In a particularly tense moment of episode seven of MasterChef India, as one of the teams struggle to finish their Punjabi cuisine dish on time, the quietest member of my family, my nani, yells out “Yeh toh gaye!” with a passion so unlike her that the rest of my family can’t help but break into peals of laughter.
My nani urgently gestures us to stop laughing considering the urgency at hand.
An ad break follows.
We discuss the contestants, their individual approach towards the competition and the judges’ personalities.
As I rave about fashion the judges bring to the show, the conversation shifts towards my mother as she recounts a childhood story. The story cannot be called a “food story”, but she insists on calling it that. Soon enough, we’re all swapping old family tales that are, in some way or another, related to Indian food and culture.
Approximately two hours of watching this show, every week, is nothing but pure bliss. You huddle up together with people you have grown up with to watch a competitive reality show about the culinary arts. It sounds cheesy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
As MasterChef India Season 6 broadcasts in India, it won’t be wrong to say that this is one of the few Indian reality TV shows which actively brings people together and starts conversations.
The show’s format hasn’t changed a lot since its inception in 2010, the themes starkly stand out in the popular Indian reality TV landscape. The central idea of the show is a healthy competition, which is solely based on showcasing different cuisines, contestants’ own culinary talents and various managerial skills required for working in a professional kitchen.
The contestants use their culinary skills to make the perfect dish, which encourages the show’s viewers at home to talk about the cultural diversity in the Indian cuisine.
At home, since I come from an army background, these conversations take an especially interesting route as the intimate understanding of different cultures brings a whole new flavour to my personal viewing experience.
But watching MasterChef during this massive cultural shift has been a unique experience on its own. The show, against the real-life backdrop of national chaos, is able to offer a “reality” which seems ideal, something worth striving for. Watching different contestants trying to make the perfect dish in a limited set of time, failing half-way through only to persevere at the end is gratifying.
In a video titled How RuPaul’s Drag Race Turned Parody Into Hit TV, pop culture and media critic Sarah Z argues, “Watching people compete, watching them get into manufactured drama, seeing the stuff people create with limited resources; it’s genuinely enjoyable. And the fact that it isn’t exactly reality is kind of the point when folks are looking for an escape from reality.”
Even though the context for this statement was RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show very different from our subject here, it can be perfectly applied to my experience of watching MasterChef India as well.
Between the ongoing anti-Citizenship Amendment Act movement and the recent violence in northeast Delhi, watching MasterChef India – where a (somewhat) diverse group of contestants were trying their hardest to make the flawless dish – has made for a joyful, wholesome and perfect escape.
Shivani Yadav is a fashion and film writer.
Featured image credit: Unsplash (representative image)