Aheady combination of sensualist and gourmand adventurism, Rocky Singh is a veritable bundle of good cheer and he believes in living life immensely well. Cohosting the NDTV Good Times food travel show, “Highway On My Plate”, with his partner, Mayur Sharma, the foodie anchor is already burning the midnight oil with his third book on the greatest passion of all Indians: Food. The show, meanwhile, has completed a record 230 episodes shot during travels of over 200,000 km on the highways of India.
Chatting with The Daily Guardian on his favourite topic — food and street side sustenance — Rocky answers some questions for our readers.
Q. How did you discover new places where you could go eat? Did this depend on long queues and crowds, as in how popular are they and the food turnover?
A. Initially we would plan a route, let’s say Delhi to Manali and break it up into 200 km of driving per day. On that stretch we would get all the journalists writing about food to send us a list of the best eating joints that have been written about for decades. And this was mainly street and regional food, not 5-stars as those were unaffordable to the common man. As time went on, we started gathering data from bloggers and locals. Like enroute to Chandigarh, Gulshan Dhaba in Murthal is the best for breakfast with their freshly cooked paranthas and garam garam chai. The whole mission was about the journey of bringing the glory of Indian food to our viewers.
Q. In the dining out experience, would you consider desi ghee as a secret ingredient to enhance the taste of food?
A. Desi ghee has been a very active Indian ingredient for centuries, highly healthy and is used to intensify the flavour of the food, provided you know how to use it correctly. Making a dosa with ghee can completely alter the taste, or even dousing idlis with gunpowder and ghee, as opposed to using regular cooking oil. Add a dollop of smoking hot ghee with garam masala tadka to the cooked mutton curry and trust me, this will make your mutton finger-licking good. Desi ghee is a very powerful ingredient and is a superfood.
Q. Have you ever had any encounter with a world famous personality?
A. We keep meeting people from different walks of life. We were shooting at Raan of Kutch for the Raan Utsav, a carnival of music and dance. It was a full-moon night and with a full-lunar eclipse to follow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, had come to inaugurate the festival. He recognised us as he had watched the show and it was a pleasure interacting with him. We have had several actors on our show. Few of the most memorable ones are Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Arshad Warsi. Ajay has a very pleasant personality. We have shot with him, eaten with him, shared many jokes; he has a fabulous sense of humour and is very jocular. This was just before his film Golmaal got released.
Q. What got you and Mayur to conceptualise “Highway On My Plate” and its title?
A. The show was started by NDTV Good Times. They were looking for actors to anchor it. The director, Abhinandan Sekhri, called us and as we were very familiar with most of the food pit stops in India’s trucking routes, we got the deal of anchoring a food and travel show that went on to become the country’s most popular cult show on food. The title was apt and described the show very well. We have had at least seven shows, on food and travel, across India now, on four different channels. One particular show is on the rarest foods, smelliest foods, most expensive foods, spiciest foods.
Q. Have you been road tripping to any secret hidden away spots?
A. On our show, we target spots that not many people might know about. My list of secret spots:
1. Khayam Chowk, Srinagar: Best Kebabs, Boti and Seekh
2. Das Surti Khaman Wala, Ahmedabad: Best Khaman Dokhla and Farsaan
3. Mylai Karpagambal Mess, Chennai: Traditional Tamil foods like pongal, podi dosa and snacks.
4. Spicy Venue Hyderabad: MLA PotlAM Biryani that is eaten with Uluvacharu and pickles. Gongura Mamsam-mutton, Royala Iguru-prawns, Chapala Pulusu-fish curry.
5. Niglat, Near Bhimtal: Best filo pastry and incredible Western food.
Q. Which are your favourite eating-places and your favourite dishes?
A. My choicest of food in the whole of India is Tundey Kabab at the world famous Tundey Kababi at Chowk, in Lucknow The kababs are juicy and made traditional style. I also love Kerala cuisine, and my favourite eating joint is in Hotel Grand, in Kochi, Karimeen Pollichathu, and my chosen dish is Pearl Spot fish with many spices wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf. Just outside Bhubaneswar, Odisha, is a place called Chilika Dhaba and the best thing to eat there is the masala prawn; for Rs 70, you can get 10 large prawns, fresh out of Chilika lake right next door.
Q. Your five travel and eatingrelated tips for your fans.
A. 1. Carry your own drinking water, avoid drinking water anywhere outside.
2. Never make your travel about the destination only, as the journey itself is important. Stop on the way to take in sights of historic monuments, sunsets, landscapes. These all go down as memories to treasure.
