Rakesh Raghunathan’s new show 'Dakshin Diaries' to bust stereotypes


“The South of India is not just about idli, dosai and vadai. And not all of us down South are Madrasis,” says food blogger and TV host Rakesh Raghunathan, referring to the most common stereotypes South Indians are tired of hearing. With his new show Dakshin Diaries that will soon air on Living Foodz, Rakesh hopes to not just bust these misconceptions, but also highlight the cuisine, culture and history of the region. So, from the varying cuisines within Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala to the rich heritage of these states, Rakesh covers a gamut of topics for his show.

“I was approached by Living Foodz for a show back in March 2018; we’ve been in talks since, trying to come up with topics we could cover. Given how the food and people here are often stereotyped, we decided to bring about a show that factored in all that and gave viewers a nuanced understanding of the region,” says the man behind the popular food and travel blog, Puliyogare Travels. They began shooting the 13-part series in January and wrapped up by February.

Keeping with the region’s rich cultural heritage, each episode opens with temple prasadams, how they are made and the history, before moving on to presenting a capsule of the area’s historical elements while also highlighting the predominant cuisine of the area. “We’ve also spoken with the people that form an integral part of the framework. So from the murukkus of Manapparai to Madurai’s LGBTQI activist Gopi Shankar and Mangalam Srinivasan of Srirangam who recreates Raja Ravi Varma’s work using kolam and a segment with Sofia Ashraf; the show covers food and people,” says Rakesh The idea, he says, is to showcase South India as a place that is not just steeped in culture and tradition. “It does have another side to it as well,” he explains.

Shooting for the show was quite a learning experience for Rakesh. “Working with the crew also led me to set the boundary higher for myself; made me more disciplined. The show tries to bring to the fore home cooks who don’t even realise that they’re the custodians of recipes that are rooted in history as old as 1,000 to 2,000 years. We also presented a different perspective of each place: from an extensive segment on Tanjore paintings, Athangudi tiles, celebrating Pongal with farmers in Kancheepuram to dancing with fans on the release of Petta at Albert theatre. Each segment had me doing things that I wouldn’t normally do andwas an entirely different experience for me as well.”

The segments on temple prasadams were also an eye opener, according to him. “One of the priests at the Madurai Meenakshi temple told me that prasadams originally were nothing but vibuthi (holy ash). Food as prasadam came about when people would volunteer to work at temples. The temples would need to feed these volunteers and began preparing simple things,” he says, adding, “At the Tibetan monastery in Bylakuppe, I saw people leave cola bottles, biscuits, butter and other such knick knacks as offerings — basically anything they could afford. These practices are a reflection of the region’s economy, produce and history.”

Dakshin Diaries will air on Living Foodz every Thursday and Friday at 8.30 pm starting March 21.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 5:32:15 AM |

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