Confessions of a biryani lover

Director-actor Sasikumar on the many advantages of a mobile kitchen and why he opted for one

Updated - August 08, 2017 05:09 pm IST

Published - July 03, 2017 05:16 pm IST

Director and actor Sasikumar in his mobile kitchen

Director and actor Sasikumar in his mobile kitchen

Some years ago, director-producer- actor Sasikumar went to the wedding reception of cinematographer SR Kadhir’s assistant. While eating the biryani served, he was sure it was prepared by Selvam master, his cook who had left him a year ago, for what he considered was a better job. When Sasikumar asked t meet the biryani master, as it turned out, it was indeed none other than Selvam.

Selvam had gone on to work at a resort in Kodaikanal. Realising that the work there was seasonal, Selvam started doing wedding catering as well. “An amazing cook, he hails from the Dindigul region and makes the tastiest biryani in the Dindigul style. His idli-dosa and chutney are out of the world. So, when I came to know that he was out of a job, I took him back with me in my car. He stayed with me for eight years, until 2016,” says Sasikumar.

Mobile kitchen

Initially, Selvam master used to travel with Sasikumar (he is based out of Madurai) wherever he went for shooting. “I have an establishment in Chennai and he was cooking for me here. But later, during the shooting for Sundarapandiyan , I decided to set up a mobile kitchen. Even if I checked into a hotel, my cook would prepare piping hot dosa and idli and serve it for me in the parking area of the hotel. Selvam was so popular among my co-stars that they used to take selfies with him,” says Sasikumar.

His mobile kitchen, which is set up in a Tata Ace vehicle, is equipped with all the essential requirements such as a stove, mixer-grinder, wet grinder, refrigerator and so on. There are foldable chairs, a table, and beach umbrellas as well. “This saves a lot of time for me. If for some reason the production unit delays the food supply for the crew, I instruct my cook to prepare food for everyone.”

Selvam master has now set up his own biryani shop in Saaligramam, and another cook, Vishwa has taken over. Vishwa is an expert in making mutton and chicken kulambu, and various kinds of tiffin dishes.

Subramaniapuram memoirs

Was it his love for biryani that made Sasikumar ask his cook to return? “Yes, biryani is my favourite food. While I was shooting my debut film, Subramaniapuram , I used to take my guests to Dindigul venu biryani,” he says. He goes on to says, “when Samuthirakani joined us on the sets, I served him only biryani for the first one week. One day, he saw himself in a mirror and was shocked to see his paunch. He called me and said that he had gained so much weight in a week's time. I told him, “You are playing the heroine’s uncle, so I had to make you fatter.”

When Sasikumar is at home, he says his mother, grandmother, aunt, sister-in-law and wife prepare dishes for the entire family together. Yet, he says that it is his mother who makes the best chicken soup. He recalls the days when his family used to welcome him with steaming hot idli and mutton kulambu when he came home for vacation from his boarding school (St Peters) in Kodaikanal.

During his school days, and he says he had made numerous visits to the Tibetan Brothers who had a joint at the Seven Road junction in Kodaikanal.“I used to love their momos and chowmein.

Earlier this year, he was called to be the chief guest at his alma mater; it turned out to be an overwhelming experience for Sasikumar. A group of students presented a mime programme that Sasikumar and his friends had performed for Annual Day many years ago. He got to meet two of his classmates who are now teachers there, and also a fewof the teachers who had taught him.

actor sasikumar at the St peter school annual day event.  he was the chief guest. he is an old student of the school.

actor sasikumar at the St peter school annual day event. he was the chief guest. he is an old student of the school.

Chennai memories

Sasikumar has a vivid memory of his maiden trip to Chennai, when he was in Class Seven. A small group of students had travelled to Chennai along with their music teacher James Vasanthan. “We were in Chennai to record a mime and music programme at the Doordarshan Kendra. I was keen to watch a film in a theatre in Chennai and I did manage it,” smiles Sasikumar. His next visit was in 1995 to see his cousin who had delivered a baby. “But that was only an excuse which I gave my parents. I was here to watch Kurudhipunal in Dolby surround at Devi theatre. In Madurai, that particular technology was not available. I came to Chennai again the same year to see Mogamul at Devi Bala, as the film never released in my town.”

Cinema calling

While most of his Chennai visits were to watch movies, he finally shifted base in 1998 to join director Bala as his assistant for Sethu .

While he was staying with Bala at Sadulla Street, he explored a range of street food in and around T Nagar . Amma Chettinad, close to TTD Temple in T Nagar, used to be his favourite haunt. “These days, I hardly ever eat out,” says Sasikumar. But in the recent past, he says he did enjoy eating at Marina, a seafood speciality restaurant, and Ente Keralam. On his list is street food in and around Central Station, (cinematographer Kadhir has promised to take him), and the Burmese fast food available near Beach Station.

A fortnightly column on film personalities and their tryst with food

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