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Sameer Sharma, the director of Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, on why food has not been a central theme in Indian films despite being in the industry's DNA.
Some of Sameer Sharma's most vivid memories revolve around food and family — his nani's sweet and salty Gujarati daal, mutton curry and tandoori paranthas made by family khaansama Dehramji, and butter chicken at the dhabas near his hometown Gurdaspur in Punjab. These reminiscences, not surprisingly, then, also define his directorial debut — titled Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
It is this connection between family and food that has made Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, which he dubs as "essentially a story of protagonist Omi Khurana's homecoming", the first Bollywood film in the food genre. "We are a country obsessed with food. It was impossible for me to tell a story about Omi's connection with his family without food being integral to it," explains Sharma, who started out in the industry as an assistant director for Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and has, since then, penned several films including Bhoot and Swades.
The film, co-written by Sumit Bhateja, revolves around Omi, played by Kunal Kapoor, who ran away from home at a very young age. Following trouble with some gangs in London, he returns home many years later in the hope of some monetary aid. However, he realises that his grandfather's dhaba, called Chicken Khurana after his famous chicken preparation, has shut down and his childhood sweetheart is engaged to his cousin. Omi realises that in order to set his life right, he must discover the recipe of Chicken Khurana, which his grandfather — veteran actor Vinod Nagpal who plays Daarji — no longer remembers.
Set in the village of Lalton in Punjab, the film has been shot primarily on location and also in Ludhiana. Sharma was keen on keeping the Punjabi factor authentic "as opposed to the common Bollywoodised version", and had, therefore, earlier decided to make it as a Punjabi language movie. "When Anurag Kashyap came on board as a producer, he encouraged me to make it into a commercial entertainer," explains Sharma.