Monthly Archives: November 2013

More Art, Less Kitsch…please

Photo: Outlookindia

One of my least favorite, but most often read, e-zines is Outlookindia. Ever declining in readership and ever subsisting on the patronage of political masters, it nevertheless gives us a pulse on India’s misguided and misanthropic english speaking “elite”. Their policies self-deluding, their writings self-laudatory, and their motives self-advancing, I’ve typically found Outlookindia staff writers distasteful and unimpressive, and their obligatory titular puns, downright regurgitory.

However, I do agree with them on one point, and that is the utter drivel (generally) being churned out of the Indian film industry–and for our purposes, Telugu film industry in particular.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand a certain degree of escapism is needed for India’s benighted, ill-governed, and neglected masses. But for God’s sake, let’s add a dash of culture. The great tragedy in indian cinema right now is rather than an (dharmic) elite influence on mass tastes, we have mass influence on elite tastes. Outlook recently did piece on this very topic, about how Madrasi (cause we all speak tamil…n’est pas?) Movies are influencing Mumbai…in all the wrong ways.

Hindi films have thus recently been dominated by a spate of remakes from the South such as Ghajini (produced by the Allu-Konidela clan), Singham, and Rowdy Rathore (inspired by Andhra’s own, Vikramarkudu). While I’m all for cross-Vindhya cultural intercourse, this is not what I had in mind.. .

Most jarring of course, is the shameless, wholesale importation of non-telugu belles who don’t speak a word of the language and who condescendingly view the industry as a minor league for the Bollywood item-dancing majors. It’s one thing if the actress makes an effort to learn the language and appreciate the culture while she’s here, quite another if she’s just there to cash a cheque and sulk in her trailer. How can the subtleties of Telugu be communicated by a dubbed debutante whose greatest accomplishment is mastering the left-turn on the runway?

Photo: Shilpa Shetty Blog

Artistes with mastery of language and classical dance and drama training should be driving cinema, not factory manufactured, celluloid mannequins with interchangeable parts (that was a dig at rampant plastic surgery).

I am aware that there are certain aspects of the modern industry that understandably cause Andhra parents to discourage their daughters from acting, but Telugu producers, please raise your standards, and Telugu directors: Please make more Art and less Kitsch!

To be fair, of course, there have been some decent films here and there of late. Happy Days, for example, wasn’t bad (I am grudgingly admitting this), and Nagarjuna is single-handedly showing India how actors should progress artistically,  but we need more movies like Leader, with a crisp story, minimal song and dance sequences, solid acting, and an inspiring message. Big budgets tend not to  frequently go to Shatranj ke Khilari‘s, so I understand the exigencies of the entertainment industry, but if we’re going to send something beyond AP, why not something more like Magadheera? Yes, I know there was a fair bit of kitsch in the Chiranjeevi homage sequences, but it was balanced by a compelling historical storyline and magnificent CGI. Alas, 4 years later, we’re still waiting for the producers to send Andhra’s best up North.

So, while the Tollywood die-hards (usually born some time around 1990) may preach the many virtues of Mahesh Babu masala flicks and rave about a future Gabbar Singh 2, I will be eagerly and exasperatingly awaiting the arrival of an Andhra Satyajit Ray…

 

Readers (yes, google analytics tells us you quiet masses are reading daily–in surprisingly large numbers) are welcome to comment and disagree...just don’t tell me Pokiri is the “Maya Bazaar” of our times…

Introducing New Blogger: Velugu Thalli

Hello everyone, I am Velugu Thalli! Welcome to my kitchen! Along with cuisine, I will also be blogging periodically on fashion, cinema, acchu Telugu, and jewelry—especially jewelry…I like jewelry 😉

With my first blog post, I will be spotlighting the famous Andhra Bhojanam It is well known that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and so, the way to an Andhra man’s heart is through Andhra vanta (cuisine).

