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Politics of food and films

Actress-turned MP, Jaya Prada does a fine job of balancing two careers besides a face and figure that would be the envy of many.

Film actress and Samajwadi Party MP, Jaya Prada. Photo by Shanker Chakravarty

JAYA PRADA is still demure, still beguilingly beautiful. Her long coat does a good job of hiding a waistline that has added not an inch to detract from her beauty. Black pants, short shirt, slimline handbag and dark goggles, black around the edges, transparent in the centre. Her face is largely unlined, her hands and fingers have kept pace with times.

"I am eggetarian," she announces as she orders some light snacks, some cheese sandwiches, biscuits and black coffee.

"If I see food, I gain weight," she reveals, adding, "I love pizzas". Then comes the lament, "I have not had one for two years now. And for a full year I have not touched an ice cream. Till March I have to abstain. Then I will perform Amrapalli. It has already been postponed twice because of elections. My profession is such that I have to look fit." She obviously does not consider her stint as the MP from Rampur as her profession. "No, it is not like that. I am in Rampur because of my films. I am doing my bit for the constituency and I don't want any woman who comes to me for help to go back empty-handed."

Little dreams

Then as she takes a sip of black coffee, she shares a little dream. Maybe it is the ambience, maybe it is the comfort level. "When I was a little girl it was my dream to look after my hubby, enjoy with my nanad - sister-in-law. I wanted to make Rangoli at home, wear sindoor, lots of bangles, stay in ghunghat for my man. That was not to be but I am happy at what fate has doled out. I have been more fortunate than thousands of women but I believe every woman should be independent. I am leading a meaningful life today. Nobody expected me to win from Rampur but I did. They said I did not know Hindi or Urdu but I manage and people of Rampur have answered all such accusations."

She is nothing but a beautiful bundle of contradictions. One moment, she is a rebel, a feminist who wants her own identity. Next moment, she lapses into the familiar, the kind of woman has made a career out of playing a virtuous woman. "I am not a very good cook but I can manage. Unfortunately, my hubby hardly meets me. He hardly ever eats my food," she says, then adds yet again on a note of irony, "I am too busy managing two careers. It is not easy doing my duty as a representative of Rampur in the Parliament and my films. I also keep in touch with what is happening around. I maintain my own catalogue and want to leave my mark for the next generation. I have got lots of respect, fame and money as an actress. Now it is my turn to contribute, return the love of the people."

Kitchen tales

In between, this tale of love and fame, Jaya Prada, who would next be seen in Mahesh Manjrekar's Deh, "in the boldest role" of her career besides a film tentatively titled Abhinetri opposite Amitabh Bachchan and Tathastu with Sanjay Dutt and Amisha Patel, occasionally enters the kitchen to dish out what she loves best - Chinese food. As she helps herself to a sandwich with little cream, lots of slices of fresh vegetable at the Coffee Shop, she reveals, "I like Chinese food. It is easier to make and also easier to maintain the diet. It has less oil. Otherwise, I survive on soups and salads. I cannot make korma to save my life but I can manage dal, roti and omelette. I can dish out dahi-kadi too when in the right mood. I only have to have all the ingredients available. I can make morning cup of coffee or tea but usually I do not have to because I am in hotels where they provide for everything."

No, her election punch line may have been about "sending Eid sewaiyan not from London or a palace but from the house of a humble daughter of India", but she cannot make sewaiyan. She admits almost apologetically, "What to do? This Eid and Diwali I distributed 5,000 kg of sweets but could not distribute sewaiyan." A light on two makes an appearance on a carefully well-preserved face. And as she adjusts her lovely locks, it is time to bid her goodbye. Time has slipped by, the sun is setting, the shadows are lengthening but that does not dissuade Jaya Prada from making a new promise: "I will try to make sewaiyan next time". If the dish is half as delectable as the woman, it must be worth waiting an eternity for.

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