'Directing Shabana Azmi is one of the greatest highlights of my life': Chef Vikas Khanna

Micheline-star Chef Vikas Khanna talks about his second directorial venture and working with veteran actor Shabana Azmi

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Monday, January 16, 2023, 12:45 PM IST
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The 2019 film, The Last Color, starring veteran actor Neena Gupta, marked Michelin-star Chef Vikas Khanna’s debut as a filmmaker. The Chef, who wears many hats — author, entrepreneur, reality show judge, and philanthropist — is ready with his second directorial venture, Imaginary Rain. Veteran actor Shabana Azmi plays an aspiring Indian chef who moves to America in the movie.

Talking about the movie and casting, Vikas said he only had Azmi in mind for the role. “Give me one name that could replace Shabanaji. She is not just an actor but someone who feels the role. She is completely into the role and she is an actor who knows we have to work hard to live that character,” Vikas said. He further revealed that Azmi would even remember her continuity scenes. “She would know if the tear had come from the left eye. I have no words but to admire her professionalism and talent. One of the greatest highlights of my life is to direct Shabana Azmi,” he added.

The movie, which releases today, is based on Vikas’s book of the same name. The chef-filmmaker, who is in India for the ongoing MasterChef India series, recently met Azmi to give her the book. “I feel proud that I became one of the few filmmakers who directed both Shabanaji and Neenaji. Shabanaji knew I was chasing her. I would cry every day for an opportunity to direct Shabanaji. She made much better Koftas than me,” he avered. Vikas was advised to cast young actors for the role.

“People said why can’t I get Alia Bhatt, Janhvi Kapoor or Ananya Panday because the movie will be released internationally as well. I said I don’t understand, is that even a question? It takes a certain texture to build certain textures and stories. So, who could do it better than Shabana Azmi?” he added. The movie is also a celebration of Indian culture and cuisine. Vikas said that the veteran actor had never cooked in her life. “I am the first person to make Shabanaji peel her first aloo and make chicken tikka on tandoor, rotis, and sweets. She has never cooked in her life. She made her first chapati on the set and that burnt chapati was my display picture on WhatsApp,” Vikas shared.

With the movie, Vikas wanted to highlight the people who work behind the scenes. “It’s a hard job for women, especially when they are in the background. I wanted to start a communication about the fact that there are people behind all the Olympians and Michelines and their life. The story talks about the current culture and Indian visibility of people who created a foundation for these winners,” he signed off

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