We adore him for his pelvic gyrations. We admire him for his national awards. But we don’t know that Mithun Chakraborty is adept at cooking as well.

The actor has plenty of memories associated with the place because it was the late Lalit Suri who introduced Mithun to the intricacies of hospitality business when the star had begun to feel lonely at the top. Today he owns the Monarch Group, which runs a chain of hotels in Ooty and a school where youngsters are taught about the hospitality business. “I give them a simple mantra: We can never become the sweet home for our guests. Let’s try to become their second home. Apart from essentials like good food and good sleep, courtesy is the key. A little pampering makes people friends for life,” shares Mithun as he sips his special mocktail, Pink Lady.

Mithun feels the government should support the hospitality sector in a big way. “The sector is among the highest tax payers despite little government expenditure. We still lack budget hotels, where there is significant scope for growth. The real estate prices are so high that it takes years to make a project financially feasible.”

In the hostel

Digging into a chicken club sandwich, Mithun turns to his culinary journey. He took to the art during his college days at The Scottish Church College in Kolkata. “I used to cook in my hostel room. It was illegal but then where there is a will…We used to collect money and I used to prepare daal, rice and boiled eggs.” Soon it became his hobby, something that stayed with him when he climbed the ladder of stardom. “I still cook once in 15 days for my kids. During outdoor shoots, I often cook for my co-stars. In fact during the shooting of Luck in South Africa, Imran (Khan) and Ravi (Kissen) used to wait for my preparation. I do my own thing. I can cook Indian, Chinese…the main thing is, I keep trying,” he smiles. His physique can give the current generation a complex. “I stick to 2000 calories a day and half-an-hour of vigorous exercise. Earlier I used to drink wine a lot, now I have become a lot more judicious. Three pegs of Bacardi at 8.30 p.m., that’s all. However, once a week I give in to the temptation of Bengali food, where I don’t count the calories. I especially love fish fried in mustard oil with poppy seeds, and mixed vegetable spiced with panch phoran.”

Here, happy with cappuccino, Mithun says he is not an actor by ambition. “I always wanted to be in the limelight but acting was not a priority. First it was football. I not only used to play for my college, but different Kolkata clubs also used to hire me. It was a decent source of income. Then I wanted to be in the Navy, but soon I became associated with a political movement which I don’t want to talk about. Somehow I reached a stage that I could not go back to Kolkata. Fortunately, I was noticed for my dance but got a break with a serious film like Mrigaya! But stability and popularity came with Suraksha.”

These days he is happy playing bit roles in small budget films. “Apart from usual Bollywood fare, I am consciously opting for small-budget films, where the subject is meaningful and where my presence could help promote the issue. Films like Chal Chalein and before that Zor Laga ke Haiyya raise important issues, but without some known names, such films are not easy to release commercially.” As for the usual, he has Babbarr coming up where he is playing an encounter specialist. “It is a typical commercial film treated in a new way.” Time for some sweets, and Mithun yearns for rasgullas. “You might be surprised that I don’t take Kolkata rasgullahs. I go for the ones prepared in the villages around the city. They simply melt in the mouth. As soon as I land in Kolkata, I need them. The rest is just not sweet enough.”