Mediocrity is king on Indian television. Nothing demonstrates this better than Sanjeev Kapoor walking into the set of Junior Master Chef India on a red carpet to the tune of Azeemo-shaan Shehenshah! The Shehenshah in question has multiple shows on his imaginatively titled channel Food Food and another one on a mainstream channel. Sometimes he cooks, sometimes he judges, sometimes he peddles cookware where he blows at an omelette with his mouth to turn it over on a non stick pan.
When he cooks, he creates masterful recipes like brownie laddoos made with curd and honey, popcorn congealing in caramel and put as a crunchy garnish over ice cream and you dare yourself to ask how a man with so little charisma and cooking smarts can make it so big? Undoubtedly, he was a big part of what we considered to be good food on TV once upon a time and he was in the right place at the right time. He was the first chef on TV who we watched to relearn home-style Indian cooking and with an audience that had little or no exposure to international cuisines, he was the man to watch if you wanted to make ‘shaam savera’, a paneer and palak kofta that he made and talked about proudly time and again. That was then.
Now we have cooking shows that have coined terms such as ‘Master Chef’ that everyone wants to appropriate. We have international cooking stars like Jamie Oliver dishing up 30 minute feasts in our living rooms and Kapoor has suddenly become symptomatic of how little we want from our celebrities. They just have to appear great, not be great. The last time I wrote about Mr Kapoor, I was told it hadn’t gone down very well with the powers that be but really who decides who is masterful and who is not? In many success stories, everyone defines who they are without waiting for their work to speak for them.