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India-Pakistan rivalry gets new battleground - reality TV

Thursday January 26, 2012 09:36:43 AM, Radhika Bhirani, IANS

New Delhi: The fervour and frenzy of an India-Pakistan contest has gone beyond the realms of cricket and entered the reality television pitch, with shows like "Foodistan" and "Sur-kshetra". Simmering on the small screen is rivalry and bonding over food and music.

"Foodistan", which went on air on NDTV Good Times Monday, brings together 16 professional chefs - eight each from India and Pakistan - on a common platform to battle it out for culinary supremacy.

Sahara One's "Sur-kshetra", a yet-to-be-launched music-based reality show, will have singers from both the nations competing with each other.

But the idea is not to rub in the rivalry and cash in on it for entertainment purposes, says Smeeta Chakrabarti, CEO, NDTV Lifestyle. It will also be about bonding.

"It's all a mix of rivalry and bonding. I don't think we have abused the rivalry at all. It is pretty healthy. Sometimes all the stress is not between the two nation is within the team itself because there's so much national pride at stake that they are really tough on each other. There was a lot of bonding and brotherhood during the show and, of course, cultural exchange," Chakrabarti told IANS.

Karachi-based chef Khursheed Amina Agha, popularly called Poppy, came down to India for "Foodistan" and says "it's a home away from home". She not only loved the experience but also took home some recipes that would have otherwise remained out of reach.

"The show didn't really feel like a face-off. And even if it was, it was against the judges. I think such efforts are great for cultural exchange because I've found new ways of looking at a particular I learnt the use of breadcrumbs, which we don't really use in our cooking. But I've taken that learning with me," Poppy told IANS.

She is totally sold out on south Indian cuisine.

"South Indian cuisine is not there in our country. It was not available in that part of north India before partition. So I've learnt rasam, dosa...a lot of Mangalorean and Chettinad cuisine that I might never have learnt otherwise," said the star cook, who wants to redevelop subcontinental cooking and modernise it for Pakistani food enthusiasts.

In the meantime, preparations are on for "Sur-kshetra".

While the team of "Foodistan" managed to arrange visas for eight chefs from Pakistan, the "Sur-kshetra" team has had to shift shooting base to Dubai.

Producer Gajendra Singh, who has attempted to bridge the gap between India and Pakistan through shows like "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Singing Superstars" and "Chhote Ustaad" in the past, believes his new show will also act as a catalyst between the two nations.

"I don't believe there's a better tool than songs to bring India and Pakistan together," Singh has been quoted as saying.

"Sur-kshetra" already has Pakistani singer Atif Aslam associated with it as the captain of his country's team and efforts are on to get more big names on board.

Over the years, several Pakistani singers have found a foothold in the Indian entertainment industry. Be it Aslam, Adnan Sami, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar, Sonya Jehan, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen or controversy queen Veena Malik, these talents from across the border have garnered popularity in India -- and the trend will hopefully continue thanks to such reality shows.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at




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