INTERVIEW Amit Gupta, who helmed the delicious foodie comedy Jadoo, says a meal, like a film, has three acts — a starter, main course and dessert
Acomedy set in Leicester involving feuding brothers and spicy Indian food, Jadoo , seems a strange follow up for Amit Gupta who made his debut with the period war film, Resistance .
“It is such a different movie isn’t it?” Amit says with a laugh at the plush Partner Lounge on the third floor of the Berlinale Palast. “I think we all have such different tastes and quite often you don’t get a chance to express that. You make a movie like Resistance and you get sent period scripts. I wanted to make something totally different.”
Jadoo , which was screened in the Culinary Cinema section of the 63rd Berlinale, tells the story of brothers Raja and Jagi, both great chefs, who quarrel so bitterly that they tear the family recipe book in half and set up rival restaurants. It takes Raja’s daughter Shalini’s upcoming wedding to bring the brothers together.
Though the two movies seem diametrically opposite, Amit insists there are commonalities.
“Both are in two languages, Resistance is in German and English, Jadoo is in Hindi and English. Both are political films. Resistance is an anti-war film and Jadoo , to me, is saying something very important about Britain. The film is subversive. It is a portrait of a family without making a point of it being an Indian family. The conflict in the film is not because of being Indian in Britain. The problem is because two brothers fall out. We don’t see normal Indian people in European cinema. We see the problems of a mixed race couple or the husband is a wife beater or something like that. I really, really wanted to make a pure family film. We’ve taken a long time to establish ourselves in England. We are very proud of being in England. And it is okay to feel both — as in British and Indian.”
Amit is not new to food or restaurants.
As he says: “The first shot in the film is my mother’s restaurant, Chaat House. I grew up above the restaurant and all my memories as a child are around the restaurant. I used to do my homework in the restaurant, my mother retired from the restaurant straight after we finished filming.”
Though Amit admits to being a good cook, ask him about switching careers and he says: “Cooking and filmmaking are what I liked to do. I think I can be quite a good chef, but I think I would be a better filmmaker! (Laughs) So there are no plans…”
As part of Culinary Cinema, the screening was followed by a three-course meal created by a Michelin chef inspired by the film.
“I think the programme is perfect. Food and movies make sense. Just as films have three acts, in a meal you have three courses— starter, main course, and dessert.”
Talking about casting Harish Patel as Raja and Kulvinder Ghir as Jagi, Amit says: “I wanted one actor to be from India and one from England — one would’ve grown up in India, the other in England; the accents would be slightly different, they would represent slightly different times.”
Amit says he chose Amara Karan for Shalini as he needed someone who was “very English, very modern and practical. Amara is all of that. I’ve seen her in Darjeeling Limited , and cast her on the basis of that.”
Amit fondly remembers Sophiya Haque, “She plays the mum in the film. She did a really good job. Her passing away is really sad. She had so much energy.”
The young director uses cooking as a stress buster.
“If I cannot write, my wife just puts stuff in the kitchen and I cook. I hate following recipes which is ironic in the context of the film. I like to make stuff up. If I followed a set formula, I wouldn’t make two completely different films! I like the idea of a magnificent failure. Something that is really difficult, magnificent and it fails… okay look, I love a traditional, simple omelette just as much as anyone else, but sometimes you want to try something different. You want to add spices and see what happens.”
A self-confessed fan of Hindi cinema from the 60s and 70s, Amit says: “That is the cinema I grew up on. I like the really kitschy films like Teesri Manzil — what a great film! Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh are amazing.”
Amit says his next project is a noir. “I may be shooting that later in the year. I like to have some involvement in the script. The film after that quite possibly is going to be set in India. I have an ambition of making a completely Hindi film as well. I don’t know whether it would have songs… What I would really like to do would be sort of Fellini meets Bollywood.”
(The writer was in Berlin at the invitation of Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan)