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PINCH OF SALT Sunit Tandon enjoys a salad lunch at TGIF
PINCH OF SALT Sunit Tandon enjoys a salad lunch at TGIF

Theatre and TV personality Sunit Tandon reveals his food habits and professional appetite

He is recognised on television and stage with his familiar beard. He annually gives voice to the Republic Day and Independence Day broadcasts. Theatre, television and radio personality Sunit Tandon discusses the hobbies that turned professional over a sumptuous lunch at Thank God It's Friday in Connaught Place. He is thrilled at being seated in the smoking section, and asks first for only a fresh lime. An Economics graduate, he resigned his State Bank of India job when he was to be posted to Jaipur. The love for Delhi and the arts kept him in the Capital. Today he works with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). He insists on discussing his radio, television and stage work over his current government responsibility. It is lunchtime and he chooses something light. He orders only a Shanghai chicken salad, since he prefers vinaigrette dressing to creamy dressings. He cooks only for relaxation and a pasta salad is often the easiest option. Dipping into the dish, he rolls his eyes with theatrical approval, exclaiming, "I love lettuce." He defends his preferences, "This is really good." Forking his way through, he reveals oranges, finely cut onion, radish and tomatoes in his salad. He accepts the freshly ground pepper and revels in the dish.

Passions first

He describes how he has stuck with his passion for over 20 years. It started with a St. Stephen's College Annual production of Macbeth. Marcus Murch, the founder of "Stage door" selected Tandon straight from college. Tandon soon had productions like "Mousetrap" under his belt. He directed veteran theatre actor Bhaskar Ghosh a few yeas later, in Tom Stoppards's "A Separate Peace", when he was working with Yatrik. With only a few years experience, he had a play staged at Sri Ram Centre. Was it nerve-wracking? He replies confidently, "I knew exactly what I wanted, I was never worried about directing." The director's bug had just begun to gnaw at him. But with his main actor falling sick, just before the show, he soon found himself playing director and attempting actor. Having recently directed and acted in "9Jackoo Hill", based on a short story by Gurcharan Das, he elaborates on being actor and director. "I hate it, I hate acting in a play that I direct." He explains, "Acting is a selfish pursuit even if it is collaborative. Acting is more fun since it comes without responsibility. To direct a play I must believe in it completely."

For the alma mater

He has repeatedly directed plays for his alma mater. With obvious enthusiasm he talks about the 1984 "Diamond Jubilee of Shakespeare Society", where he directed "Merry Wives of Windsor." He recounts that the cast included Sagarika Ghosh, now a familiar television name. He is adventurous but not experimental in his culinary tastes. His most daring dishes include raw reindeer meat in Sweden, Jellyfish at the Chinese Embassy and fermented fish of Manipur. He prefers traditional dishes, which have been perfected over centuries to new fangled creations. Even when it comes to theatre, he prefers sticking to the tried and tested. "I don't like working in a vacuum, I like to work with a script." But he masterfully re-invents scripts as in the 2000 production of "Mid-summer's Night Dream" at St. Stephen's College. He is one of the few newsreaders to have changed roles from news presenter to news anchor. Having written music and theatre criticisms, having produced and hosted AIR shows like "Roving micro-phone" and "Yuva vaani", he says all his experiences came together for anchoring. He relishes the salad and apologises to the host for not finishing it, blaming his meagre appetite. He is disappointed that there is no brewed coffee. "I have no sweet tooth," he confesses with a beaming smile and rises to depart.

NANDINI NAIR

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