Under my byline

Khas khana

Posted in Architecture/Design, Foodie, Profiles by Rrishi on 14 September 2008

Filmmaker Ayesha Sood has a taste for the simple life

The electricity comes and goes in an off-tempo accompaniment to our conversation. It’s not the temperature we’re worried about, though, it’s the chicken. Two big legs of it are baking in the little oven, and we’re expecting to eat soon.

It better be soon, because Ayesha Sood’s home, a single, spacious room overlooking a fabulous Delhi resource, the Hauz Khas park (thank you, Sultan Alauddin), is so comfortable and user-friendly that the longer we stay, the less inclined we will be to leave.

Sood is a young filmmaker with an impressive list of credits. She has played all sorts of roles, from art assistant to assistant director, on the sets of such major productions as Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth and Water, Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine, Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya and the quirky Hollywood film The Guru.

Monsoon Wedding was the most fun I’ve ever had,” says Sood, adding that “The energy comes from the top,” — which means director Nair. Sood is a Delhiite, but the crew was mostly from out of town, so every day began in camaraderie and ended in a party. It helps that Sood is a ravening foodie (which you’d never guess from her narrow frame) and claims to know all of Delhi’s best food places.

“I think you have a lot of fun when [the filming] is not in Bombay,” she says. “There, it’s like a job, a dhanda. Every other film, you just want to finish.”

So committed was the Monsoon Wedding gang that, she says, many of the props came from their own homes. From Sood’s home framed family photos were commandeered and, she speculates, the costumes people sourced clothes out of their own almirahs.

In 2005 she started directing. With colleague Nitya Mehra, Sood made The Cherry on Top, a short film about a day in the life of two friends, a ragpicker and a pickpocket. It featured in the official selection at a number of international film festivals, from Brazil to Italy.

Sood has also directed Happy Go Lucky, a short TV series for Star One, and a series of short documentaries for NDTV and National Geographic. (One of the latter, about a tough woman village pradhan in UP named Madhuri, can be viewed on YouTube.) Now she is planning a “recce” to the north-east, to lay the groundwork for her next documentary, and simultaneously working on a “stills” project for which she has just bought and is getting acquainted with a digital camera.

With the chicken finally done, Sood assembles our simple lunch of chicken, asparagus and salad in her kitchen corner, atop a wooden counter. The dining table is a low wooden platform on castors that she pulls out from under her bed and over to the tall windows. We sit on cushions in appetising sunlight, overlooking the hauz and lots of trees.

FAVOURITE RECIPES

ZIPLOC CHICKEN

2 chicken leg-and-thigh pieces
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
Yoghurt
Rosemary
Olive oil
Sea salt

Make a few small, deep slits in chicken with knife point. Place chicken in Ziploc bag with yoghurt, a little olive oil and sea salt to taste — enough to coat pieces generously. Mash bag to rub in marinade. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from bag, place pieces on baking tray, rub in crushed garlic, cover with same marinade and sprinkle rosemary. Place in oven at 250 C. Check frequently. When it starts browning, reduce to 200 C and watch until done.

ASPARAGUS WITH SEA SALT AND PARMESAN

5-6 stems fresh asparagus
Olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt

Warm olive oil in pan on medium heat. Pan cook asparagus stems briefly, turning frequently. Remove and place on plate. Grate parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

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