As the video begins to play, you first see a camera panning to a hand carefully washing grains of rice. The next shot is of a kadhai with a dollop of ghee, which begins to sizzle when a handful of onions and whole spices are added to it.
Sounds like an ordinary Indian kitchen, doesn’t it? Well, you couldn’t be more wrong!
The video in question is from a YouTube channel named ‘Miniature Cooking Show,’ run by Chennai-based sibling duo Saravanan KV and Ranjitha KV. They have been preparing mouthwatering delicacies in a miniature kitchen and showcasing them on their YouTube channel, since 13 February 2018.
Currently, the channel has over 98.6k subscribers, and 134 videos where the duo have cooked recipes from across the country including pav bhaji, biryani, samosas and even desserts like caramel custard and rasmalai cake.
“Nowadays, the concept of home cooking is getting lost among millennials. With multiple take-out options, they prefer to order in rather than make something in the kitchen. The reason why we chose this concept is that it is not only something that can interest adults but children too. If you see, most of the utensils we have used are bought from toy shops to grab kids’ attention. Cooking is a skill that we need to learn, and there’s nothing better than starting young,” says 28-year-old Saravanan, who is a visual designer at an IT firm.
What’s also interesting is that with every milestone achieved, the duo ensures that they give back to society.
For example, after the 50th video, they cooked chicken biryani and curry for over 200+ kids at an orphanage, and after the 120th video, they started an initiative where they would cook food and serve it to the homeless people.
“After reading up a lot on starvation deaths over a month back, I found that a lot more people die of hunger than any disease. Therefore, for every video we shoot, we feed two or three people who aren’t as fortunate as us,” says Saravanan.
So, how did the idea come about?
“I have been cooking since I was 10. Our mother is an entrepreneur who runs her tailoring unit, and would often leave at 10 AM and only return in the evening. She would cook our meals, but if we were home, I would cook something. It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment,” says 21-year-old Ranjitha, a fashion design student.
She adds that she’s always been good at crafting things, and would often make clothes for dolls and other small objects.
“So, one day, I thought of combining my two huge passions and told Saravanan that I wanted to start a cooking show. We then started researching online and stumbled upon miniature cooking, which was a unique concept across the world, but still unknown in India. We loved it, and knew that this is what we wanted to do,” she mentions.
The duo then began to forage for tiny utensils for their kitchen. They would often visit toy shops and buy kitchen sets which met their size requirements, while others, they would buy online. Additionally, they also purchased traditional cooking wares made from clay, brass, and eversilver.
“We wanted to set up a miniature kitchen and bring Indian recipes into the limelight but also wanted viewers to become aware of traditional utensils. Cooking in these utensils is good for health and can help artisans who make these wares,” says Saravanan.
While Ranjitha cooks, Saravanan shoots and edits the videos.
“Our miniature food is edible. We don’t have to necessarily shoot in a particular angle to make it look that way. I adjust the camera based on our theme and the food. We upload videos on the weekend and edit during the weekdays. We take constructive criticism from each other. Constant monitoring of analytics gives us an update on what the audience wants as well,” Saravanan had mentioned in a different interview.
Their favourite videos include the vegetarian thali recipe, the chicken drumstick recipe, and their ‘motu-patlu’ samosa recipe which got them over 6.1 million views!
“We named the recipe based on two famous cartoon characters to make it more interactive for kids and that paid off well,” says Saravanan.
Shooting videos and dealing with challenges
Currently, the duo shoots their videos in an outdoor setting where they try to showcase the village life set up with figurines of cows, hay, huts which is very visually engaging. They also recently set up an indoor shooting setup where everything was built from scratch.
“We sourced plywood to make small chopping boards, tabletops, and stools. Setting it all up took almost six months!” informs Ranjitha.
Once the videos are shot, they edit them based on the platforms they would be uploading it on like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Each of these edits needs to be different, and the brother and sister divide the work amongst themselves. While Saravana was editing all the videos earlier, Ranjitha also started using the software and tools, and quickly picked up the skills.
However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the duo.
It took time for them to master the specifics of cooking, figuring out measurements and adapting recipes, but the duo kept at it.
“It took me almost 50 videos to master the proportions in each recipe after multiple trials at home. Also, shooting outside with the wind, rain and other weather unpredictable factors can be difficult,” mentions Ranjitha.
Despite the challenges, the duo is relentless in their pursuits to bring us the perfect recipes with their passion not having dampened one bit. Now, they have big plans for the future.
“Once the lockdown is over, we want to travel across India and highlight the local cuisines from each place. We want to show how these dishes are cooked traditionally and also give our twist to it. But, most importantly our main goal will always be to make people fall in love with cooking and convey that it isn’t a daunting task but something that can bring you joy,” says Saravanan signing off.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)