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Fat Guy

Best Indian Food Movies

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Fat Guy   

The thread on Monsoon Wedding, and that film's neglect of all things culinary, leads me to ask: What have been the best cinematic depictions of Indian food and food rituals?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say... I would love to see what films are good in dealing with food.  I am not very well versed with Bollywoof films.

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Interesting topic. I'm a huge fan of Bollywood films (Shawn HATES it when I play the soundtracks). I'm also a huge fan of food movies. Honestly, I think Bend It Like Beckham is about it. Most Bollywood films spend considerably more time on locale, costumes, and songs - often to the exclusion of plot...

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I am not very well versed with Bollywoof films.

Neither am I, I guess their woof is worse than their barf. :biggrin:

Just when I was beginning to like you :wink: I love Bollywood movies, the new ones in particular. Most of my memories of the old ones, around food, are the mother making Indian rice pudding (Kheer)


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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sequim   
Interesting topic. I'm a huge fan of Bollywood films (Shawn HATES it when I play the soundtracks). I'm also a huge fan of food movies. Honestly, I think Bend It Like Beckham is about it. Most Bollywood films spend considerably more time on locale, costumes, and songs - often to the exclusion of plot...

Now books, on the other hand, talk alot about the food and that's what I love. Particularly books written by immigrants to America remembering the food.

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first things first, "bend it like beckham" and "bhaji on the beach" are not bollywood movies. they're not even indian movies. they're british movies. nor is "monsoon wedding" a bollywood movie. it is a movie set in india by a director of indian origin starring indian actors. bollywood refers to the hindi film industry of bombay, and specificially to the popular cinema that emerges from it. there are completely different film industries in other parts of the country, and the art cinema is separate from these as well (ray in bengali--occasionally hindi as well--adoor in malayalam; mani kaul in hindi etc.); there is a middle cinema which is anchored uneasily in bollywood, and draws on the same resources--people like basu bhattacharya, sai paranjpe and ketan mehta.

speaking of ketan mehta, his great film "mirch masala" is not about food but uses chilli powder both as metaphor and thematic element.

more later on bollywood films later when i have time. but a film with extended eating scenes is the early 80s bachhan starrer: "satte pe satta"; a take on "7 brides for 7 brothers".

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tryska   
The thread on Monsoon Wedding, and that film's neglect of all things culinary, leads me to ask: What have been the best cinematic depictions of Indian food and food rituals?

thanks for explaining mongo, but the question itself didn't refer to bollywood movies.

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The thread on Monsoon Wedding, and that film's neglect of all things culinary, leads me to ask: What have been the best cinematic depictions of Indian food and food rituals?

thanks for explaining mongo, but the question itself didn't refer to bollywood movies.

yes tryska, but as you'll see later replies referred to specific films that are not bollywood films (or even indian films) as bollywood films.

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ah. i thought you were randomly yelling at people.

not that i have anything against random yelling but i don't think correcting inaccuracies should ever automatically be considered "yelling". people take a lot of pains to educate themselves about certain parts of the world, less so about others--and are more prone to feel hurt when someone from that part of the world points out the gaps in their knowledge--as vikram has found out on a couple of occasions :-)

along these lines i don't feel the need to be a translator or cultural ambassador every time i talk about indian things--food or otherwise. for one thing people on the french and spanish boards, for instance, don't seem to feel any pressure to explain things to a non-french or spanish audience every time they post, and i don't see why everyone on the indian forum should either--though more power to those who want to do it. everyone can do some work in finding things out--life is more satisfying that way.

there may be more americans than any other nationality on this site but this is a global site. being global in a positive sense should mean everyone can behave like egullet is located where they are and not have to translate themselves for the "real home" audience--if that makes any sense. or at least that's how i relate to the indian forum on egullet.

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I think what makes it a real global site is the fact that people take pains to explain what things are. We have come a long way from explaining Naans and Lassi -- but specific things should be explained.

I think you caught the techinicality on the movie scene. I was refering to movies, bollywood or otherwise, that reflect the indian culture and food. i resonate with the culture in Bend it Like B since I was raised abroad. Point taken regardless


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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I think you caught the techinicality on the movie scene. I was refering to movies, bollywood or otherwise, that reflect the indian culture and food. i resonate with the culture in Bend it Like B since I was raised abroad. Point taken regardless

it isn't just a "technicality"--for one thing for us to call gurinder chadha or her movies "indian" is to participate in the same narrative that right-wing british politicians do when they say indian immigrants are not really "british" but "indian". she is a south asian brit and her films reflect that. for another thing, it is important not to substitute the diaspora for india.

with these distinctions made we can consider the ways in which films by diasporic indian directors, films by bollywood directors, and films by directors from other indian cinematic traditions do or don't represent food (or anything else). if we don't make these distinctions we disrespect both the cultures in question and the intelligence of those we might seek to educate.

i'm tempted to make the hypothesis that the mass bombay cinema does not harp on food imagery because this would be extremely alienating for a large part of its audience that doesn't eat well every day. it is one thing to show wealth as aspirational but another to show actual food. but i won't make this hypothesis just yet because i suspect that the minute i do i'll remember tons of movies that do show food being lavishly cooked, eaten and thrown away (as i say that i remember "jaane bhi do yaaron" and the "thoda khao, thoda phenko" scene--suman will know what i am talking about).

