Mumbai event: Exhibition showcases Indian restaurants from around the world

Updated: 27 September, 2017 13:19 IST | Shraddha Uchil | Mumbai

An exhibition uses the example of Indian restaurants around the world to show you how culture is steadily being commercialised

Taste of India — three words that you're bound to spot on the signboard of at least one desi restaurant in every major city around the world. Step inside one of these, and you're likely to find framed photographs of the Taj Mahal, speakers playing soft classical music, and a menu filled with items such as 'naan bread' and butter chicken. These are the restaurants selling brand India on a plate, and from tomorrow, you can delve deeper into this phenomenon by heading to an exhibition titled The Real Taste of India.

Taste of India restaurants in (above) Mexico and (below) Canada
Taste of India restaurants in (above) Mexico and (below) Canada

Let it simmer
Chinar Shah and Nihaal Faizal, artists from Bengaluru, have curated the show. Shah runs a home gallery called Home Sweet Home and teaches at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. Faizal, meanwhile, has been involved in the organisation of various exhibition projects. The exhibition is a commentary on homogenised national identity and the commercialisation of culture. "While the existing Taste of India restaurants across the globe aren't part of a single large chain, they use the same brand name and often employ similar strategies of design, identity and décor," explains Shah.The Real Taste of India was first conceived as an exhibition by Shah, Faizal and their friend, Aileen Blaney. The trio set up shop inside a Taste of India restaurant in Yelahanka New Town in Bengaluru, and called the exhibition A Bit to Eat. Over the last one-and-a-half years, Shah and Faizal have spent time further developing the project.

Butterly delicious
Interestingly, the storefront pictures that have been used to announce the exhibition won't actually be a part of the show. "They're just there as reference material, so people have an idea what to expect when they come in," says Shah. The installations make use of content taken from the Internet, a medium that the curators believe shapes our understanding of the world and also of national identity. For instance, there is a sound piece that uses a text-to-speech converter to repeat the words 'Taste of India' in 51 accents. "This is a representation of the various ways in which people from different parts of the world pronounce the same phrase," says Shah. Yet another part of the show involves travel postcards that are intentionally bereft of visuals. Instead, what you get are the postal addresses of hundreds of Taste of India restaurants. "We also have one work where we took the TripAdvisor ratings of 247 of these restaurants and converted them into magnets," she adds.

One installation has plates featuring diners' reviews of a number of these restaurants
One installation has plates featuring diners' reviews of a number of these restaurants

No food for thought
The duo has deliberately chosen to exclude food from the narrative. "It was a conscious decision. We opted to do this because so much of the material we have used in the exhibition is sourced from the Internet. And when you're reading about a restaurant online, you don't get to eat its food, right?" says Shah. The closest you will come to seeing food of any kind is a sculpture of the Indian map, made entirely out of Amul butter. "The brand is closely tied to India's identity, so it only made sense to include it. Moreover, their tagline is 'The Taste of India'. Since the sculpture is made of butter, it will melt through the duration of the exhibition. This is also meant to signify the melting of boundaries."

Chinar Shah and Nihaal Faizal
Chinar Shah and Nihaal Faizal

TILL: December, 11 am to 7 pm (Mondays closed)
AT: Mumbai Art Room, Pipewala Building, Fourth Pasta Lane, Colaba.
CALL: 9757403293

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First Published: 27 September, 2017 13:04 IST

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