3. When you are in a particular region, you must sample the fare of that place. Eating pizzas in let’s say Rajasthan is blasphemy. The authenticity of regional fare is supreme.
4. If you are looking to eat well, then ask around from your local cabbie, concierge, travel desk, and of course the locals. You cannot really go wrong. These guys always know which are the best eateries to go to. There are also bloggers covering cities and towns and a quick search will yield great results.
5. Our channel rockyandmayur on YouTube will give you all the information on nine cities in India for the best restaurants, diners and shacks you could visit. Rest of the food-related data you can get in our books, which highlight every restaurant we have eaten at, like a food wiki giving the phone numbers, directions, what you should eat, etc.
Q. Do you enjoy cooking?
A. In the mid-1990s, I opened my own restaurant called Café Spice, specialising in Punjabi and Mughlai food. This was in Dilshad Garden, East Delhi. I had a passion for great cooking and I ran the restaurant for seven months, indulging in my ongoing interest. I enjoy cooking street-style Thai food as I trained in Thailand with street vendors, mastering the art of making great Thai food from scratch, using fresh ingredients.
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AMITABH BACHCHAN SHARES POWERFUL MESSAGE ON ‘HOPE’
MUMBAI: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan on Tuesday shared a powerful message on ‘Hope’ to encourage everyone to stand together for India and fight the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Big B never leaves a chance to motivate his fans and amplify the voices of different campaigns spreading awareness about the deadly disease. Taking to his Twitter handle, the veteran star shared a motivational video reciting a poem on hope and explaining how with hope and unity the pandemic can be defeated.
“Hope is not a strategy. The author meant to express the notion that actions are more than words. Yes, there is certain unassembled reasoning but, as many pithy saints say, hope is not a start- is often overused and we miss the very point of hope. Yes, hope alone is not a strategy, but when hope guides our actions, great things are possible,” he said.
RADHE TO BE OUT ON OTT AND DTH ALONG WITH THEATRICAL RELEASE
With the second wave of Covid-19 hitting the country, theatres and multiplexes were shut down again in most states and most big film releases were pushed ahead. So when the makers of Salman Khan’s upcoming film Radhe announced they will be releasing the film in theatres and on OTT simultaneously, it came as a shock to exhibitors who were already making a loss.
Radhe, which will be released in theatres and on OTT on 13 May, was sold to Zee Studios for Rs 230 crores, all rights included. This includes rights for music, satellite and theatrical release. The screenings of the film would also contribute to Zee’s revenue. While many feel that Zee and Salman Khan are committing a mistake by releasing the action movie amid the deadly second wave of Covid, others feel that the filmmakers are right in doing so.
When the announcement of the hybrid release of Radhe was made, Zee and Salman Khan had expected that theatres would be allowed to reopen by or before 13 May. However, given the Covid outbreak, many states where cinemas were functional have actually asked them to down their shutters.
BLACK WIDOW SLATED TO RELEASE IN INDIA BY JULY 9
NEW DELHI: The much-awaited Marvel superhero film ‘Black Widow’ starring Scarlett Johansson will soon release in India. The film is making its way to Indian theatres on July 9 this year.
Indian film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh shared the news on his Instagram handle on Tuesday. He shared a new intriguing poster of the movie and alongside the poster he wrote, “NEXT SUPERHERO SPECTACLE FROM #MARVEL… #BlackWidow – starring #ScarlettJohansson – to release in #India on 9 July 2021 in 6 languages: #English, #Hindi, #Tamil, #Telugu, #Kannada and #Malayalam… NEW POSTER…” The much anticipated Marvel flick was supposed to hit the big screens on April 30 in India, and May 1, 2020, in the US but due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic it got delayed several times.
‘Black Widow’ has Johansson reprising her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh is starring as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz will be Melina. Johansson has played Black Widow, a major role in seven Marvel movies, tracking her evolution from a morally dubious Russian assassin to a world-saving Avenger.
In the upcoming film, pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. What’s even more interesting is that viewers will witness the new Marvel villain, Taskmaster.
The movie is helmed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige
RITU PHOGAT BANKING ON WRESTLING HISTORY TO GET PAST EXPERIENCED VETERAN BI NGUYEN
In her upcoming bout against experienced veteran Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen, Indian wrestling superstar Ritu Phogat will be relying on the skills that got her to the world’s largest martial arts organisation in the first place.
