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'Aishwarya, Madhuri, Sridevi loved my mother's Fish Curry'

Last updated on: April 30, 2013 19:23 IST

'Aishwarya, Madhuri, Sridevi loved my mother's Fish Curry'


Patcy N in Mumbai

An army, they say, travels on its stomach.

So does every industry you can think of.

Think about it -- doesn't good food always put you in a great frame of mind?

That's exactly what the caterers of the Indian film industry do.

They make sure everyone -- from the top stars to the spotboys -- are well fed so that every person associated with the making of a film can do a great job!

Normally, the caterers are hidden behind the limelight and very few people know the vital role they play.

As we continue our celebration of the 100 years of Indian cinema, we turn the spotlight on these quiet workers.

Today, we showcase the life of popular caterer Shivanna Shetty and his son, Purshottam.

Shivanna Shetty has made a career serving food to film folk. For 40 years, his Film Centre Canteen presented appetizing menus during film shoots.

Then, in the following 35 years, he catered to the stars and other film folk as proprietor of the Natraj Studio canteen.

His son, Purshottam, has his own catering business, Jhama Food Suppliers.

JFS has catered on the sets of films like Salman Khan's Bodyguard, the Abhishek Bachchan starrer Dum Maro Dum, Ajay Devgn's Himmatwala and Son of Sardaar, Vishal Bhardwaj's Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Rohit Shetty's Bol Bachchan and the soon-to-be-released Shootout At Wadala.

Purshottam Shetty lets Patcy N peek into the reality of a film caterer's life. He also lets her in on a few starry secrets... Here's one example: What tickles the tastebuds of stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi?

Over to Purshottam Shetty:

My father Shivanna Kudoor Shetty came to Mumbai from Mangalore at the age of seven to earn a living. The family was very poor and my father had huge responsibilities. You won't believe it, but he married off 14 of his siblings and cousins once he started working.

He came to Mumbai by boat and slept on the road outside Dadar station for a few days as he knew no one in the city. A few days later, he met a man, who gave him a job in a hotel washing vessels and cleaning tables. 

He was later allowed to take orders and was promoted to manager. He worked in many hotels. My father has toiled like no other man.

Image: Madhuri Dixit with Purshottam Shetty and other crew members


'When my father was 14, he started his own stall'

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When he was 14, he started his own stall in Wadala (in central Mumbai) where he met people who worked in the film industry. Somebody told him that Film Centre at Tardeo (in central Mumbai) wanted someone to run the canteen.

He ran the canteen well and then started running canteens in five different studios in Mumbai -- Bombay Film Lab, Famous Studio, Film Centre, Mehboob Studio and Natraj Studio. He also had hotels so he called his extended family and gave some of them jobs and some of them canteens to run.

My father became very famous. Director Pramod Chakraborty was a regular at our Film Centre canteen. He liked my father's food -- his favourite was my father's fish curry.

In 1968, he told my father that he and his partners -- filmmakers Atma Ram, Ramanand Sagar, F C Mehra and Shakti Samanta -- had rented Natraj Studio from its owner Shyam Sunder Saxena and they wanted my father to start a canteen there.

My father was too busy so he bought his nephew to run the Natraj Studio canteen.

Image: Pushottam Shetty and Abhishek Bachchan on the sets of Dhai Akshar Prem Ke

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'After Mr India, we became established in the catering business'

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In 1977, there was a dispute at Film Centre between the workers' union and the owners, and it went to court. It was settled in favour of the workers. Among the many things that the court ordered was that the canteen be handed over to the workers. 

My father, who had managed the canteen for 40 years, was asked to leave with one day's notice. He did not ask any questions, but wound things up and began managing the Natraj Studio canteen his nephew was managing for him. For the next 35 years my father managed the Natraj Studio's canteen. His nephew runs the canteen in Mehboob studios today.
Producer F C Mehra's brother Prakash Mehra (not the noted director Prakash Mehra, who made Zanjeer) suggested that my father start serving food on the sets during the shoots. 

So in 1978, he started catering on the sets with the film Bandi, starring Uttam Kumar and produced by F C Mehra. We got catering orders for all the movies produced or directed by the five partners (Pramod Chakraborty, Atma Ram, Ramanand Sagar, F C Mehra and Shakti Samanta) of Natraj Studios. Soon other filmmakers too started calling us to do their catering.
After Mr India, we became established in the catering business. Then came Tezaab and then there was no looking back. We did the catering for most of the films that were made at that time and for the next 20 years, we ruled the business. 

We have provided food for many film producers including Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parinda, 1942 A Love Story, the Munnabhai series, 3 Idiots, Pradeep Sarkar's Parineeta...

Image: Kareena Kapoor with Purshottam Shetty

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'Amitabh Bachchan loves Bhendi, Rajma and Dahi Kadi'

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I joined my father at the age of 12. I completed my education simultaneously. I wanted to be a chartered accountant but failed the entrance exams.

When Amitabh Bachchan shoots abroad, he mostly drinks juice and sometimes eats a pizza or burger. But during the shooting of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan in Mauritius, his personal assistant Praveen told us to make good food for him. 