“Vivaha bhojambus” aside, Andhra has a rich and distinct culinary tradition. Here is a traditional Andhra vindu (feast) that we recommend for even the pickiest and haughtiest foodie (additional suggestions welcome from readers!). Bon apetit—or as as we say in proper acchu Telugu “vollu telleekunda thinandi”…(just kidding)

Kangari paddakkandi…”mekkandi” ani analeydu kada 😉

Nijamaina acchu telugu lo ilaa chepthaamu (in real proper accha Telugu this is how we really say Bon Apetit):

“Kadupaara bhujinchandi”  

ANDHRA BHOJANAM

Menu:

  • Chekkalu
  • Minapa Garelu w/ Pacchadi
  • Pulihora
  • Tomato Rasam
  • Tomato Pappu
  • Benda kayya Vepadu
  • Perugu Annam w/ Uragayya
  • Kobari Neelu
  • Thokkudu Laddu
  • Ariselu
  • Pootha Rekalu

 

Appetizer:

Chekkalu

Photo: Rajis Kitchen

Recipe:

  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup maida/all purpose flour
  • ½ cup rava/cream of wheat
  • 1-2 table spoons chili powder
  • 1 table spoon cumin
  • 3 table spoons sesame seeds
  • 10 -15 curry leaves
  • 3 table soons yogurt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 and ¼ cup water

Method:

Mix all in a bowl to make batter. Take pre-oiled aluminum foil paper, and place 2 inch diameter balls in it. Press balls to make discs. Place 5-10 ten discs in medium boiling oil at a time. Boil each set 2-3 minutes—or it becomes crispy/light brown.

Minapa Garelu—Urad dal vadas

Photo: Pavani’s Dishes

Recipe:

  • 1 cup urad dal
  • 1tea spoon salt
  • 2 green chilis (chopped)
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • Oil to fry
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Soak urad dal for 5-6 hours. Drain well. Add green chili ginger and salt, along with 5 table spoons water and blend until smooth. Heat oil to medium boil. Take a small ball of dough with a moistened hand, and make palm sized balls, with a hole in the middle. Press balls on foil paper. Place gently in oil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown (flip ball half way through frying it).

Pacchadi:

Gongura pacchadi

IMG_3224
Photo:Indian Good Eats

Tomato Pacchadi

Photo: Aahaaram

 

 Entrée

Pulihora-The famous tamarind rice of Andhra

Chintapandu Pulihora
Photo: Simple Food Bowl

Recipe:

  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ table spoon cumin seeds
  • 1 table spoon sesame seeds
  • 1 table spoon vegetable oil
  • 5 table spoons tamarind sauce(1/2 cup hot water, lemon sized tamarind boiled in a bowl.Squeeze tamarind pulp to make a thick sauce)
  • ½ tea spoon turmeric
  • 2 and ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 4 table spoons oil
  • 4-5 red chilis
  • 2 table spoons channa dal
  • 1 table spoon urad dal
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • few dry curry leaves
  • and pinch of asafoetida.

Method:

Wash and cook rice. Rice should not be sticky. Add salt, oil, turmeric, and all seasoning ingredients in pan fry until dal is golden brown. Then add this to bowl of cooked rice and mix thoroughly. Add coriander for garnish.      

Tomato Rasam

Photo: Shail’s Kitchen

Recipe:

  • 1qt Tomato Puree
  • 1 small spoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1 small spoon Urad Dal
  • 1 small spoon Cumin
  • 1/2 small spoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Table Spoon Salt
  • 1 Table Spoon Pepper
  • 4 Dried Red Chilis
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 small spoon Chaaru/Rasam Powder
  • Corander or Curry Leaves
  • Water as Needed

Method:

Lightly fry mustard seeds, cumin, and garlic. When mustard seeds have cracked add remaining ingredients. Boil for 20 minutes. Garnish with Coriander leaves. Serve with rice.

Tomato Pappu

Photo: V. Balusani

Recipe:

  • 2 Tomatoes chopped
  • 3 Green Chilis
  • 1/2 Tea spoon Cumin
  • 10 Curry Leaves
  • 1/2 Tea spoon Asafoetida
  • 1 Tea spoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Tea Spoon Urad Dal
  • 1 cup cooked and Mashed Toor Dal
  • 1/2 Tea spoon Turmeric
  • 1 Table spoon Oil

Method:

Heat oil and add mustard seeds. After seeds crack, add Urad dal, cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves, and turmeric. Add tomatoes and 4 table spoons water.

