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Ye hai Foodistan meri jaan

NEETI SARKAR
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TV A new reality show pits chefs from India and Pakistan against each other in a war of recipes and tastes. Co-host Aly Khan talks of the experience

MEALS READYFoodistan hosts Aly Khan and Ira Dubey
MEALS READYFoodistan hosts Aly Khan and Ira Dubey

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw rightly observed: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” And now it does seem as if there is also no reality program on television that is loved more than those that involve food.

“Foodistan”, a 26-part series cook-off on NDTV Good Times is the latest buzz.

This international level challenge is for 16 professional chefs from Asia's two most culturally rich and fascinating countries — India and Pakistan. Eight experienced and acclaimed chefs from India and Pakistan are each representing their country's exquisite cuisine.

Based on an original format created by NDTV Good Times, this competition will add pressure on the chefs at each stage, with twists and turns, and a clock counting down.

Only the best chef will survive at the end to stake claim to the land of ‘Foodistan', where borders cease to exist and food emerges as the winner in this Indo-Pak clash.

The judges on the show are Vir Sanghvi from India, Sonya Jehan from Pakistan and Merrilees Parker from the UK. Anchoring the show are actors Ira Dubey and Aly Khan (recently seen in “Don 2”).

In a telephonic interaction, Aly expresses his excitement about being a part of “Foodistan”. “I haven't done TV in India for a long time now and I thought why run back to the West when I can do something here.”

Apart from the Channel and the production house, it was the desire to work in Delhi that came to fulfilment with this show. I'm familiar with and passionate about food so I literally jumped at this chance,” he explains.

Giving a preview of what to expect, Aly says: “The chefs on the show will share mouth-watering recipes complementing their cooking skills, bringing to the show their valuable culinary experience through their innovative cooking methods. Along with the competition, the show also aims to give a sneak-peak into the lifestyles and food traditions of both these countries, which is a first on Indian television.”

Ask him what it is about the show that would attract viewers and pat comes the reply.

“Apart from the obvious Indo-Pak passion and rivalry, the audience is going to have the opportunity of watching not amateurs (as on other shows) but people at the top of their game cook up a storm. To watch professionals slaving away as well as taking criticism from the judges is something. All of these contestants are brave to have entered this culinary battlefield.”

About some of the challenges faced on the sets, Aly says: “Nobody was aware of what direction it would take. Coordinating 20 people, technical crew, etc was not a cakewalk for sure. We had many rehearsals and the initial days were crazy. It was only around the time of the sixth episode that we found our feet.”

The actor says he's learnt plenty of things on the show. “I have had the privilege of growing up in a foodie family and I'd like to believe I have a good knowledge about food but on the show, I got to learn how mixing and matching was done in terms of dishes, ingredients, etc. Also, this was the first time I had the opportunity of familiarising myself with south Indian cooking.”

Having worked both on the big screen and the small screen, Aly finds that “TV is a very communicative medium where time is money and it's not so much of a luxury. You don't have time for many takes and retakes. You get onto the floor and you're doing your job, without of course compromising on quality and content.” This show apart, Aly Khan is currently in talks with directors for an international film.

Catch “Foodistan”, which premiered on January 23, every Monday to Wednesday at 9.30 p.m. on NDTV Good Times.

NEETI SARKAR

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