In her research paper, "Exploring Indian culture through food", author and anthropologist, Tulasi Srinivas, writes, "Food in India is an identity marker of caste, class, family, kinship, tribe affiliation, lineage, religiosity, ethnicity, and increasingly, of secular group identification." Food is the backdrop against which so much of our daily life plays out. It is the thread that ties several conversations together, be it a date, a social gathering, weddings, parties, or a simple afternoon tea.
And if there's anything else that manages to capture the nuances and intersections of our social culture, it is undoubtedly cinema. Luckily, there are a bunch of indie, lesser-known films that try to shed light on the cultural aspect of food, allowing you to live your culinary passions, vicariously through the journeys and stories of others. And there's no better time to do that than now, as we stay at home. Here's a list of short films where food is the hero of the plot.
Comfort Food by Sam Saffold
This sombre 9-minute film takes us through the journey of a young couple and their blossoming new relationship. We see them navigating life by going on dates, cooking together and ordering pizzas. The silent film uses popcorn to symbolise the various stages of their relationship and the many emotions that the couple goes through. What is interesting is that the script uses the popping sound of the corn kernels and integrates it into the background score to highlight the highs and lows of the story. Surely an innovative approach, making it a cinematic delight. Watch here.
Still from Comfort Food | SuperSamStuff on YouTube
Laddoo by Sameer and Kishor Sadhwani
With a background score that keeps the audience chipper and an inquisitive young lead, Laddoo is a short film offering a commentary on religion and class. When his mom packs food for the temple priest to commemorate the grandfather's death, the son is filled with questions and doubts. He seeks all the answers on his run to find the temple but instead ends up in a mosque. Watch this film to observe an interesting conversation between a child and a maulvi. Watch here.
Still from Laddoo | LargeShortFilms on YouTube
Juice by Neeraj Ghaywan
Starring Shefali Shah, this 15-minute film is a stark reminder of the reality of many Indian households. You closely observe the dynamics of a typical office get-together and the age-old gender roles being adhered to. The film is set in a stuffy kitchen where the ladies are preparing food for their husbands, while the latter discuss world affairs. With a tight script, a nail-biting pace and an awakening relief, Juice highlights how women's labour in the kitchen is taken for granted in the Indian context. Watch here.
Still from Juice | LargeShortFilms on YouTube
Pressure Cooker by Heena D'Souza
Set in the late '90s, Pressure Cooker follows the life of a quintessential, middle-class home-maker. The monotonous rut of her daily routine and the inner turmoil she experiences is interrupted by a small incident involving a pressure cooker that sets the story off. Watch here to find out more.
Still from Pressure Cooker | Humaramovie on YouTube
Special dish by Shivadarshan Sable
This film by Sable captures the simple, heartwarming story of a Maharashtrian couple that shares their feelings only in a few words. The woman is a passionate home-cook who makes a special dish for her husband every night, but his only response to her is, "Good". What follows culminates in a sweet reminder that love need not be loud or verbose, but only true. Watch here.
Manal is a gregarious and ambitious girl who talks about bread incessantly. Her penchant for writing and aesthetics transcends into everything she does. She loves researching the culture and history of things. When she's not writing, you can find her working on a dozen unfinished projects, and consuming an unhealthy amount of art.