Hansal Mehta recalled the exciting, inspiring story of celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor. In a new interview, Hansal mentioned how ZeeTV has refused to install Sanjeev as the host of their cookery show, Khana Khazana, which was produced by Hansal. (Also read: When Irrfan Khan was intimidated by his co-star in first acting job)
Sanjeev saw superstardom and was the biggest name in the Indian cooking-shows industry in the 1990s and 2000s. However, not everyone was confident that he could make it work.
In an interview with Mashable, Hansal said about his first job as a filmmaker, “ZeeTV had just started so I went there. I wrote a proposal, a flow chart actually, about what the show will be like. I thought I was so cool. Within three weeks, ZeeTV gave me a check, saying ‘yes, you make the show’. The start was phenomenal. You almost feel like ‘F*ck, you’ve arrived.’ I got a show based on food! Both things together.”
“I would go to hotel, looking for chefs who would look presentable. I went to Centaur, now Tulip Star Banquet Hall. I asked the manager. He presented my four chefs like it was my swayamvar. ‘Choose the one you like’. So we’re all having coffee and another guy in a chef coat arrives. He tells me that I should let him know if he needs anything, ‘my name is Sanjeev Kapoor’. He was not invited by the FnB manager,” Hansal added.
He said he went home and called Sanjeev to ask him to meet up. They started shooting but Sanjeev was ‘rejected’ by ZeeTV. “They said, ‘nahi, nahi (no, no) we want a woman. Housewives want someone relatable, a woman cooking, not a man.” Hansal said that they struggled for 12 weeks. The show did not take off with the female chef-host. By the 12th episode, the channel gave up and told Hansal that they were shutting down the show. For the last few episodes, he was allowed to do whatever he liked.
When the chef they had called refused to appear, Hansal called Sanjeev again. “Sanjeev came over and asked me ‘what do I make’? I showed him the paneer, the spinach, the chicken, onion, tomatoes and stuff. He said he’ll think of something. And he came up with this dish called Shaam Savera. Hansal described the dish as spinach and paneer dumplings in a buttery gravy. He added the dish became ‘iconic’, changing lives for both of them. He said that he got more than one lakh letters from people, praising the dish and ‘Sanjeev Bhaiyaa’.
Sanjeev was part of the show for 22 years. He later opened his chain of successful restaurants and Hansal went on to make hit and acclaimed movies such as Aligarh, Shahid and more.