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Produce placement

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-06-2014 Nandini Ramnath

A movie doesn’t have to be about food, drink, restaurants or cooking to feature edible items in interesting ways. Food has popped up in the unlikeliest of places—in the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally, for instance, or the bonding over spaghetti-and-meatball meals in American mafia movies, the use of a leg of lamb in Serial Mom (a nod to Roald Dahl’s short story Lamb To The Slaughter), or food-inspired Hindi film songs like You Are My Chicken Fry (Rock Dancer) and Batata Wada (Hifazat).

Apple

Food, rather its lack, guides the actions and attitudes of the unemployed young men of Tamil director K. Balachander’s Varumayin Niram Sivappu. One of them hawks his body to a lonesome housewife for a meal. Kamal Haasan’s educated jobless wanderer doesn’t quite sell his soul, but he does dip his hand into a filthy pool of water, fish out an apple, rub it clean and, after some hesitation, eventually bite into it.

Marigold

Love stirs the characters of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, a slice-of-life portrait of nuptials in a wealthy Delhi family, in strange ways. The bride-to-be comes around to accepting her arranged marriage situation, sexual abuse is exposed, various relatives fall in and out of love on the sidelines, and Vijay Raaz’s wedding organizer falls in love—and starts soulfully chewing on the marigold flowers that have been carted in for decoration purposes.

Coffee

Coffee is a commonly accepted code for something that is hot, stimulating and necessary—in short, anything but a beverage. In Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti, Smita Patil’s hotel singer, a woman who has the temerity to live on her own, repeatedly invites Amitabh Bachchan’s brooding hero over for “coffee”. He finally takes the hint, and ends up moving in with her. The coffee offer is repeated in Saket Chaudhary’s hilarious Pyaar Ke Side Effects, in which Sophie Choudry’s seductress offers Rahul Bose’s commitment-phobe a nightcap like no other.

Watermelon

The Wayward Cloud is set in a drought-stricken Taiwan where the juicy red fruit is cheaper than water. It opens with a sexually explicit scene featuring a strategically placed slice. Watermelon-inspired motifs and other interesting uses of the succulent fruit recur throughout the movie, which explores film-maker Tsai-Ming Liang’s favourite themes of loneliness, alienation, sexual yearning, lassitude and fortitude with frankness and humour. For unforgettable uses of cabbage, see his latest masterpiece, Stray Dogs.

Guava

A Time To Live, A Time To Die, part of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s coming-of-age trilogy, is a powerful exploration of a family’s journey from China to Taiwan, seen through the eyes of a young boy. It has several stand-out scenes, including one in which the boy’s grandmother, who yearns to return to her country and keeps running away from home, juggles guavas in a moment of sheer joy.

Cake

In Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Naseeruddin Shah’s bumbling scam-buster, disguised as a Time magazine photographer, persuades Satish Shah’s grubby-handed municipal commissioner that the best way to approach cake is to eat some and throw a few slices out of the window.

Carrot

The detective from the television series Karamchand was rarely seen without an orange-coloured root. Nor is the delectable Clive Owen in Shoot ’Em Up, in which he uses the vegetable for comic effect and as a killing machine when the situation demands it.

Eggs

Homi Adajania’s stoner comedy Being Cyrus, based on Kersi Khambatta’s story, was initially known as “Akoori”, after the Parsi dish made out of scrambling several eggs together. The original title best describes the addle-brained characters, including Naseeruddin Shah’s permanently zoned-out sculptor, Boman Irani’s mad-as-a-hatter bully and Dimple Kapadia’s neurotic lady of the house.

‘Samosas’ and chips

Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India, a rollicking adventure about Anil Kapoor’s ordinary man who is transformed into an invisible vigilante with the aid of a chunky bracelet, isn’t without its moments of tenderness. Kapoor’s brood of adopted orphans hasn’t eaten for days. Sridevi, a child-hating tenant, buys out the nearest Monginis shop and offers samosas and chips as a peace offering.

Rice plate

The much maligned Rice Plate song from the 1988 action movie Jeete Hain Shaan Se, sung with trademark gusto by leading man Mithun Chakraborty, uses the wholesome, vegetarian lunch option to poke fun at the insensitive ways of the meat-eating wealthy. The song inspired the title of Rohit Roy’s contribution to the 2007 anthology Dus Kahaniyan. Roy’s film itself was fed entirely by the American short Lunch Date.

A whole wedding feast

The delightful Vivaha Bhojanambu song from the 1957 Telugu fantasy movie Maya Bazaar is a feast for the senses. It features characters from the Mahabharat epic, including S.V. Ranga Rao as Ghatotkach, who uses his magical powers to bring a kitchen full of wedding delicacies to life.

This fortnightly column looks at news through the prism of cinema.

Also Read | Nandini’s previous Lounge columns

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