This question of food and Bollywood films - no, wait, time out: all Mongo's points about the term Bollywood are excellent and true, but I'm still using it because:
(a) its convenient
(b) the terms for the other Indian cinema industries like Tollywood (Bengali, from Tollygunge), Mollywood (Tamil, from Madras) are tedious beyong belief,
© the term Bollywood now has a certain sense independent of the actual Bollywood film industry referring to films involving certain typical elements like music, dance, escapist story lines and, of course, the desi community in some sense or Mongo will pounce on me and ask why Chicago doesn't count as a Bollywood film. So under this expanded sense you can include everything from Lagaan to Sholay to Monsoon Wedding to Mandi to Mother India to Munnabhai MBBS (my new fave film!) to Maqbool. It would include that piece of fluff called The Guru and even Bend It Like Beckham and Bhaji On The Beach, though I accept that by then its straining at the seams. The only thing it would definitely not include would be the Indian art film tradition of people like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, but since this is effectively dead anyway, we can ignore it.
OK, back to food and Bollywood. I've written about this somewhere, but frustratingly can't find the piece, but if I remember what I said it was something on the lines that one of the biggest differences between the Indian and Chinese popular film traditions was in their approach to food. Chinese films celebrate food and its cooking in every way - eating it, serving it, cooking it. There's even a Jackie Chan film called The Chef and you can just see those cleavers being used in fight sequences. So when Ang Lee made Eat Drink Man Woman (Monica, rent it IMMEDIATELY), he was drawing on a well established tradition.
Indian films however rarely show food, and I think this reveals some telling cultural differences. (I don't agree with Mongo's suggestion that this is out of concern for starving viewers. If they're starving they're not going to be able to afford a ticket and anyway, with the films going over the top in showing aspirational fantasies in every other way, why would they stop at the food).
I'd suggest that one reason for this absence of food and cooking is social hierarchies where cooks come pretty low down (how this meshes with the maharaj concept where the chefs are Brahmins is a fascinating question, but for another thread). Its something servants do or women (who are servants anyway in most Indian families). It is not aspirational at all, even today - why do you think the middle class parents in Monsoon Wedding aren't amused by their son wanting to be a chef?
So you're just not going to show the main characters cooking. Remember the way those mafiosi in the Godfather films were always making meatballs and pasta? And can you imagine any of the gangsters in Indian films doing anything like that. Bawarchi is the exception that proves the rule, as is a more recent film that I did post about - Rules: Pyar Ka Superhit Formula where the very hunky hero wants to become a chef:http://forums.egulle...=0
I think there's also another reason, and its to do with a schizoid attitude towards bodily pleasures that runs quite deep in Indian culture. It could be sex or it could be food, but both are treated in a very squeamish way upfront, even while both are being indulged in like crazy in private. As has been observed ad nauseum, this is the country of the Kama Sutra (and some pretty steamy Bollywood films), but which becomes are moralistic and prurient - at the snap of a bra you'll have people mouthing off about outrages to the honour of Indian womanhood.
So too with food. Indians love to eat, but they don't quite like being reminded of this fact. There's some uneasy feeling that all those fasts and self denying ascetic meals that 'holy' people are meant to follow are the real ideal. I've seen Jain ceremonies where people who have fasted for two weeks or more are almost literally worshipped and then everyone goes for a mega feast. There's the Ramzaan cycle of daytime fasting, nightime gluttony (though that's not just Indian). In the Hindu mythological comics we read as kids there are all those pictures of sages denying themselves bodily pleasures and acquiring huge powers, while its the gross demons like Kumbhakarna who eat like crazy.
And you can see this comes up in films as well. As Monica has noted villains are among the few people often shown eating in Indian films. And what do they eat? Meat. Huge horrible chunks of it, thereby confirming their base, tamasic nature. (Along with it they drink, and if there's anything Indians are even more schizoid about than food and sex, its alcohol). In a more tolerant vein the other group that eats a lot are the clowns and buffoons - remember Tun Tun, the comic actress whose characteristic was being very fat and eating a lot.
There's one other group that is associated with food and that's also characteristic. Mothers are often shown with food, but not cooking or eating it, but giving it, because that's what mothers are meant to do in India, endlessly give of themselves. So that spoon of curds given before a journey that Monica noted is given by the mother, and its the mother too who's often shown trying to feed her sons, stuff them up - 'le beta, le, thoda aur khana, maa ke hath se khana'. ('eat my darling, eat some more, eat from your mother's hand')!
So that's how food comes into Indian films. But showing it being cooked, served and eaten without guilt. Ewwww... that's not how its done in Bollywood.
PS: As one might expect, Bollywood film sets are known for the fabulous food on offer. There are specific film caterers who are reknowned for being able to knock and serve the most amazing - and heavy - food imaginable on the sets. Its one of the few perks the crew enjoys, so its never stinted, even if the stars themselves in these figure conscious days are more careful about what they eat.
Oh, and for a last film and food link, don't forget the ritual of breaking a coconut that absolutely has to accompany the first take of any film. That first take in fact is always a formality, done for the coconut which is broken as the director shouts "Action!" and then "Cut" almost at once. The coconut is distributed as prasad while the filming gets going.