A film project explores Bengaluru through its food

A film project explores Bengaluru through its food

Six filmmakers tell stories about Bengaluru by focusing on what it cooks and eats

Chicken lasagna

The year was 1998 and filmmaker and comics creator Falah Faisal was six years old. He had gone to the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru to deliver chicken lasagna, which his mother had prepared for Sachin Tendulkar. “Sachin scored 177 runs against Australia that day and my mum believes it was because of her lasagna. It’s another thing that Indian lost that match,” the 29-year-old breaks into peals of laughter as he recalls the “legend” he grew up on, which is now the plot of his short film ‘The Mythical Sachin Lasagna’.

Food, stories and people go hand-in-hand and this intersection is at the heart of a project by city-based visual artists Archana Hande and Bharathesh GD. Called The Cuisine, it explores the history, politics and socio-cultural milieu of Bengaluru through the lens of its food.

'The Mythical Sachin Lasagna' is inspired by Falah Faisal's childhood.png

Faisal’s film is one of the six shorts that the duo has curated for the project. Umesh Maddanahalli’s ‘It’s Here Now’ is another. It’s an abstract take on the deprivation faced by migrants during the pandemic and includes the visuals of empty vessels and a makeshift fireplace to cook. A film by National Award-winner Mansore will come out soon. It dwells on the prejudices in the society through the gaze of To-Let boards in the city, which often read “Veg only”.

The other films are in the works — one looks at a ritual related to food in a cemetery, one follows the rise of community kitchens as the hubs of humanity, and one examines the claims that ‘Gobi Manchurian’ and ‘Open Dosa’ were invented in Bengaluru. “A vendor in Gandhi Bazaar told us ‘Pani Puri’ is from Bengaluru (sic),” Bharathesh chuckled, knowing well that it came from the North.

Hande is just as amused with Bengaluru’s knack of claiming ownership of popular food. But, to her, this is a commentary on the cosmopolitan nature of the city. “The first thing that often changes in a fast-growing city is, its food culture,” she says while giving the example of ‘Bisi Bele Bath’, which is thought to be a Bengaluru dish but could have resulted from the fusion of various culinary cultures.

Bharathesh, on the other hand, is intrigued with community kitchens. “In the last three-four years, more people are volunteering to cook for strangers in need, whether it’s during a protest or lockdowns. I know an old couple who feeds the homeless around the Cubbon Park frequently. The sight of people offering ‘Majjige’ (buttermilk) to passersby is also becoming common,” he shares. Inspired by these acts of solidarity, even he cooked food for workers of a cemetery in Kengeri in April this year.

It must be mentioned that The Cuisine is part of Bangalored: The Great Plague of 1898 to 2020, a project that captures the city’s history between two pandemics in the form of postcards. “The food culture of a city can offer an understanding of how ghettos emerge, how the caste system works, how communities influence each other. And Bengaluru is a migrant state. It’s shared by people of many communities and languages,” Hande explains why she floated a sub-project on food.

The project has been an eye-opener for the duo. As for Bharathesh, he learnt that Prestige would organise a slew of workshops to popularise their pressure cooker among the members of many ‘mahila samaj’ back in the day. "Maybe because more women in Bengaluru were going to work and had less time to cook,” he surmises.

As for Hande, she did not know that lasagna was a big thing in Bengaluru in the ‘80s and ‘90s till she heard of Faisal’s story.

“We hope these films can become conversation starters about Bengaluru, its food history and people and events that have shaped it,” says Bharathesh.

These films will be screened later this year or when it’s safe to hold physical events, he says.

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