My Yahoo! Movies column, first published here.
As Irrfan opens a lunchbox packed by a woman he has never met and Nawazuddin gets completely taken in by the fragrance, it is just the right time to unpack Bollywood’s adventures in food.
In Bawarchi, Rajesh Khanna was the – well – bawarchi of a constantly squabbling household. Immediately after joining, he made a deliciously exotic Kachche kele ka Dum Pukht. After that, he made some egg kachori to go as snacks with tea and offered to cook a Bengali dish – Shukto, a mix of bitter vegetables cooked in traditional style.
Net result? The two ladies of the house were discussing the weight they had put on.
The most passionate ode to food was paid by Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum, as the owner-chef of ‘London’s finest Indian restaurant’ (Spice 6). His belated love story began when a customer (Tabu) returned a plate of Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulaoand then returned with a perfect version of the dish. He ate humble pie. And the love story began.
Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) worked with his Dada (Mithun Chakraborty) at their paratha joint in Parathewali gali of Old Delhi. His days were spent in chopping potatoes and onions, kneading the dough and frying the parathas (‘shudh desi ghee se nirmit’). His machine-like movements were preparing him for fighting Chinese villains, which started when he moved from Chandni Chowk To China.
Before he turned a Mafia don in Vaastav, Sanjay Dutt started a pav bhaji stall.
He borrowed from his dad to put up the roadside cart. He trumped his competition by picking up his stock from cheaper markets and by pricing his plate lower than his competition. And his Jai Maharashtra Pav Bhaji Wala stall kicked off with a bang (a song, actually).
Shah Rukh Khan did his food act in Duplicate. When he was not the manic murderer Mannu Dada, he was the bumbling chef Babloo Chaudhry.
Babloo got himself a job with a hotel. The hotel’s Banquet Manager (Juhi Chawla) dispensed with an interview and asked him to prepare a Japanese dish for a delegation scheduled to arrive in the next twenty minutes. Which he did, on a song.
In Kal Ho Naa Ho, Saif Ali Khan’s father was said to have made his fortune in the takeaway food business. The name of their business? Dial-A-Dhokla!
And then Jaya Bachchan was shown to be running a restaurant that was on the verge of shutting down. It was a nondescript American-style diner (called New York). With some help from SRK and her neighbours, she transformed it into a traditional Indian restaurant with an ethnic décor and – eventually – a never-ending queue. The name? New Delhi.
When Omi (Kunal Kapoor) returned from London to Lalton village in Punjab, he realized the secret ingredient of his grandpa’s chicken recipe was worth its weight in pounds sterling. As he interviewed almost the entire village for the secret, everyone ended up having a point of view – Heeng? Kali mirch? Jeera? Imli? What?
During the search for the recipe, he had to contend with his own greed, an annoyed chacha, a madcap mama, a TV sadhvi, a sentimental cousin and a lover he had abandoned. And in between all these people, he eventually found Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
The central premise of The Lunchbox is the fact that the largest amount of food in India gets consumed out of a dabba. And it is not only the office dabba.
Stanley Ka Dabba paid an affectionate ode to the humble school tiffin-box through a little boy (Partho Gupte) and his run-ins with a khadoos teacher (played by the film’s director, Amol Gupte who is also Partho’s father). The teacher demanded a share from every student’s dabba and Stanley not getting one was the reason for the run-in. The reason for the lack of Stanley’s dabba formed the crux of the story.