I asked what saab likes and was told he loves Bhendi, Rajma and Dahi Kadi. I cooked all that the next day and he loved it so much that for the next 20 days, he ate the food prepared for the cast.
My mother prepares her special Fish Curry for the stars. Madhuri Dixit loved my mother's Fish Curry during the shoot of Tezaab. Sridevi too loved my mother's Fish Curry when she was shooting for Mr India and Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja.
My mother, wife and sister cooked special Manglorean food for the relatives of Aishwarya Rai during her wedding when guests stayed at her home. They made Kori Roti, Fish Curry among other things.
In fact, when I was shooting with Aishwarya on Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, I carried kori roti for her to Jaisalmer! 

Image: Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda on the sets of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan

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'Akshay's son Aarav loves eating vegetarian food'

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Sunny Deol loves Tandoori Chicken and Vada Pav from our canteen.
Akshay Kumar loves Paya and Fish Tawa. His make-up man Narendra would tell us what Akshay wants to eat that day. Akshay's son Aarav loves eating vegetarian food and he eats paratha with all his meals.

Salman Khan eats our food when he is on outdoor shoots. He loves our Rajma and Chicken Tikka. If he is shooting near Karjat, he goes to his farm house; if it is in Mumbai, his dabba comes from home.
Nana Patekar loves Missal Pav and Hema Malini loves Vegetable Toast Sandwich.
Shah Rukh wants Chicken Toast Sandwich in brown bread every day at 5pm.
Today, artistes like fish so we have to supply more fish items. In fact, we sent all the fish from Mumbai for Dedh Ishqiya in Lucknow because there we mostly get river water fish there.

Image: Purshottam Shetty with Aishwarya on the sets of Dhai Akshar Prem Ke

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'My father retired after he got knocked down by a bus and fractured his leg'

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My mother passed away in 2008 and my father retired after he got knocked down by a bus and fractured his leg-there is a steel rod in his leg. So we four brothers started running the business.

My older brothers Sadanand and Sarvottam Shetty take care of all the purchasing work. I take care of the kitchen. Venu Gopal Shetty, who loves acting -- he has acted in Marathi and Bhojpuri films -- runs my father's hotel. 

All the work is still controlled by my father. We have to go and tell him what we do day to day.
In 2009, we catered for two superstars movies on outdoor location -- Salman Khan's Dabangg in Wai, and Akshay Kumar's Khatta Meeta in Phaltan, both in Satara district about 60 km apart.
We cater to all the south Indian films that are shot in Mumbai as they want south Indian food.

Image: Purshottam Shetty with Preity Zinta

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'Shah Rukh wants chicken toast sandwich in brown bread every day at 5pm'

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Three years ago, in 2010, I struck out on my own. I call my concern Jhama Foods Supplier; my brothers still use the name Natraj Studio canteen for their catering business. 

There was no fight, no dispute. Initially, everybody at home put lots of pressure on me not to separate, but my astrologer told me I will flourish so I separated with everybody's consent. The last film I catered for with my family was Dabangg. With Bodyguard, I went separate.
For Shah Rukh Khan's Don, 10 caterers were called on different days to serve food on the sets. We were number six to present our food, and our food was selected.  
Some of the movies that I have catered for are Bodyguard, Dum Maro Dum, Himmatwala, Shootout At Wadala, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Bol Bachchan and Son Of Sardaar.
Recently, we provided food on the sets of Ajith's film Vellai in Mumbai.

Image: Rakhee cooks Prawn Curry on the sets

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'Even Sachin Tendulkar loves our food'

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Currently I am working on Shah Rukh Khan's film in Kerala, Chennai Express, and Akshay Kumar's Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai 2. 

I am also doing the catering for Prabhu Deva's Ramaiya Vastavya, Vishal Bhardwaj's Dedh Ishqiya, in Lucknow, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Ram Leela, Dharma Productions Jawani Deewani, Ungli, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, Fox Star's Bang Bang and Salman Khan's Mental. 

Even Sachin Tendulkar loves our food. He told me so when he was shooting for a shoe ad. I also cater for television serials like Jhalak Dikhlaja, India's Got Talent, and for corporate events and awards function
When we provide food on the sets in Mumbai, the actors get their own dabbas, but they sometimes taste food from the sets. When they are shooting abroad, they get their own cook but they eat the food from the sets also or sometimes they ask us to prepare certain dishes for them. When the cook packs the star's dabba they pack our food also in that dabba.

Image: Sachin Tendulkar

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'Today, it is difficult to get close to the actor'

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On the sets the food is of A, B and C category. In A category, non-veg dishes are extra and it is for the cast of the film. B and C are almost the same -- B is for the crew and C is for the junior artistes and helpers on the sets. 

In the old days, we cooked the food and took it to the sets but nowadays we have to set up live counters for roti or Tandoori Paneer and chicken. On an outdoor shoot, we have to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel rooms.
Nowadays, there is no access to actors as there are so many people in between. Earlier, actors like Dharmendra would talk to us.
It doesn't look like the next generation of our family will enter the catering industry. My three sons are not interested. My brother's kids are also not interested in the catering business.

Image: Shivanna Shetty and his wife

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