India is known for its wide variety of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits used in recipes encompassing a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines.
Indian films are known for their "love-at-first-sight" romances. But a handful of films explore stories of "love-at-first-bite" by highlighting friendship and romance through the culinary arts.
The following favorite Indian films tantalize your taste buds with stories that satisfy the foodie filmgoer.
English translation: "Feast of Love"
Release date: 19 September 2014
Director: Habib Faisal
Music by: Sajid-Wajid; Lyrics by: Kausar Munir
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Description: Hindi romantic comedy. After her boyfriend dumps her because her father (Anupam Kher) cannot afford the requested financial support, disillusioned Gulrez "Gullu" Qadir (Parineeti Chopra) decides to get revenge on those who still believe in the illegal dowry system. Traveling from Hyderabad to Lucknow, Gullu and her father check-in to a four-star hotel where they set the stage for a scheme to fake a marriage in order to steal dowry money from a prospective suitor. The owner of the Big Boss Haidari Kebab restaurant, Tariq "Taru" Haidar (Aditya Roy Kapur), impresses Gullu and her father with his culinary skills and when his family signals their interest in a dowry, the grift begins.
Why I Love This Film: Taru Haider is a gentleman who recognizes the struggles between traditional and modern norms. While he is rough around the edges, his confidence, sense of humor, and honesty impress everyone he meets. When he sets his mind on winning over Gullu, there is no getting rid of him. The film is in the standard Bollywood style with some song and dance, but these musical moments are most enjoyable thanks to a wonderful soundtrack.
Foodie Quote: "I've gotten addicted to your flavors."
2. Un Samayal Araiyil
English Translation: "In Your Kitchen"
Release Date: 6 June 2014
Director: Prakash Raj
Music by: Ilaiyaraaja
Producer: Prakash Raj
Description: Tamil romantic drama. Middle-aged historian and archeologist Kalidasa (Prakash Raj) and film dubbing artist Gowri (Sneha) have grown accustomed to being single. When Gowri accidentally calls Kalidasa thinking his phone number is a local restaurant, they discover a shared foodie passion and develop a long-distance friendship. That relationship blossoms into love when they each bake the multi-flavor, multi-layer "Joan's Rainbow Cake" based on a recipe pulled from the pages of a french World War II novel. With their lives changed by the shared culinary experiment, their romance takes a strange turn when they agree to meet in person.
Why I Love This Film: From the opening credits, you are plunged into a mouth-watering array of Indian food and the idea of "living to eat" rather than "eating to live." This delightful tale of mature romance highlights the excitement and insecurity that comes with finding your life taking a completely different direction from what you anticipated. Both Prakash Raj and Sneha are delightful in this remake of the Malayalam film Salt N' Pepper. Prakash Raj was so enamored of the story that he also produced, directed and starred in the Telugu ("Ulavacharu Biryani") and Kannada ("Ulavacharu Biryani") remakes. And you may even be inspired to try out a new cake recipe.
Foodie Quote: "I am born to relish food."
3. The Lunchbox
Release Date: 20 September 2013
Director: Ritesh Batra
Music by: Max Richter
Producer: Arun Rangachari, Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga
Description: Hindi epistolary romantic drama. Widower Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) is approaching retirement from his accounting job. Young housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is in a loveless marriage. Believing the adage that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, Ila makes a lunch tiffin for her husband every day. When the Mumbai lunch delivery dabbawallas begin delivering Ila's tiffin to Saajan, the two begin to send notes to each other via the lunchbox. As the food is prepared and consumed, they find the daily notes become a much-needed balm for their loneliness.
Why I Love This Film: The loneliness of Saajan and the sadness of Ila is pictured against the backdrop of a bustling city of millions. While they lead solitary lives of quiet desperation, the daily tiffin becomes a powerful meeting place where they can open their hearts, share their lives, and feel an honest connection with someone. Nawazuddin Siddiqui's supporting role as Shaikh - a constant reminder to Saajan that he can easily be replaced - helps keep Saajan's feet on the ground as he finds himself disengaging from work and becoming more focused on the daily tiffin.
