I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love Masterchef. I also used to love Chitrahaar. Back-to-back film songs for 30 minutes. And finally there’s a show which has married the two concepts. Who would have thought?
The news season of Masterchef India, now rechristened for some reason as Masterchef Kitchen Ke Superstar (maybe because the producers have decided to set expectations after realising that none of these people will ever be a famous chef with his own show or restaurant), is less cooking contest and more Chitrahaar. I kid you not.
The first episode that I had the pleasure of seeing, and which I am getting a very strong feeling might just end up being my last, was the qualification round in my hometown Calcutta. As we all know Calcutta is known for its food and kaalchar. Sadly, since this series obviously has no interest in focusing on food, we got to see very little of Calcutta cooking.
So what did I get to see? The judges have been revamped. Out with the old and in with the tested. So while the show has retained the hairless pretty boy chef Vikas Khanna and Punjab da Puttar Chef Kunal, they’ve also got on board Sanjeev Kapoor. Who obviously didn’t manage to convince Masterchef to shift loyalties from Star to Food Food. I’m hoping he at least gets to to plug his own food channel during this series. And like all Hindi film villains, Vikas Khanna and Kunal Kapoor, go by their first names. Chef Vikas and Chef Kunal.
So aside from the usual bright and slightly garish sets and the chefs dressed in bandhgalas and shirts with waistcoats and plunging necklines all in vivid colours, we were also introduced to Calcutta.
Which is when the bizarreness began. In trooped a couple who were dressed as if they just walked out of Charulata. The couple - Prantik Sen and his wife - narrated their love story to the three wise chefs, who nodded, murmured, tut-tuted. We and everyone who’d tuned in, including their own families, got to know that they’d been seeing each other for 7 years and Prantik’s family had never accepted his wife into the fold. Such was the sadness of their lives that they’d dressed up like they were in a pantomime and decided to wash their very depressing linen on national TV. What had they both cooked? Who cares? We weren’t shown it. Instead a song from Ishaqzaade (what? No Rabindrasangeet?) played and they were handed two aprons and asked to put them on each other – like jaymalas (Sanjeev Kapoor’s words, not mine) or wedding garlands. Even I can’t make this stuff up.
Next up, we got to see vox pops of various contestants who were hell-bent on showing us just how dumb the people of Calcutta are. So contestants were asked questions ranging from What Is India’s National Dish, to How many eggs are in eggless cake? To what is chicken kadai? And how much dum is in dum alu? Mamata Banerjee should round up all those who appeared on the telly and displayed their single digit IQ, and lock them up in the empty Tata factory at Singur. And throw away the key. Immediately.
After this we at least got to see some food. Bad and strange looking food, but at least there were signs of cooking on a cooking contest. Doel Sarangi cooked what looked like very authentic steamed prawn and prawn head pakora. And was given an apron for her hard work. Then came Leela Das, a singer. She’d cooked butter fish which was instantly rejected. Then someone with a slightly turdish Veg Sausage which was rejected as well.
All along there was the continuous Chitrahaar. The judges arrived at the qualification venue to Helen’s song, Piya tu ab to aaja. And then the contestants were asked to vote on who’s the handsomest of the three judges. Because after all, that’s what’s of import in a cooking show.
We then got to see a segment where all the contestants said “I Love You” to the judges. And if you hadn’t thrown up in your mouth just a little bit by then, the segment was set to a medley of songs from Maine Pyar Kiya to Dekha Hai Pehli Baar Saajan Kai Aankhon Mein Pyar. To take things a step further, there were clips of contestants calling the judges “gods” and doing arati of them to the tune of Om Jai Jagdish Hare. Very inspired.
Then a woman called Ishrat Ali appeared. Finally, after 20 minutes of songs and rubbish, we got to see a contestant and the food she’d cooked. But before that we were graced with a lecture on how being a housewife is the most important job in the world.
It’s also apparently a job which doesn't allow you to cook pretty looking food because she’d made a horrible looking creamy goop of a dessert. But I think she got an apron as well. I don’t recall because my eyes were brimming with tears on hearing the speech on the wonders of being a housewife. Calcutta seems to be full of star-crossed lovers and depressed people who can make you feel suicidal. It’s like being in a Murakami novel without the eloquence.
And a Murakami cooking novel set to Hindi music.
The programme ended with Shukran Allah from the Kareena-Saif starrer, Kurbaan. And I gave myself ten on ten because I realised that even if this show doesn't make me a kitchen ka superstar, it can make me the next Antakshari queen.
Masterchef Kitchen Ke Superstar is telecast at 8pm on Star Plus, Monday to Friday. Watch at your own risk.
Disclaimer: Firstpost is owned by the Network18 group which also owns TV channels which are in competition with Star Plus on which Masterchef is aired.