The best hosts in B-town

The best hosts in B-town

Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 6 Sep 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 6 Sep 2019, 2:00 AM

Studio and outdoor shootings of Bollywood films have become synonymous with lavish meals and refreshments - ranging from chunky vegetable sandwiches and the ever-popular samosa to dosas cooked on the spot - served by catering units. Land up at a shoot at any hour of the day, and you return home stuffed to the gills.
Chai, with or without sugar, offered in small ribbed glasses, green and lemon tea are the other musts. Colas, lemonades and sherbets are the options during the summer months. In other words, a movie schedule is almost akin to celebrations at a wedding banquet.
I've often wondered if a movie's budget escalates way beyond control because of the round-the-clock food and beverage intake. But then breakfast before starting a morning schedule, a tea break after a couple of hours, lunch, high tea, an evening break for 'nashta' (breakfast) and if work goes beyond 8 pm, a three-course dinner, are compulsory as much by de facto rules for the actors, technicians and spotboys as they are by the traditional hospitality expected from any film producer.
Now that's the backstory behind the topic du jour - who are the best hosts of Bollywood, or the star families who maintain a lip-smacking table at their homes? Incidentally, quite a few of them carry their home-cooked meals, complete with silver cutlery, serviettes and napkins to the studios and make it a habit to invite their co-stars and yes, even journalists, over to dig into the cuisine, served piping hot from their kitchens. Drawing from my experience, here's a checklist of the five best hosts in B-town:
ANIL AND SUNITA KAPOOR: Health food and a calory count are the mantra of Sunita Kapoor, who has ensured that Anil Kapoor keeps himself fit. If he has a craving for regular ghar ka khaana (homemade food), he's allowed to indulge himself once a week. Even if he is out of town, he calls his wife to plead if he can treat himself to a slice of chocolate cake.
Care for organic ingredients is kept in mind. That may give the impression that the meals are spartan. They're not. The bhurji made of eggs and chopped vegetables in olive oil, accompanied by multigrain toasts, are the speciality of the Anil Kapoor household. The desserts are never too sweet. And the black coffee is neither strong nor light, leaving the guest asking for more.
SALIM AND SALMAN KHAN: The celebrated scriptwriter, Salim Khan, has, since decades, kept an open-house at his first floor apartment in Galaxy building facing the Bandra seafront. With a measure of pride, he will tell you, "Even when my career as a writer after the split with Javed Akhtar was on a downswing, my dining table was always full. At times, even strangers would drop by for a tuck-in which was fine by me. Barkat (prosperity) is possible only if you share your meals wholeheartedly."
Salman has inherited this trait, and carries biryanis, shorbas, koftas, rotis and vegetable salads in tiffins to his shoots. During the mango season, sliced alphonsos from the family farmhouse on the outskirts of the city, are distributed among the film's unit. Not surprisingly then, Salman, despite his mood swings, is adored for "being human" as it were.
RISHI AND NEETU KAPOOR: Practically every member of the Kapoors, the first family of Indian show business, is an inveterate foodie, including Karisma, Kareena and Ranbir Kapoor. Their grandfather, Raj Kapoor, was known for his legendary parties at the R.K. cottage, where every year Holi festival was celebrated with incomparable aplomb.
Rishi Kapoor, ever since he has been undergoing treatment in the US for blood cancer, has been missing. He'd usually call over a bunch of friends regularly to his Bandra apartment (his bungalow Krishna Raj is currently under re-development) for intricately-planned-out meals. Every guest is asked in advance about the preference of cuisine - Indian, Italian, Chinese or Thai, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The music for the evening is infallibly Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin classics or vintage Hindi film melodies.
The mood is always kept chatty, with conversations discussing sports, entertainment and politics in that order. If some of his tweets did go on to become controversial, he shrugs, "But it's important to make a comment when one feels strongly about a certain news event, isn't it?" Throughout, Neetu Kapoor encourages the banter among the guests, but is more concerned about the dinner being spiced to perfection.
RAAKHEE GULZAR: The reclusive Raakhee cooks only for her family and the occasional guest. Her macher jhol (fish stew) is legendary. A seafood gourmet, if she were to ever author a cookbook, would be a bestseller. If it will never materialise, it's because she doesn't follow any set recipe. According to her, "Cooking with love does the trick."
She shops at the local bazaars for pomfrets, hilsa, prawns and lobsters, washes the catch herself and uses minimal ingredients like mustard, garlic, chopped onions and sea salt. Kheer - vermicelli in milk - is her signature dish, too. And the star will never eat before the guests have had their fill, a practice inherited from her mother.
TABU: No fuss, no fret, the table's laden with her mom's cooking. Whether it's daal-chaawal or khichdi, keema pilauf or tandoori chicken, accompanied by chhas, Tabu is a hostess who makes her guests comfortable in her neatly-appointed apartment. Conversations are as delicious as the cuisine.
Not seen often at trending restaurants, Tabu as a host is like her performances: pure heart.

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