Cooking shows on Indian Television

People bond over food. A nice meal brings people together and a wrong delivery fosters friendship between two strangers.  The film The Lunch Box is an account of dabbawalas (lunch box carriers in Mumbai), a wife’s trials to restore communication with her husband by cooking his favourite items and a heart rendering tale of Despande aunty who helps out her neighbour with her spices and tips J. Well I am not going to review The Lunch Box.  Instead a scene where Ila listens to a radio show on recipes kept me thinking of how food shows have changed on Indian Television.  It would be really nice if some researcher works on this area.

We have been witness to the success of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor who appeared on ZEE’s food show Khana Khazana which is now a channel in itself hosting an array of shows on food and cooking. Khana Khazana’s success as a cookery show paved way for the vernacular channels to have their own shows.   Zee’s Khana Khazana was an eye –opener for many of us who depended on recipes from magazines, newspaper columns or recipe books. In fact, I was surprised to find a recipe of ravioli in my mother’s recipe book few years back.  When I asked her from where she got the recipe she said “Why Sanjeev Kapoor?” Sanjeev Kapoor’s kitchen tips were hugely popular among my aunts as well.  They also discussed fondly the neat table top where Kapoor chopped his vegetables, and the latest kitchen appliances used in Kapoor’s kitchen were an instant hit, particularly non-stick frying pans and pots.

While Kapoor’s kitchen gave a peek into the “professional” side of kitchen activities, shows like Ajker Ranna ( What to cook Today) on DD Bangla are an evidence of the camera travelling to the households and documenting the recipes from the homemaker’s hearth.  Viewers had to write in with their recipes and the lucky one would get to dish out the chosen recipe. Unlike today’s designer sponsored sets the shooting mostly took place within the premises of the kitchen or the kitchen set-up would be re-created in a room perfect for shooting.  The personalised setting of this show appealed to the viewers. While formerly viewers had to write in specially designed “competition postcards” sold by the Postal Department for Rs 3; now viewers can mostly email, and send videos of recipes to production houses.

Post Khana Khazana success, vernacular channels realised the potential of cookery shows. Cookery shows not only tied up with food products, kitchen appliance companies but also encouraged the spread of modular kitchen. One such show on Bengali Television has been Kutchina sponsored Rannaghar in Zee Bangla.  Literally meaning “kitchen”, this show invited the viewers to contribute recipes and the lucky one got to cook and share his/her life story in this show. The kitchen in its former years (before the spread of modular kitchen) was a dream place to cook. Apart from the neatly hung pots and pans to various kinds of serving bowls (in one of the episodes anchor recalled instances when viewers  sent in notes of appreciation for certain kinds of serving bowls), the “kutchina chimney” which was the point of attraction.  People from all walks of life are invited to cook in this show and these shows have become sites of film promotions as well.

Cookery shows were taken to new levels with introduction of  24 hour food channels on Indian Television, particularly Khana Khazana and Food Food . Round the clock cookery shows not only specialise in regional cuisines of India but international cuisines as well. Innovative formats of the shows; coupled with availability of ingredients (thanks to our supermarkets!) have made these shows popular.

What is your favourite show? Do let me know. Till then, cook like a star.

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