When the tomatoes become soft, add Toor dal. Then add 1/3 cup water. Mix well. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Add coriander to garnish. Serve with rice.

 

Benda kayya Vepaudu (okra fry)  

Photo: My Culinary World

 

Recipe:

  • 2 cups chopped Okra
  • 2 Green Chilis sliced
  • 1 small chopped Onion
  • 1 and 1/2 Table spoons Oil
  • 1 Tea spoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 Tea spoon Turmeric
  • 1 Tea spool Urad Dal
  • 1/4 Tea spoon Cumin
  • 10 Curry Leaves
  • 1 pinch Asafoetida

Method:

Heat oil in a large pan. Add mustard seeds. When they crack, add urad dal. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until Golden Brown. Add salt to taste.

 

“Balare appadalu”–papad

selling home made papads appadalu only 2/-each - Home - Furniture - Garden Supplies
Photo: OLX.in

No Andhra meal is complete without the crispy, savory goodness of Appadaalu, as a complementary side.

 

Perugu annam with  Uraggayya(pickle): Avakayya (mango), nimakayya (lemon), chintakkayya (red chili)

 

Daddojanam, Thair Sadam, Dahi Chawal or Curd Rice
Photo: Aahaaram

Recipe:

  • 2 cups Yogurt
  • 1 cup cookedRice
  •  1 tsp Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon Urad dal
  •  pinch of Asafoetida
  • 2 green Chillis chopped
  • 1 dried Red chili
  • 5 Curry leaves

 

Method:

Cook rice and slightly mash it. Heat oil and fry mustard seeds until they crack, then add dal and remaining ingredients. When dal becomes brown—garnish mix with mixed yogurt rice. Salt to taste. Add coriander to garnish.      

Drink: Kobari Neelu (Chilled Coconut Water)      

File:Coconut Drink, Pangandaran.JPG
Photo: Wikipedia

 

Dessert:

Phew!! Alasi poyyaanu…

You can find the remaining dishes at your local indian store/sweet shop.😉

Thokkudu laddoo

Photo: Laddu Gopal

  Arisalu

Photo: Sahadev Reddy Sweets

  Pootha rekulu-Paper sweet

 

Better known as “paper sweet”, this trademarked Andhra tradition is the perfect light icing on your proverbial cake. 

Photo: Honey Foods

 

ENJOY!!! 😀

 

On High Culture: Beyond Bollywood

Krishna Departs at start of Kali Yuga

I had come to Sanskrit in search of roots, but I had not expected to have that need met so directly. I had not expected my wish for a ‘historical sense’ to be answered with linguistic roots.

A recent article by an 30-Something Indian yuppie bemoaned the lack of cultural originality in India “beyond bollywood”. Ostensibly, Tollywood since the late 90s can be seen as a provincial version of its Mumbai cousin (with occasional flashes of brilliance). But is this presumed lack of anything beyond Bollywood a result of absence or awareness?

What’s more, a generation of Telugu speakers (and other Indians) have now grown up with Ross and Rachel  as their role models instead of Rama and Sita. This is the cost of neglecting one’s own high culture, which nourishes the soul through aspirational figures and timeless civilizational values communicated through sophisticated literature, dance, music, art, architecture, and cuisine.

The Andhra Cultural Portal was established because pop culture (Bolly & Tollywood) cannot take the place of High Culture (Kavitvam, Sangeeta, Natya, etc) and because Indians of all backgrounds are increasingly alienated from their own transcendent cultural heritage and utterly unaware of its unmatched accomplishment.

High Culture is also important precisely because the central clash between India and Pakistan, in some ways, isn’t even about religion. Rather, it is underscored by the emphasis of Persianized culture vs Sanskrit culture. People like Owaisi lie about nothing existing here before the Sultans/Mughals because willful ignorance serves their cause (because if they claim persianized Turks gave India its culture, fundoos like him can claim to rule Hyderabad State (oops, sorry, “Telangana”) and India itself).

But deep down, even they know that their lies are precisely that—baldfaced lies. While they may even believe it, fortunately the APJ Abdul Kalams of this world know better. Despite being an observant Muslim, former President Kalam is an avid connoisseur of not only his regional Tamil culture, but the national Sanskritic high culture and its epics.  Sanskrit high culture is verily the bedrock of Indian civilization. Sanskrit as a language truly has no equal, as computer scientists and even Colonial era Europeans have waxed eloquent over it. It is this very language of the Gods that has enriched our own Telugu.

