I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.
Following Indian cinema has enabled me to recognise some ingredients used in Indian food. That is where I learnt about ghee, also known as clarified butter. This article was prompted by a tub of ghee I saw at a supermarket in Killarney, Johannesburg the other day.
Next to it was salted butter. It seems as if butter and other substances we shunned some years ago as being fattening and bad for your heart are sneaking back in. I have a few films that remind me of ghee.
Namaste London, director Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Manmohan Malhotra, played by Rishi Kapoor goes back to Punjab to find a husband for Jasmeet, his British-born daughter played by Katrina Kaif. She drinks, wears short skirts and stays out late, behaviour her father associates with British teenagers.
She calls herself ‘Jazz’. Her friend is Imran Khan ( Upen Patel) who is going out with an English girl from British aristocracy. Jasmeet herself has caught the eye of Charles Brown (Clive Standen) who is chummy with Prince Charles and visits Buckingham Palace occasionally.
Jasmeet enjoys her first visit to India, taking in the sights but hates the home situation where her father was born. The food is rich, so is cow’s milk. Manmohan however, enjoys all the food of his childhood, including ghee.
Arjun Ballu Singh (Akshay Kumar) falls in love with Jazmeet and they get married against her wishes. She goes back to London and nullifies the marriage. I enjoyed the scenes shot in Punjab more than the London ones.
There’s an interesting scene where Arjun drinks milk straight from the cow. Jazmeet finds it revolting. It reminds me of my grandmother’s farm where boys used to do that. It is called ukukleza in Zulu, my language.
Dulha Mil Gaya, director Mudassar Aziz
This is also one of my favourite ghee films. Sushmita Sen plays Shimmer, a beautiful uber-model based in Trinidad. She doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body. She does a lot of work in the United States where she kills two birds with one stone, because her uber-rich boyfriend Pawan (Shah Rukh Khan) lives there.
One day, on her way back home to Trinidad, she meets Samapreet (Ishita Sharma) from Punjab in the first class section of a plane. She takes one look at her country clothes and hair and dismisses her as a person. Samapreet tells her that she is going to live with her husband.
Shimmer puts on her sleeping mask and Samapreet shuts up. They part ways. Samapreet’s attempt to reunite with Donsai her husband (Fardeen Khan) ends in tears. She has an accident and falls next to Shimmer’s limo. Shimmer takes her home and nurses her.
Samapreet cooks for Shimmer as a token of appreciation. Shimmer tastes the food and likes it. She asks Samapreet about the ingredients.
“Ghee,” she replies.
“What?” asks Shimmer.
What is funny is that the razor-thin Shimmer doesn’t know what ghee is. She wouldn’t have raised that spoon to her lips if she did.
Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.