Quite a few summers back when life was still carefree and all dreamy with Feminist thoughts in my head I was working on my Masters of Sociology thesis, the topic being an in-depth study on women’s empowerment ,the focus being Kolkata based women performing artists -their personal and professional life.Let’s admit we all have immense curiosity about the life of celebrities particularly actresses,to know what lies behind the aura of -camera ,light and action!I got to interview a number of actresses of by gone days and current times as well,but a few interview touched my heart,specially the ones by noted Bengali actresses Gita Dey and Supriya Chowdhury(popularly known as Benu di ).
We have all been mesmerized by the power packed performances of Gita Dey in films like Meghe Dhaka Tara,Komol Gandhar,Teen Kanya,but really what I saw of her when I met her was bit saddening and unexpected.While I walked through the dingy alleys of North Calcutta to reach her Manicktala house,disappointment set in.The glamorous and powerful character artist’s (as she addressed herself) cinematic existence was rather sidelined,and roles reduced to mere guest appearances,but the aura was yet to fade.I greeted her with a pranam and a box of sweets,when I saw her.She talked for hours about
how she entered the film world and how she struggled through initially,baring it all,almost.Nothing perturbed her unputdownable spirit then and now,when she was struggling to make both ends meet with a schizophrenic son to look after.The interview lasted for a couple of hours.I was about to get up,rolling my interview notes carefully,when she suddenly stopped me from getting up saying
”bosho,mishti anacchee”(seat,I am getting sweets for you).Been there with her for two hours,and a look at the dilapidated state of the house I fathomed her financial condition quite well.”Dida,I will come some other day for the sweets”,I quipped.Probably she read my mind,”Sohini,I am still not that much poor that I can’t treat you with few sweets,specially,when you have brought me a box of sweet”.I felt a lump in my throat,so just nodded in agreement.True ,as they said stars are born ,not made.She was one of them.
Another actress,who impressed me was Supriya Chowdhury,also known as Supriya Debi.Supriya charmed many,and earned a huge fan following since the 1950s along with the contemporary actress Suchitra Sen as the Bengali film leading ladies.Supriya Debi
unlike Gita Dey lived a life in the fast lane,she enjoyed the status of being the real life love interest of the legendary Bengali star-actor Uttam Kumar.She was born on the Chinese border of Burma in a place called Mytchina.She reminisced her childhood days-how she along with her family
walked for a month and 23 days to Calcutta,during the World War II .She stated her modest life experiences made her more grounded. In-spite of her star status she enjoyed doing many of her own day to day activities ,including cooking and she enjoyed every bit of it.Much later,I came across this book written by her-”Benu di’r Rannabanna”(Benudi’s Cooking) where she shared
anecdotes of her experiences in the film world along with some of her much loved recipes.In her book she tells how Bollywood actor Sanjeev Kumar revisited her all the way from Bombay(now Mumbai) just to enjoy delicacies cooked by her.One of the recipes,which she made to treat Sanjeev Kumar was ”Kaju Chicken”
Of the recipes I tried from her book,this one is my personal favorite.This rich and creamy Indian chicken dish goes well with rice or naan,and bears the potential to be a showstopper recipe in a dinner party.
- Chicken drumsticks : 8 pieces
- Whole black cardamom powder: 1 tablespoon
- 3 Onions(large -medium sized), finely sliced
- Greek Yogurt/ thick hung yogurt: 1/2 cup
- Red chili powder: 1 tablespoon( adjust according to taste)
- Ginger paste : 1 tablespoon
- Garlic paste : 1 tablespoon
- Cashew nut ,dry roasted : 50 gm
- Cream: 50 ml
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Kewra essence, a drop(optional)
- Oil,to cook
- Wash,clean,pat dry the chicken drumsticks.Rub them with salt and keep aside.Fry the chicken drumsticks till golden brown.
- Fry the onion slices ,till golden brown,keep aside.
- In a bowl mix yogurt with red chili powder,ginger-garlic paste,sugar and salt to taste.Whisk and mix properly,keep aside.
- In the remaining oil in the wok,put 1 tablespoon of big whole cardamom powder.Put the yogurt -spice mix in the oil and stir continuously at low flame.
- Cook till the oil separates.
- Put the fried chicken drumsticks and the fried onions ,ones the oil separates from the yogurt-spice mix.Cover and cook at low sim.
- Add the roasted cashew nut paste ,once the chicken is well cooked.
- Add cream and kewra essence(if using),and give it a good stir.
- Put off the flame ,cover the chicken and give it a standing time of 5 minutes on the hob.
- Serve hot with rice/naan/rumali roti.