And yet, this same bollywood/Delhiite delusion about culture has infected our misguided Telangana Movement brethren who feel the need to celebrate the Nizam to justify their invented identity. See how the fundoo Owaisis are already claiming that Urdu should take Telugu’s place as the official language of Telangana state. By KCR’s logic about a sprinkling of Urdu words in their dialect of Telugu justifying a new state, can’t other regions claim a new state because they have more English words?

Telangi and Telangana aren’t even the names we gave ourselves, the names we gave ourselves are Andhra and Andhra (pra)desh. Simply put, if you don’t know where you are from, you don’t know where you are going. Indians are not Persian and are not from Persia. We need not look like them merely because bollywood or fair and lovely tells us (please ditch the fairness creams, people). And we certainly need not look to them for our culture (or to get a certificate from the Manmohan Singh/Akbar Owaisi university of Secularism), when our own high culture is peerless.

Can this sophistry about India being a land of immigrants really be the notions of high culture that we teach ourselves and our children? Read the text, while he speaks of Sanskrit as a language of science or even occasionally literature, it’s quite clear his goal is to push only Urdu as the literary tradition of choice, particularly for romance and poetry. Kalidasa is mentioned only to preemptively occupy the space, so that bollywood will continue to privilege the Shayari over the Shloka.

While there’s nothing wrong in appreciating a bollywood urdu shayari (though I personally prefer Kalidasa to Ghalib) , we must also take the time to learn about Sanskrit slokas and Telugu prabandhas. All things must be taken according to measure. While it is a sign of maturity when a Civilization can be open-minded to imported ideas (or syncretic traditions in Urdu’s case), India is the only country that privileges all things foreign (or foreign derived) above the native. This must cease henceforth.

Even more dangerous, Pakistanis and their KCRs (oops, I mean Gunga Dins) on the Indian side of Wagah, have  even been digesting native Indic high culture as their own. It’s one thing to stake claim to Biryani and Qawwali (which are certainly imports, no denialism here….)—but quite another to take Tandoori (the Tandoor is native to Rajasthan) and Classical Indian/Music and Dance. They masquerade as though the Natya Sastra did not exist or Classical traditions did not exist prior to Hindustani and Kathak (themselves primarily based on the Natya Sastra only tweaked to Mughal tastes). For God’s sake, some are even claiming traditional Bengali Sweets as “Mughlai”! You may now ask, “have they no shame?”, but the question really is, “don’t we?”

 That is the importance of documenting , propagating, and celebrating one’s own high culture. If we don’t clarify mistakes, if we don’t disprove propaganda, if we don’t perpetuate our own glorious high culture, someone else will deconstruct and digest our own culture whilst disparaging us. Before you laugh, let us not forget how the nefarious Nazis appropriated our Symbols (Swastika) and even our name for our Dharma (“Arya Dharma”) tragically perverting the meaning and auspiciousness of both. Language truly is culture.

 Appreciating Urdu does not mean pigeonholding Sanskrit or deriding Telugu. Diversity does not mean diluting one’s own culture. Cosmopolitanism does not mean negating one’s true identity, and Secularism certainly does not mean forgetting who we really are.

By all means, let Indians unite and allow both Majority and Minority to celebrate their respective traditions—but in fair and accurate measure. Enjoy your biryani and watch your bollywood, but also celebrate your own pulihora and Thyagaraja kirtanas. India is the home of Dharmic civilization—let us not forget this.

Above all, High Culture transmits Values. What are the principles that we must govern ourselves by? Who are the examples we must aspire towards? Whatever the laws may be, what moral code should guide our personal/private conduct? That is why it must be preserved at all costs.  After all, Modernizing does not mean Westernizing and Globalizing does not mean De-localizing, because if you’re from Everywhere, you’re from Nowhere.

Even the very British emigrant to America Christopher Hitchens recognized this when he said, “Globalization is only really interesting if we all bring something different”.

So tell me my dear reader, do you know what we as Andhras and Indians bring?