India's vast cultural landscape is reflected in its varied cuisines. Indian cinema showcases this diversity through food, shedding light on regional dishes and culinary traditions. Movies like Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana embrace food as a symbol of homecoming and cultural heritage, as the protagonist seeks a secret recipe to save his family's restaurant.
Food becomes an extension of the characters' identities, reflecting their personalities and circumstances. In Queen, Rani's culinary adventures in Paris mirror her personal growth, and in English Vinglish, the protagonist's journey to learn English is intertwined with her culinary exploration.
Food and cinema share a unique bond, both having the ability to evoke emotions, memories, and cultural connections. Indian cinema often intertwines the art of cooking and the pleasures of food within its narratives. From sumptuous feasts to humble street-side snacks, Indian movies have celebrated the role of food as more than just sustenance—it's a symbol of love, tradition, and a way of life.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the world of Indian cinema and uncover the finest movies that pay homage to the delectable cuisine and culinary traditions of the country.
1. The Lunchbox (2013)
Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox tells the tale of a mistaken lunchbox delivery that blossoms into an unexpected friendship between a lonely office worker and an unhappily married man. The film uses the medium of lunchboxes—a common part of Indian culture—to explore themes of connection, longing, and second chances. Through the sumptuous meals exchanged, the movie encapsulates the idea that food can be a messenger of emotions, bridging the gap between two souls.
2. Cheeni Kum (2007)
A love story with a culinary twist, Cheeni Kum is directed by R. Balki and stars Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu. Bachchan's character, an egotistical chef, is known for his exceptional culinary skills and his larger-than-life ego. When he meets a strong-willed woman who challenges him both in love and in the kitchen, a delicious clash of personalities ensues. The film showcases the merging of two distinct flavours—love and food—in an unconventional romance.
3. Ramji Londonwaley (2005)
In this heartwarming film, R. Madhavan plays the role of Ramji, a cook who travels from a small Indian village to London to cater to an Indian family. Ramji Londonwaley humorously navigates cultural differences and culinary challenges as Ramji brings his authentic Indian cuisine to the cosmopolitan streets of London. The film highlights how food can serve as a bridge between cultures and evoke feelings of nostalgia.
4. Stanley Ka Dabba (2011)
Amole Gupte's Stanley Ka Dabba is a heart-touching story centred around a young schoolboy named Stanley, who doesn't bring lunch to school but instead savours the aroma of his classmates' lunches. The film emphasises the social stigma surrounding children who don't bring food to school, while also celebrating the camaraderie and compassion among the children. It showcases how the simple act of sharing food can foster unity and friendship.
5. English Vinglish (2012)
Gauri Shinde's English Vinglish is a touching narrative that revolves around a middle-aged woman's journey to self-discovery and empowerment. Sridevi's character, a housewife with a talent for cooking, embarks on a journey to learn English while visiting her family in New York. The film beautifully juxtaposes cultural nuances and culinary delights, portraying how the act of cooking and sharing meals can serve as a conduit for self-expression and transformation.
6. Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012)
A heartwarming comedy directed by Sameer Sharma, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana is quite a watch. The film follows the story of a young man who comes back to his village running from a gangster he owes money to in London. Once back home he reunites with his family and childhood sweetheart who helps him restore the family restaurant. However, the film takes an unexpected turn when he realises that his now senile grandfather doesn't remember the secret ingredient in his Punjab famous chicken Khurana. Through sumptuous feasts and charming characters, the movie celebrates the joy of both food and love.
7. Aamis (2019)
Aamis is a critically acclaimed Assamese film directed by Bhaskar Hazarika, released in 2019. The title Aamis translates to ravening in English, which foreshadows the movie's exploration of unconventional and taboo themes related to food and human behaviour. Set in the picturesque backdrop of Assam, Aamis follows the story of Nirmali, a young married doctor, and Sumon, a young Ph.D. student who has a deep interest in researching and experimenting with different meat dishes. As they bond over their shared love for food, their relationship takes a unique turn when they discover an unconventional taste for meats that are typically considered taboo in their society.