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I think you caught the techinicality on the movie scene. I was refering to movies, bollywood or otherwise, that reflect the indian culture and food. i resonate with the culture in Bend it Like B since I was raised abroad. Point taken regardless

it isn't just a "technicality"--for one thing for us to call gurinder chadha or her movies "indian" is to participate in the same narrative that right-wing british politicians do when they say indian immigrants are not really "british" but "indian". she is a south asian brit and her films reflect that. for another thing, it is important not to substitute the diaspora for india.

with these distinctions made we can consider the ways in which films by diasporic indian directors, films by bollywood directors, and films by directors from other indian cinematic traditions do or don't represent food (or anything else). if we don't make these distinctions we disrespect both the cultures in question and the intelligence of those we might seek to educate.

i'm tempted to make the hypothesis that the mass bombay cinema does not harp on food imagery because this would be extremely alienating for a large part of its audience that doesn't eat well every day. it is one thing to show wealth as aspirational but another to show actual food. but i won't make this hypothesis just yet because i suspect that the minute i do i'll remember tons of movies that do show food being lavishly cooked, eaten and thrown away (as i say that i remember "jaane bhi do yaaron" and the "thoda khao, thoda phenko" scene--suman will know what i am talking about).

Interesting perspective


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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tryska   
we need an Indian version of Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.

I have not seen this movie. What is it about?

it's a beautiful movie monica.

Chinese - in subtitles, but ti's about a Father who's a chef, and his four grownup daughters. Essentially the father communicates with his girls over leaborate chinese dishes that he cooks for them for their weekly dinners. Their lives change, but the constant is his elaborate cooking for them. He also can't taste anything. But that's a different story arc. Visually a very lovely movie.

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Sujatha   

'Bawarchi' starring Rajesh Khanna and Jaya Baduri comes to my mind. As far as Indian Food Movies - to the best of my knowledge, nothing comes close.

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That does sound nice. I think we will rent it for the weekend.

In many of the (ahem) bollywood movies, some things to ponder --

1. The pregnant woman hankering for pickles and raw mangoes. i never had that in any of my pregnancies. Perhaps I am an anamoly!

2. I have wondered about the custom of feeding someone a spoon of yogurt with sugar just as they are leaving the house for an important task. My mom would do that for me .. does anyone know where it originated

3. the bad guys always eat non vegetarian food. That always tickles me. Why does a bad guy not want dosa!! :wink:

Amitabh Bachan is one of my favorite actors and yes, his movie that Mongo mentioned does have a fun scene with his new bride tryiing to feed him and his six siblings like human beings. too funny!

There is a lot of mention of alcohol in the movies. Always.


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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'Bawarchi' starring Rajesh Khanna and Jaya Baduri comes to my mind. As far as Indian Food Movies - to the best of my knowledge, nothing comes close.

You are right! How did I forget that. I think there is a scene where he is asked to cook something from .. oh what was it.. some exotic vegetable.. and he prepares something fantastic and surprises the whole house.. yes?


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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we need an Indian version of Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.

I have not seen this movie. What is it about?

it's a beautiful movie monica.

Chinese - in subtitles, but ti's about a Father who's a chef, and his four grownup daughters. Essentially the father communicates with his girls over leaborate chinese dishes that he cooks for them for their weekly dinners. Their lives change, but the constant is his elaborate cooking for them. He also can't taste anything. But that's a different story arc. Visually a very lovely movie.

it is an early film by ang lee, the taiwanese director of "crouching tiger" fame--part of his "food trilogy"--"pushing hands", "eat/drink" and "the wedding banquet"--all of which use food and parent/child relationships as metaphors for the relationship between tradition/modernity.

wayne wang's "dim sum" is another great immigrant food movie. much better, in my opinion, than "the joy luck club" which it anticipates in many ways.

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Well now we have Bend it Like Beckham that does talk about the food. Any others to add to this list??

FWIW, the DVD of Bend It Like Beckham has a bonus segment of the director making aloo gobi under the supervision of her mother and aunt. It couldn't be funnier if it had been written.

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scott123   
i'm tempted to make the hypothesis that the mass bombay cinema does not harp on food imagery because this would be extremely alienating for a large part of its audience that doesn't eat well every day. it is one thing to show wealth as aspirational but another to show actual food. but i won't make this hypothesis just yet because i suspect that the minute i do i'll remember tons of movies that do show food being lavishly cooked, eaten and thrown away (as i say that i remember "jaane bhi do yaaron" and the "thoda khao, thoda phenko" scene--suman will know what i am talking about).

When it comes to the portrayal of food in film, Bollywood's aversion is not that dissimilar to Hollywood's. Does Hollywood's audience have any issues with putting food on the table? I think it has less to do with the financial situation of the audience and more with a larger than life image these studios are perpetuating. The activities of preparing food, eating and sleeping are just too mundane for popular cinema. Have you ever seen Julia Roberts eat on film? Denzel Washington? Brad Pitt? Aamir Khan?

I haven't. Movie stars don't eat. Not publicly at least.

It's an archetypal anima/animus thing.

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