Monday, October 25, 2010

Masterchef India : The Verdict

Masterchef is a one of its kind cookery-based reality show where amateur cooks who have no food industry experience but a passion for cooking, fight for the title of ‘the best cook of the country’, a.k.a. Masterchef. The show has been running super successfully in the U.K. and Australia and has now started airing in India.

The format has been adapted to the Indian market which means that the show is going to have liberal doses of emotions and melodrama. Because, you know, India is a land of excessively emotional people who need melodrama in everything. Drama constitutes a large part of our daily diet. Or so the channel airing the show and the show's producers would like us to believe. So, if you're expecting Masterchef India to be anything like Masterchef Australia, which is currently being aired on Star World, you're in for a major disappointment. As I was :(

For one, India is the only country in the world where Masterchef is hosted by a Bollywood actor. Now, by no means is AK a food connoissuer. He may have worked briefly as a chef in Thailand (that too was decades ago, mind you) but he would not have the kind of culinary expertise that continuing professional chefs would have. The two chefs on the show - Ajay Chopra of Goa Marriott & Kunal Kapoor of Leela Gurgaon - are merely there to save face, so the show can "legally" claim to have stuck to the Masterchef format if ever taken to court by the owners of the format. The chefs are completely sidelined - most of the challenges are thrown and judged by AK. In fact, in one of the episodes AK was even described as "the most talented chef in India". What a joke!

There is a lot of emotion, drama and religion on the show because, you know, this is India. Participants on MC Australia rarely shed tears except when they've been eliminated. The judges don't kiss or hug them either when they make something delicious. Neither do they run to the pantry with contestants.

While the judges of MC Australia criticize each dish specifically mentioning it's flaws/strengths, all AK does is mouth cheesy lines such as 'meri kamiyabi ki buniyad cooking hai' (really now?), 'khana nahi, jeena aur marna ban jayega', 'jung maidan mein ho ya kitchen mein, chahiye himmat', 'aapke husband show dekh rahe honge, aap unse kuch kehna chahengi?' Puke.

Then there is the compulsory dose of religion that must feature in every Indian reality show. A lot of “wahe guru” happened on the first weekend, and one aspirant put a napkin over her head and prayed when she arrived before the jury. Tons of punjabi bonding happens as well. Aunties say things like 'yeh apron meri izzat hai'. More gag.

The participants on MC India 'ooh' and 'aah' every time AK appears, as if he and not cooking is the reason they are there. Thank God AK sticks to the script, rather than obliging fawning star-struck fans.

Finally, given the quality and background of contestants on the show, I seriously doubt we'll be seeing any world/international cuisine being cooked. Unlike in MC Australia where invention tests often revolve around Japanese, Indian, Spanish, American, British, Mexican, Asian or French cuisine, I have a feeling MC India will revolve around Indian cuisine only.

Clearly, the makers of Masterchef India are confused as to which direction they want to steer the show in. Or are they? Read this quote by Anupam Vasudev, executive vice-president, STAR Plus, "MasterChef India is not a cookery show. It is a competitive game show with cookery happening in the background." (Source:

That says it all about MC India. It kind of seals the fate of the show, at least as far as I am concerned.

As far as I know, Masterchef Australia never claims to be anything but a cookery show, and it definitely doesn't attempt to put cooking in the background. Cooking and chefs are the mainstay as well as the backbone of the show. Kind of goes to prove how Indian channel heads misuse the right to "adapt" a show to the Indian context.


Moonshine said...

It is really sad!!! Why do the show makers feel the need to go away from the main theme of cooking!! The Indian audiences are evolved enough to appreciate the show for what it is!!! We do not need a star for this!!

And whats really sad is the fact the 2 chefs.. who should be the real celebrities are reduced to checking the cut onions or checking a dosha. They should be the ones talking about the dish!

Scarlett said...

@Moonshine - Yes, I was really disappointed. I read in the paper recently that the show makers didn't want MC India to be a niche show, since apparently cookery based shows appeal to only a small segment of the audience. I don't agree with that - I think cooking is an important part of Indian culture and psyche, so the show would have had a wide appeal. It's sad to see how the two chefs on the slow are sidelined, and AK is the one judging the main dishes.

voice1000 said...

@Scarlett: The makers should read your description on the traits of the show. 'Meri kamiyabi ki buniyad cooking hai', 'khana nahi, jeena aur marna ban jayega', 'jung maidan mein ho ya kitchen mein, chahiye himmat', 'aapke husband show dekh rahe honge, aap unse kuch kehna chahengi?' - I completely understand your regurgitation. I feel under the influence the makers did produce but a half hearted show. More than fixing my eye on the content of the show I end up with more differences than similarities. I know I shouldn't because the contexts are different but where judges in MC Australia give constructive criticism, the judges in MC India are short-sighted I feel. Though contexts are different but principles should remain same. With melodrama and emotional waves hovering, the constructive criticism is left far behind. And if a judge cannot construct one his prudence will hold no value. It is important to cultivate the contestants with effective process not procedure in producing great results. If mere criticism leads to fight and conflict between contestants then is the competition healthy? The way judges speak is absolutely de-motivational. There is no sweetness no harmony no level-headed talks and at least I feel that contestants are part of military regiment where those three detached judges are colonel.