Foodie Quote: "There are so many people in this city who eat only a banana or two for lunch. It's cheap and it fills you up."
4. Usthad Hotel / Ustaad Hotel
Release Date: 13 July 2012
Director: Anwar Rasheed
Music by: Gopi Sunder; Lyrics by: Rafeeq Ahammed
Producer: Listin Stephen
Description: Malayalam drama. Against the wishes of his father, Faizi (Dulquer Salman) wants to become a chef. When he pursues his dream and is offered a job as a sous chef at a London restaurant, his father grounds him in India by taking his passport and credit cards then kicking him out of the house. Faizi ends up on the doorstep of his estranged grandfather Kareem Ikka (Thilakan) who runs the Ustad Hotel in Kozhikode. His grandfather puts Faizi to work cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the Ustad Hotel. As his dreams of getting his passport and traveling to London fade, he discovers a more important purpose.
Why I Love This Film: This coming-of-age story puts the somewhat privileged and spoiled Faizi in a situation where he must learn a completely new set of skills to survive. As his dreams of a life in London fade away, he begins to appreciate what he has in the people and opportunities that surround him. But it is in witnessing the impact of his grandfather's life on the lives of others that takes him beyond himself to discover the value of a purpose rather than a job.
Foodie Quote: "Son, anyone can give food for others. But we have to satisfy their mind also. That is the real Midas touch in cooking."
5. Stanley Ka Dabba
English Translation: "Stanley's Tiffin Box"
Release Date: 13 May 2011
Director: Amole Gupte
Music by: Hitesh Sonik, Amole Gupte
Producer: Amole Gupte
Description: Fourth-grader Stanley (Partho Gupte) is popular with his classmates and memorable to his teachers. But when lunchtime rolls around, Stanley always has an excuse for not having his tiffin. This becomes a problem when the greedy teacher Verma (Amole Gupte) - who forces students to give him their lunches every day - finds it harder and harder to get the kids to share. In anger, he declares to Stanley "No tiffin, no school!" Stanley's subsequent absences from school have a negative impact on the students, the teachers, and Verma.
Why I Love This Film: This gentle story about an imaginative boy and how he deals with everyday hardships is filmed with honesty and integrity. The challenges the teachers and students face, the issues that Stanley faces at home, and the friendships and opportunities the students engage in create a slice-of-life drama that viewers can relate to. A brilliantly simple film with heart, it also depicts a variety of teacher-student relationships - some good, some not so good, but all very real. The film also touches on the plight of child laborers in India. Made on zero budget with no script, no set, and no movie camera, the film was the result of a series of workshops Amole Gupte arranged with his elementary school alma mater.
Foodie Quote: "I have tasted all of it. Trust me, it's yummy!"
6. Cheeni Kum
English translation: "Less Sugar"
Release date: 25 May 2007
Director: R. Balki
Music by: Ilaiyaraja
Producer: Sunil Manchanda
Description: Hindi romantic comedy. Single sixty-four-year-old old Buddhadev Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) is the owner and head chef of London's top Indian restaurant, "Spice 6". When 34-year-old Nina Verma (Tabu) sends back a dish complaining that it isn't authentic enough, Buddhadev goes ballistic. The next day, a server returns to the kitchen with the same dish. Buddhadev tastes it and determines it is perfect. He soon learns that it didn't come from his kitchen. Instead, it was prepared by the customer who complained about the dish the previous night. Humbled, he is intrigued by Nina and they strike up a friendship which soon blossoms into love, despite their age differences.
Why I Love This Film: The film highlights the connections that can occur between people despite their age differences. This theme is played out even further with the introduction of Buddhadev's 9-year-old neighbor, "Sexy" (Swini Khara), who is both friend and confidante to the restauranteur. While the love of food brings Buddhadev and Nina together, their honesty, unique perspectives, and senses of humor unite them.
Foodie Quote: "It's a chef's job to know others' taste without tasting the food."
The following playlist features the trailers for each of these films.
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