Best Vada Pav

December 2017, Navi Peth, Pune.

It was a small shop at the edge of the road where traffic met from 4 different directions and halted before the signal. Inside, three tables and four chairs around each. Dignified, playfully round, just-fried yellow batata vadas gleamed from inside the glass counters while pavs sat smiling on top. A stack of newspaper cuttings were holed into a pin-stand on the wall. I was standing outside to get an auto to take me to Savitribai Phule University.

Decided against it and went in after I heard the vadas sizzling cozily inside the tava they were swimming in. Ordered two vada pavs – one for now , one for later. Sat waiting at one of the tables and watched men in office clothes reading the newspaper hurriedly and slowing down only to eat vada pav.

I bit into mine as soon as it came. Hot. Steam escaped from the gaps of my teeth and I let out an oval howl. Pushed the vada around the walls of my mouth so they wouldn’t linger on the tongue for very long. I imagined my vada as a Victorian lady holding the edges of her skirt, face wrinkled, eyes shut, trying to cross a puddle.

Pav soothed the burns but only until I bit into the chili which gave me a renewed sense of mouth. I finished the rest of vadapav carefully, biting enough of both to sustain heat and burns in equal measure. But the thing with a vadapav is, no matter how careful you are, it will do whatever it wants to in your mouth. On top of everything, with a chili in hand, one can never sit still. Even half-eaten, you can neither keep holding it or throw it. Eventually it will make a home in your mouth and you must learn to shut up and let it.

I took the other vadapav and put it in my bag. Lunch sorted, I thought. Ten minutes later, outside Savitribai Phule University in the auto, I took it out of my bag and ate it the same way I ate its twin.

It was a happy day.

HUNTERRR

I watched Hunterrr today and it made me howl and giggle and laugh and oof. It was refreshing to be drawn into the world of young male cousins bathing together, of them seeking a chest to lean against and cry at funerals, of them speaking of nothing but love and marriage and sex and shit, of men who don’t forget to carry left over pieces of chicken kebabs while running after their Devdas friends who drunkenly leave tanni on the table to go settle matters of the heart.

It is a rare film. Because usually male narration of itself is exhausting. Hunterrr isn’t. Because usually male narration of itself tends to have a Ranbir Kapoor- type aura around it even if there’s no Ranbir Kapoor around. But Mandar Ponkshe is delightfully anything but Ranbir Kapoor. And that’s not the only lovely thing about him. The man is full dil. Gulshan Devaiah who plays Mandar is apparently a Bengloor huduga who went to Cluny’s and then to Joseph’s Indian.

There is also Radhika Apte in the film before she became the Radhika Apte. She is Trupti who is stunning in her clarity of what she doesn’t know she wants in life. There is a small shopping scene at a market where important conversations around love and marriage happen simultaneously with alteration directions to a tailor ( also featuring in the scene is Satrapi’s Persepolis) 

Mandar lost in shops is a whole museum of comedy.

*Scene One: Women are bra- shopping and Apte tells Mandar to go talk to (read: put line for) one of the women. Hero goes there in his most sex energy on legs kind of way and is asked by the woman to give her a 36 D bra. He is staring, Apte is laughing. He puts his hand inside a tub full of bras. Sales boy comes and tells him ey don’t put kai man, you are dabaoing everything. Mandar says eh fuckoff man what is there to dabao here anyway? (In my head my mangloor sisters and I are rolling & laughing)

**Scene Two: Mandar in a supermarket following Apte. But the store manager is following him and asking him questions like ‘Sir what you eat in morning sir? Corn flakes, muesli, bran, tell me sir tell me”. Mandar says I eat poha and walks off. Hengappa kannada huduga ishtu sexy aada Marathi alli? I am asking. 

The scene that took my heart away has young Mandar, his father, another young cousin walking to his village. Random paapa smol kid doing open tatti stands up almost militarily to greet them and say ‘Haiiiii’. Tatti-doing boy’s father yells in the background ‘ey gadhava bas khali’ 

Man organising bloo fillum in seedy theatre instructs men not to do dirty things or he will rub tiger balm there and all. The other thing he rubs is one burn for young Mandar whom he calls ‘Baby Mushroom’. In the middle of the screening, cops come off. “I came to watch chota chetan”, mandar says. “Came to watch chota chetan or to make chota chetan bada?” cop asks. 

_________

Getting to know a city through a film set in it is becoming rare. I am not complaining. I am grateful that it happens only now and then because when it does, it teaches me to look where I am not used to looking, and to pay attention when it’s so easy not to. Hunterrr has Pune in the way that Mumbai is never allowed to overshadow it. In the way that Mysore used to be until everything became Bangalore.

Hunterrr has the same energy of old Bengloor love stories that I keep demanding from friends to narrate and re-narrate until I can see them instead of Anil Kapoor in Naguva Nayana, and see Premier bookshop every time I walk past Church street. It makes room for a rare pause in that song where you can walk to a cart selling guavas and buy some for your lover and yourself. Fruits man, fucking fruits.

***Scene Three

Mandar and cousin sleep on the footpath after the chicken kebab- scene. Context is that Mandar is waiting to go and tell Apte everything about his raunchy past. Cousin says fuck you bastard tell after you get married otherwise she will leave you ra. Mandar doesn’t listen. Cousin convinces him to sober down a little so they decide to sleep on the footpath. Early next morning Mandar goes into Apte’s apartment leaving sleeping cousin behind. Camera doesn’t begin and die with heroes only. At one paapa moment, it returns to find sleeping cousin being rudely woken by a walking passerby thatha. 

Haven’t watched a film like this in soooo long. It returns with grace to the moments other films have trained us to forget and move on from. Pah.

Mr M discovered this byooty on Prime. But I sincerely believe he is lucky to have me give him all these lovely film reccos man.