Picking up from Part 1…
In her critical but accurate analysis of why Masterchef India will never be as “good” as Masterchef Australia, Anoothi Vishal writes, “The cooking class they gave to the contestants yesterday included very basic (vegetarian) Punjabi khana: Dal makhni, karele, kulche and a dodgy looking rajma tikki. Frankly the food looked fairly unappetizing, albeit a little bit more restaurantised than the efforts of the mothers in the cook-off segment…” It may sound very boring but what we cannot understand is that for a majority of Indians food is still their way to reconnect with family and they love to eat the food they ate growing up, albeit kicked up a notch. As one of its celebrity judges, a Michelin-starred restaurant chef from New York, Vikas Khanna replied when asked, “What is the difference between cooking styles in New York and India?”, “The food is the same everywhere and we feed people just the same. But when you are in India, the emotional connect to food is much deeper. As we express love with food and food with love. I have always felt that for Indians, food is an expression of love. It is totally true for me.” The food is an expression of the emotions that the cook feels for his or her diners. It is these emotions that the shows producers are trying to tap into.
I came across some interesting statistics a couple of days ago. The recently concluded episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati which saw the it’s first Rs. 5 crore winner had the highest TRP, 8, of any show in the last two years. Prior to that episode only the season finale episode of Rakhi Ka Swayamwar – Season 1 rated higher with a TRP of 8.4. These numbers tell us something. We love drama – real or faked. The more real, the better. We love peeking into every aspect of the lives of our countrymen – their successes and failures, their joys and sorrows. My babysitter, for example, only watches the reality show Big Boss.
In her essay Vishal concludes, “What India needs desperately is some fun with its food. What the Indian Masterchef needs is a dose of cosmopolitanism. Unfortunately, while I can see the former happening increasingly in our midst, it will take much longer for TV shows to change.” We are a growing population in India, those of us who spend a significant portion of our time, effort and money on our food, who have a more modern outlook in life, who like to travel and experience new things. Unfortunately though, we are still not that large a population that the advertisers would want to put down their money on a more cosmopolitan version of Masterchef India running on Star Plus, a channel known for reaching out to a more traditional Indian audience.
How “good” Masterchef India is, is therefore relative. It may not be in spirit the same as Masterchef Australia, but inspired by that format it is a different show catering to a different audience. It is like Kolkata people complaining that the phuchka in Mumbai is not as good. That is because, dear Calcuttan, it is not phuchka. It is pani-puri, for Christ’s sake. So the cosmopolitan version of Masterchef India to be enjoyed by the “other” part of India will have to air on a channel like TLC or NDTV GoodTimes or Star World that caters to such an audience.
That there is my issue and in it my solution. We are an evolving country. Right know we are several different kinds of Indian people living almost seamlessly in this big country. So while some of us get our kind of entertainment, why do others have to be deprived? Why can’t there be some channels which work out a way to provide contemporary entertainment and make money in the process? An example of such fine programming is the music documentary/ travelogue on Star world called The Dewarists. Bringing together musicians from around the world to various places in India to write music, it is about people following their passion and creating something beautiful in the process. It exemplifies the spirit of new India. And perhaps with the spirit of The Dewarists that “Some things are just worth doing”, we will see writers, directors and producers creating television content for cosmopolitan India so we can stop turning to the west for our daily entertainment.
Until then we have to settle for eye candy.