Ritu is scheduled to face Nguyen at ONE: DANGAL, a tape-delayed event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore that airs on May 15. “The Indian Tigress” has not made her game plan heading into this fight a secret. The 26-year-old will be looking to take Nguyen down and finish her on the mat.
“I think that Bi’s weakness is that her wrestling is not as strong and so my strength will be her weakness. Because of my wrestling history, I should be able to take Bi down effectively and I should be able to finish her off,” said Ritu in an official statement.
Ritu made headlines in 2019 when she announced she would be transitioning to the Circle.
A national icon from a famous wrestling family in her native India, Ritu made her ONE Championship debut two years ago, and has since racked up an unblemished win-loss slate, defeating her first four opponents in impressive fashion.
Meanwhile, Nguyen has had a rough go as of late. Ritu is confident she can continue her winning streak, and deal her Vietnamese-American foe another heartbreaking setback.
“Bi is a great fighter because she is more experienced. I have studied all her previous matches and her standing game has been extremely strong,” Ritu said.
“It will be a great watch for fans as it will allow them to find out if wrestling or striking gets the upper hand in this match,” she added.
ONE: DANGAL features a host of Indian martial arts stars, and aims to showcase the very best that India has to offer.
In the main event, Indian wrestling champion Arjan “Singh” Bhullar challenges Filipino-American superstar Brandon “The Truth” Vera for the ONE Heavyweight World Title.
Other Indian athletes scheduled for action include Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat and Roshan Mainam.
Ritu feels that while Nguyen’s experience does pose a threat, focusing on her own game plan and what she brings to the table will be enough to offset anything “Killer Bee” brings to the table. She vows to show fans just how much she has improved, and perhaps a new side to her game that fans have yet to discover.
RASHMIKA MANDANNA SOON TO MAKE HER BOLLYWOOD DEBUT WITH MISSION MAJNU
MUMBAI: Rashmika Mandanna will soon be seen in her Bollywood debut, Mission Majnu with Sidharth Malhotra. The director and producers share the reasons as to what made the actress their first choice for the film.
Director, Shantanu Baagchi says, “We were looking for a formidable actress with a fresh, beautiful face when we chanced upon some of Rashmika’s work. I was especially impressed by her nuanced performance in ‘Dear Comrade’. She also has the right mixture of innocence & beauty required for the role. It is a crucial role in the film that needed a sensitive interpretation of the character. I think there’s a very good chance Indian audiences will discover another movie star from the South.”
Producer Amar Butala expresses, “My first interaction with Rashmika was a zoom call in the midst of the lockdown when we narrated the script of Mission Majnu. It was remarkable to see her react to the script and how she picked up very nuance of her character even though we were on a video call! It’s been a pleasure working with her because she brings with her the solid experience and confidence of a big movie star, but also has the sincere energy of a newcomer! We look forward to Hindi film audiences discovering her in Mission Majnu.” Producer Garima Mehta, “The first thing you see in Rashmika is her dazzling smile and the sheer energy and charm that she exudes. Since her debut film Kirik Party, later Geetha Govindham and Dear Comrade, she has grown into an exceptional and fine actor. We were sure she would bring alive her role in the film. Rashmika and Sidharth share a great on-screen chemistry in Mission Majnu and would surely be loved by her pan – India fan base. It’s exciting to see the freshness she brings to the screen.”
The actress’s impeccable work not only left the audience in awe but clearly, a team of producers and directors as well who signed her on for their film. Mission Majnu is Rashmika’s first foray into a spy thriller yet the team felt she was the perfect choice for the film because of her talent.
GAL GADOT SAYS JOSH WHEDON ‘THREATENED MY CAREER’
WASHINGTON [US]: Hollywood star Gal Gadot, during a recent interview, opened up and revealed her experience about working with ‘Justice League’ director Joss Whedon, against whom there are several accusations that recently came to light.
According to E! News, the ‘Wonder Woman’ actor, while speaking with an Israeli news channel for an interview she shared more detail about her experience with the director, who stepped in to film (and re-shoot) ‘Justice League’ after Zack Snyder exited the movie following a family tragedy. Gal had previously hinted that her experience with Joss “wasn’t the best one.”
However, she explained, “But I took care of it there and when it happened. I took it to the higher-ups.” But now, the 36-year-old star elaborated on her past remarks about the 56-year-old Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator. “What I had with Joss, basically, is that he kind of threatened my career and told me that if I did something, he would ensure that my career would be miserable. And I simply handled it on the spot,” Gal told the TV channel. The director has come under fire, with several actors from his projects coming forward with their own stories about working with him.
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