Sadya @ desert! Mohanlal's menu during 'Vaaliban' shoot would surprise you

Juby Varghese, the owner of the Fair Dine Caterers in Kottayam  with Mohanlal
Juby Varghese, the owner of the Fair Dine Caterers in Kottayam with Mohanlal. Photo: Special Arrangement

'Vaaliban' is someone who can make miracles happen. Be it bringing down his opponents, charming those around him or enticing others with a delectable platter served for him. 'Malaikottai Vaaliban' the latest Mohanlal-starrer has made another challenging task come to fruit even before it hit the box office – by setting up a massive kitchen and a giant crew that whips out the best of Kerala cuisine in the middle of a desert.

Juby Varghese, the owner of the Fair Dine Caterers in Kottayam was excited when Kochumon of Century Films asked him whether he could ‘send’ Kerala-style rice and curries all the way up to Rajasthan. The food was for superstar Mohanlal and the crew who were filming for ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’. Juby thought that it would be for 50-100 persons for a few days since it was a filming location. However, he was really surprised when Kochumon said that he had to cater for at least 500 crew members that too for over 120 days. Juby decided to give it a try as it seemed like a golden opportunity. He soon hit the roads with his beloved catering tempo traveller to serve mouthwatering dishes to Mohanlal and team on the sets of ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ in Rajasthan.

Sadya @ desert

The vessels and other cooking equipment were transported to Rajasthan via road covering around 2,700 kilometres. The film was shot in a remote village on the border of Jaisalmer where Malayalis are scarce. Interestingly, Pakistan is just 100 kilometres away from here. The film was extensively shot in the deserts at Jaisalmer and Pokhran too. A dedicated team of thirty members did all the cooking and catering jobs. The vegetables and other items that are required to cook Kerala dishes weren’t available there. So, ingredients like parboiled rice, coconut oil, coconuts, masala and rice flour were transported to the location from Kottayam. Later, Juby met a Keralite based in Delhi who is a wholesale dealer of grocery items. From Delhi, groceries and other items were transported to Jaisalmer via road covering around 900 kilometres.

The Kerala menu

Even though ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ was shot in the deserts of Rajasthan, the food that was served on the sets was mostly Kerala cuisine. Appam, puttu, chapati, idiyappam, puri, upma, dosa or idli were served with two or three curries. For lunch, rice or chapati was served with six varieties of dishes. The dinner menu included kanji (rice gruel), stir-fried mung beans, coconut chutney, chapati, chicken curry and salad. Among the non-veg items, chicken and mutton dishes were the stars. Even though fish or beef wasn’t available in Rajasthan, Juby managed to bring fish from Delhi and cooked delicious Kottayam-style fish curry for the crew members.

Moreover, on special occasions, Juby treated the crew members to mouthwatering chicken biryani, beef biryani, boiled tapioca and fish curry and porotta and chicken. In Pokhran, foreign artists had joined the film set. English-style breakfast and other dishes that suit their taste buds too were prepared in the kitchen set up by Juby's team. He even thrilled everyone with the occasional pop-up ‘thattukada’ (wayside eatery) on the set. Delicious dosa varieties and omelettes were freshly made as per order at the ‘thattukada’.

Fair Dine team at Rajasthan
The vessels and other cooking equipment were transported to Rajasthan via road covering around 2,700 kilometres by the Fair Dine team Photo: Special Arrangement

Mohanlal’s mass menu

Actor Mohanlal was part of the filming crew for around eighty days. He reached the sets two days before the filming began. As he was on a special protein diet to maintain the physique of the character, Mohanlal didn’t eat many things, including chicken. So, Juby altered his menu to suit the dietary requirements of the screen icon. Mohanlal’s menu mostly had dishes cooked with mutton, eggs, leafy vegetables and fresh vegetables. He even cooked the iconic jackfruit seed and mango curry, which is a nostalgic dish for natives of Kottayam, for Mohanlal. Juby recalls how the actor had enjoyed the dish. Mohanlal preferred having dishes like dosa/idli with thick coconut chutney, puttu and Bengal gram curry and appam and stew for breakfast. Meanwhile, mutton soup, nicely cooked rice, fish curry that isn’t too spicy and leafy vegetables were served for lunch. Dinner consisted of simple dishes like semolina puttu or dosa, oats porridge or rice gruel. Mohanlal really enjoys vermicelli payasam as dessert. Moreover, he strictly ate cooked mung beans with all his meals. Mohanlal, a self-confessed foodie didn’t forget to ask Juby for the recipes of a few dishes that he really loved.

Vaaliban’s spectacular menu

Vaaliban is someone who possesses superhuman powers. So, he had giant meals comprising unique dishes that gave him special strength. The pictures of Vaaliban sitting joyfully in front of a basket full of rice, loads of curries and non-vegetarian dishes have been ruling the social media. Juby says that these dishes weren’t dummies or models created by the art department. Instead, these are real food items that were cooked in the kitchen at the location. Vaaliban’s giant menu included dishes like rice, fried whole mutton legs, whole chicken fry and loads of vegetables and other curries. Juby cooked this menu at least thrice in his kitchen for shooting purposes.

Kochumon of Century Films, Mohanlal, and Judy Varghese
Kochumon of Century Films, Mohanlal, and Judy Varghese. Photo: Special Arrangement

From Mandiram to Malaikottai

Juby has been running the canteen at the Mandiram Hospital in Kottayam for the last 41 years. He has been associating with his father in the catering business since a young age. He also runs a catering service, Fair Dine Caterers, based in Kottayam. It was on the sets of Madhuram at Kottayam, that Juby had served food for the first time in a shooting location.  

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