A single mother separated from her children, a woman belonging to a minority community who stresses on her identity when she is commended for her efforts: sounds like the perfect ingredients for a good daily Hindi soap? Maybe, except, that they are not. This is the Indian version of the extremely popular MasterChef series, complete with a tadka of melodrama, a sprinkling of sob stories and a bucketful of tears. If that has raised your eyebrows already, lo and behold! The judges on the show make generous contributions of precious drops to the buckets mentioned before.

After exploiting the viewers' senses by unleashing Akshay Kumar as a judge, MasterChef India-2 now has an enviable “cast” of contestants who will make up for Mr. Kumar's antics with their sad sagas of life. Take the example of a guy who keeps his fingers so crossed when he is tensed that the audience fears that they would get entangled forever. Another contestant, a small-time restaurant cook, breaks down completely when he is eliminated a little short of the semi-finals, reminding one of the terrible death scenes in the Bollywood films of the 70s. The Indian and American MasterChef episodes are a far cry from the culinary-voyeur's delight that was MasterChef Australia.

With wavering emphasis on food, and unreasonably high concentration on the contestants' personal lives and cat-fights, food is not the hero of the show on MasterChef USA and India.

On MasterChef USA, the constant bickering between high-on-ego contestants Suzy and Max, and Christian and Jenifer hogs the limelight, leaving the viewers wondering about whether any cooking happened at all on the show. The mudslinging is unlike anything that MasterChef loyalists have seen anywhere else. The fact that Whitney Miller was crowned the first MasterChef USA, despite not even being considered the underdog, only reinforces the dislike that viewers have towards the American version.

Disturbing the “balance” (the quality that is often used to describe a good dish on the shows) further are the surreally rude judges. While Gordon Ramsay is unabashedly pronounced as “the man who put the ‘F' in food” he reiterates that “there is nothing he doesn't know about food”. Joe Bastianich rubbishes the dishes presented, with such passionate hate by throwing food he doesn't like into the dustbin.

When one is done watching MasterChef USA and India, the aftertaste is that of an incredible urge to watch the Australian version, even if it is the re-runs.


Couch Potato March 9, 2011

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