A Lunchbox Story
It was a sad end to the month of April as two of the greatest Bollywood Icons have passed away. Both Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan died within a day of each other. Leaving a huge void in Bollywood, that can’t be easily filled. Chef GJ had the privilege to have met with Irrfan Khan and has unforgettable memories of his time in Kashmir and his meet up with Irrfan Khan.
It was November 2013 when the entire cast of “Haider” arrived in Kashmir. It’s been 8 years, yet GJ has vivid memories. He was a young Executive Chef for the Hotel Vivanta, by the Taj group of hotels. Kashmir has lots of tourism and has always been the ideal location for Bollywood films. The cast of Haider included many up and coming actors such as Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. It also featured seasoned actors like Kay Kay Menon, Tabu, and of course, Irrfan Khan.
Chef GJ met Irrfan Khan in Dachigam, a national park that is approximately 20 Kilometers from Srinagar, Kashmir. It was here that the movie set was situated to shoot the scenes in the movie Haider. As the Executive Chef, GJ had to coordinate a menu that was ideal for remote location film shooting. After the lunch service, GJ had the opportunity to meet with various stars of the film.
We asked Chef GJ for his perspective on Irrfan Khan… “Irrfan wasn’t an overly talkative person, he was very humble and very much to himself. In real life he seems to be a close fit to the character he played in ‘The Lunchbox’ ”. GJ chuckles. “He talks and behaves exactly how you see him in most films, He is such a natural actor” adds Chef GJ.
When you look at Irrfan’s path to acting you get a deeper perspective on the challenges that are unique to Bollywood. Nepotism is prevalent in the Indian film industry and very few actors make it based on merits alone. Actors need to be exceptional and lucky in order to get a foot inside the Bollywood scene. Irrfan neither had the physique nor the looks of the modern-day “hero”, making it even more difficult to scale the walls of
stardom. When he got to the other side, he was a middle-aged, desi man with lots of scars… Finally, an actor that looks like the common man. “I guess this is what movie goers were waiting for” states GJ.
Filmmakers in Hollywood started noticing Irrfan too. Movies such as Life of PI, Jurassic World, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Amazing Spider-Man are some of the movies on his Hollywood list. At the age of 53, Irrfan was just hitting his acting stride. To die at such an early age is a tragedy for movie goers everywhere; craving his authentic, desi street-smart genre.
Irrfan has left us with many memories along with his passion for certain foods There was a scene in his 2013 movie “The Lunchbox” where he smells his food after opening up his Tiffin. This is reminiscent of anyone that has tried good home cooking after many years. In interviews after the release of the movie, Irrfan Khan talks about his favorite foods being traditional Mughlai. A cooking style that was adopted from the Persians of central Asia. Although Irrfan was brought up in a Pathan family that loved their meat, Irrfan preferred vegetarian dishes.
Many Mughlai dishes have been accepted as Indian. Chicken Tikka, Korma, Koftas, and Biryanis’, are visible on menus everywhere. More traditional Mughlai dishes would be dishes such as Haleem, Kichda, Nihari, and Passandas.
We asked Chef GJ about his favorite Mughlai dish. “My favorite?… It would have to be Dum Ka Murgh” states GJ. “It’s loaded with cashews, onions, and tomatoes. A very rich dish cooked with the spirit of the Mughlai kings”. There are many recipes for Dum ka Murgh that you can find online. Chef GJ uses Saffron to accent this Mughlai dish, which brings out a unique aroma and flavor in this delectable dish.
As a tribute to the late Irrfan Khan – Think Mughlai cooking. You can find many recipes online. For GJ’s Dum Ka Murgh or any other specialty dishes, please connect with Chef GJ for recipes and tips. You can also contact us to cook Dum Ka Murgh or any other special dish for you.
Cheers! Eat well and stay healthy.