Food for thought, thought for food 

Food has been an integral part of B’wood be it movies like The Lunchbox, Chef, Cheeni Kum or be it actors like Rakhee Gulzar, Arshad Warsi who leave no stones unturned to exhibit their culinary skills

Food for thought, thought for food 
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Subhash K Jha

Food and culinary skills played a big hand in Ritesh Batra’s highly-acclaimed global hit The Lunchbox and the Saif Starrer Chef.

Can’t help thinking about recent films that tap the theme of khaana as manna from the kitchen. Hollywood gave us a wonderful film, Jon Favreau’s Chef, centred on the theme of khaana. And I loved Om Puri’s chef act in The Hundred-Foot Journey.

In Bollywood, we had the wonderful Cheeni Kum, Balki’s film about an aging wry restaurateur (Amitabh Bachchan) and a stunning young customer (Tabu) who serves up the cocky chef some lessons in biryani etiquettes.

Then, there there is Habib Faisal’s Daawat-e-Ishq. The entire film centres on the theme of food and love.

Besides the fact that they’re both extraordinarily talented, Seema Biswas and Meryl Streep, divided by continents, culture and colour-pigmentation, have both done wonderful films on the rapidly-dying art of cooking and serving gourmet meals. I found both Meryl in Julie & Julia and Seema in Cooking With Stella to be equally stirring in their ability to cook up a passion for food in their respective roles.

The two culinary creations featuring Streep and Biswas also made me think of all the wonderful cooks in our film industry. Some are known. Others are not known at all. Everyone knows about Rakhee Gulzar’s outstanding abilities at the cooking stove. I’ve shared the most wonderful meals in her house. Unlike other expert cooks, Raakhee ji not only likes to cook. She also loves to eat and enjoys her meals instead of staring at her guests while they eat. That could get awkward.

Arshad Warsi whips up a whammer of a biryani. The biryanis at Sajid Nadiadwala and Adnan Sami are to die for. Sajid’s mother makes a biryani with rice that’s soaked into aromatic spices and curds for four days before being cooked. The biryani at Adnan Sami’s goes even further. The rice is imported from Kabul and the mutton-biryani that’s cooked thereafter is to die for. Actually the calories could kill you anyway. Now, do you know why Adnan’s girth was what it was!

The dal-dhokli and fried fish at my pal Sanjay Bhansali’s home are compulsory consumption every time I visit the city. And Simi Garewal’s hospitality and dining table are among the best in the business of cooking, feeding and eating.

I am fascinated not by food, but by celebrities who take the time to cook. Rakhee Gulzar finds cooking therapeutic. In her heydays, she would cook fish-curry, prawn and mutton meals for entire units on location. Some star-wives who kept a vigil over their star-husband’s diet and weight didn’t like Rakhee’s spoon-feeding passion. The late Jennifer Kapoor and Saira Banu actually forbade Rakhee ji from feeding Shashi Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, both incorrigible foodies.

Sadly, Shashi Kapoor let himself go completely on the food front after his wife’s passing. I suspect he went on an eating spree to avenge the Gods for snatching away the most beloved person in his life, as if to say, “If I can’t have her, I will get fat and ugly”.

The Kapoors are the most passionate foodies in filmdom. They like to serve and get served sumptuous meals on any pretext. Ranbir tells me about his grandma Krishna Raj Kapoor’s cooking. He says it’s enough reason to visit her every week. You can’t tell by his reedy frame. But Ranbir loves good food, Khau Gali being one of his favourite haunts, though nowadays he is unable take a gorge-gamini walk down that culinary lane for obvious reasons.

And that, considering how prone the Kapoors are to chubbiness, is a blessing.

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