During our trip to LA for #GuardiansoftheGalaxyEvent, we were also treated to a screening of DreamWorks The Hundred Foot Journey. This was a truly beautiful film that combines food, cultures, and love. Make sure to read my The Hundred Foot Journey Review. After our screening, we got to interview Manish Dayal, Hassan Kadam in the film. As he walked into the room you could see his energy and excitement for the film. I loved getting to know more about him and the film and look forward to seeing him in more!
Do you cook in real life?
I’ve been getting that question a lot lately and I would have to say is no. But, I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking. The movie wasn’t so much about learning how to cook but more just how to understand kitchen culture. We had to understand how to chop and where to stand and how to move and how to make sure that all of the dishes were effectively made. And I think like that was the challenge in terms of learning kitchen etiquette and stuff like that for the film.
How did you get involved with the film?
It was a really funny story actually. I went in for a voiceover audition for an animated feature that DreamWorks is doing. I went in and I ended up chatting with Leslie Feldman. She’s the casting executive over at DreamWorks. We ended up having this great conversation the whole time, not auditioning, just talking. That night I get a phone call asking if I’d come back in and read for a different project. They wouldn’t tell me the name or anything about it. I did, of course. When I found Steven Spielberg was involved I was like holy sh**. He’s like a childhood hero of mine, which I’ll talk to you about later. But, anyway, so I go into this room and I ended up reading a scene I think 38 times I must’ve read it trying it every different way you can imagine. Those tapes went to Steven and Oprah. I found out that they were very excited. I went in for more meetings and sort of an interview and then more meetings and more meetings over the course of four and a half months. Then I met Lasse Hallström in New York who ultimately I think signed off. And then I got a phone call the next day saying that Steven wants to hire you. And that’s how it happened. It was a long, long crazy amazing entertaining experience.
Where were you when you found out you got the job?
I was in New York by myself. I think at first, I was speechless. I was shocked. And then the first thing I did was call my mom.
Did Chef Floyd do the actual cooking on set?
There were so many chefs on set. There were Indian chefs and there were French chefs all over the place. Definitely Floyd came in towards the end of the process. But ultimately it was a combination of many different chefs, many different sort of cooks in the kitchen if you will. We traveled through about four kitchens in the movie. We begin in India. And then we go to a classic French kitchen in the south of France. Then we move to a molecular kitchen in Paris. So it definitely travels.
What’s it like working with Helen Mirren?
Well, first I should tell you that she’s hilarious, and she has a very crass sense of humor. And I think that’s something we had a lot in common. We ended up just laughing all the time. She was telling me stories about her life and how she got started in this business. It was good to learn from her. Also when we were working I could see how she prepares, what her process was like. She is really cool. It was an amazing experience. She told me something that I won’t forget which was, when you pick movies to do you should just pick them based on how much fun you’re gonna have. So I thought that was really good advice.
Did you meet Oprah?
I did meet Oprah. She’s really amazing. She’s all the things that you know about her she’s that much more incredible. She’s very giving and generous. The most interesting thing about her is how generous she is with her knowledge and her knowledge of the world. It’s clear to me, and I think all of you guys, of why she’s connected to this story. I mean this is a story about a displaced family that has find their way in this new place and overcome all these obstacles, culturally and racially. It’s a real immigrant story. And I think that that’s why she connected to it. These are the stories that she wants to tell. And I think she did it.
What was most surprising thing that you learned about food culture? What do you hope audiences will take from this?
I went into it thinking that the French culture and the Indian culture are completely different. There’s nothing about these two cultures that are similar, until I started working on the movie and really living with these people who were making the movie. I realized they’re actually distinctly similar unlike any other culture in the world because of their appreciation for food. They both have this sort of razor sharp appreciation for it that I don’t think any other culture. The interesting part about that is that a French kitchen is really structured. It’s very formulaic. There’s a formula for everything. There’s a way to do everything, and there’s a way to stand. Everyone has a skill in the kitchen. You know your skill by not going beyond your skill. There’s a hierarchy there that’s really respected. And it’s really quite amazing to watch how everyone follows the rules. The level of respect you have chef, it’s really insane. Then in an Indian kitchen, it’s not like that at all. It’s about who’s ever, however you’re gonna get this thing cooked, and how are we gonna make it happen? Both yield great tasting food but the cultures in these kitchens is so different. They both have the same razor sharp appreciation for cooking and food. It’s just done in a very different way.
Did you read the book?
I read it twice before we made the film. I always had it under my arm when I was shooting because there were certain times when I was unsure about something that I was doing in the movie I would refer to the book. Lasse’s directing style is the best because his vision’s always moving, organic. Lines get added. Lines get cut. It’s just like this thing that moves all the time. There was this one line that I remember where I go to the window and I say, “We’re not visitors anymore.” “We’re not visitors anymore. If you can’t beat them, join them.” It’s a huge turning point for my character because he’s starting to sort of play the game if you will because he has to do that at several points in the movie in order to reach his point of realization. That point I knew that something needed to be said but the line that was in the script just didn’t make sense. To me it was not poignant enough. I flipped open the book, and I saw that line. We’re not visitors anymore. And it spoke to me in a real way because that’s not exactly what they’re trying to achieve. They’re trying not to be nomadic anymore. They are trying to settle down. They’re trying to find a life for themselves to survive. And that line completely said it to me. I went to Lasse and said this is what I want to say. He said do it.
What foods evoke memories of home?
Two things, my moms grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody can make a grilled cheese sandwich like my mother. She didn’t do it often growing up, but I remember when she did it it was always late at night for me and my siblings. If we were hungry she would make grilled cheese sandwiches, and she makes them perfectly. It is something that she does that I really sort of love. Indian-wise, she makes rice and daal, which is a very simple thing but everybody makes it differently. The thing about daal is that depending on where you’re from in India everyone cooks it differently. Like where I’m from, where we were raised, which is also where the Hagi’s originate in the movie, they put sugar in it. So to me daal should be sweet. But to a north Indian it shouldn’t be. Also it’s runnier, and in the north it’s thicker. It just depends. Everyone makes it differently. That’s something that my mom makes. I’m actually going home tonight. I haven’t been home in a while. So hopefully she’ll have it when I’m there.
What’s the message you want everyone to walk away with?
In order to achieve something great you have to go after life’s uncertainty. That is what I believe this movie is about. It’s about going into the unknown and not knowing whats going to happen. Going after life’s uncertainty and committing yourself to a higher purpose. That’s what I think this movie’s about. For everyone in the movie, not just my character, it’s that way for Om Puri who arrives in France, this guy with four kids to feed. Like wow! And, Helen Mirren really trying to do away with years and years of culture and experience that she knows. And she’s hardened to it and then sort of loosening that up. That’s tough. So I think everyone has a little bit of a journey. And I think like I said, my character really does go after something that is difficult and challenging and not knowing what the result. That is real courage in my opinion.
Watch Manish Dayal in The Hundred Foot Journey in theaters now!
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