen Mirren. They are trying to get an equally formidable actress to play the other female lead. I am happy to be working in a film where my co-star is someone whose work I admire. I don't get too do that too often in India."
Looking back, Om feels he has been lucky with his international projects. "I've played the lead in international films in East Is East, My Son The Fanatic and West Is West. And even if I've not played the protagonist in some of my international projects, my scenes have always been with the most important actors in the film. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Ben Kingsley in Gandhi, Patrick Swayze in The City Of Joy, Steve Coogan in The Parole Officer, Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson's War, Jack Nicholson in Wolf, Val Kilmer in The Ghost & The Darkness and now Helen Mirren in The 100 Foot Journey. I don't know what these great actors feel about working with me. But for me, working with them has been an honour privilege and pleasure."