If there is one thing that social media has brought into our lives, it is the total democratisation of content — you can become a filmmaker and showcase your talent and there is an audience to appreciate and motivate you. And of course, if you are good, then success finds you online.
Foodzeee is one such Instagram account that is redefining the way people appreciate traditional cooking.
With traditional utensils, the authenticity of the food and the camera angles that feature the cooks’ well-ornamented hands as they weave their magic with ingredients — every reel is a treat.
With 7.05 lakh followers, this page is curated by 23-year-old Shivboojitha who started this page five years ago out of her passion for cooking. A resident of Bengaluru, Shivboojitha says that her early food memories are all to do with her mother and her delicious cooking. “My sister and I have been very keen cooks since a very young age ourselves,” she adds.
“It was the first lockdown in March 2020 that pushed me to start posting consistently,” says Shivboojitha to The Better India.
My Daughter, The Director
“It was during the lockdown that I started working on designing and conceptualising videos to feature my mother [Swarnalakshmi Srinivasan],” says Shivboojitha. Until August 2020, Shivboojitha was both making and featuring in the videos. However, she says, she enjoys this phase more, when she gets to direct her mother and put together each video.
“I have learnt so much while working on these videos. From working on different camera angles to playing with the available lighting – it has been such a fun experience,” she says. The first video the duo worked on was the Kalyana Maangai Oorugaai, a wedding style raw mango pickle, which garnered more than 5.6 million views.
“This was also one of the videos that Instagram featured on their ‘explore’ section and the reach of this video is what pushed us to do more and better,” she says.
Swarnalakshmi, the lady who does all the cooking, says, “For as far back as I can remember, I have been a passionate cook. I think my cooking genes came from my own mother and grandmother, both of whom were excellent cooks. I am so glad that both my daughters have inherited this quality from me,” she says. Asked how she feels about working with her daughter, she says, “I enjoy the fights, arguments, laughter and the crazy exhaustion that I feel after we complete shooting. Having said that, I must also say that I enjoy working with her and have always been her biggest cheerleader. I love to watch her edit the videos that make the end product so aesthetically pleasing that even a simple rasam turns into such a visual treat.”
Behind the scenes
While an indoor shoot takes a minimum of two hours, an outdoor shoot can take more than three hours and is almost always weather dependent. Post the shoot, the edits take another few hours, depending on the length of the recipe that was shot. “We [mom, sister and I] make a weekly plan and decide what we are going to make. This is usually dependent on the seasonal availability of vegetables and fruits and also largely dependent on what our audience wants to watch,” she says.
Swarnalakshmi adds here, “Shivboojitha is a perfectionist. She wants everything to be aligned in a certain way, the light to fall in a particular angel. Sometimes I wish I was trained in gymnastics – the way she wants me to drop the ingredients in different angles.” She goes on to say that Shivboojitha never misses a cue and compromising on the taste and aesthetics is also out of the question with her. “She’s a taskmaster but the outcome is so pleasing that I don’t mind,” says Swarnalakshmi.
Since October 2020, there has been a minimum of four videos being uploaded every week and Shivboojitha says that they work on videos from Monday to Friday.
“The comments that people leave and their words of encouragement is what has made this page such a huge success. It motivates us also to scout for newer recipes and make them,” says Shivboojitha.
“When my mother joined me, and started cooking for the videos, my intention was to do something that was distinctive. Using traditional cookware (copper and brass) and not revealing ourselves in any video was an informed decision,” she adds. More than 90 per cent of the cookware being used in the videos are family heirlooms, which have been in Shivboojitha’s family for over five decades now. Even the music that accompanies each video is well-thought out and Shivboojitha says that putting thought into each element for the video is what has made it work.
She adds that their Thathe idli video has the maximum likes so far, with close to 18 million views and is her personal favourite.
She says it is the one in which her mother makes curd rice and filter coffee. What’s praiseworthy is that the food that Swarnlakshmi cooks each day feeds close to 25 people. Shivboojitha says. “We are a family of four and we cannot possibly consume all that food. However, the aesthetics of cooking with large copper and brass utensils is very appealing. To ensure that none of the food we cook goes waste, we feed people who stay close by.” Close to 25 workers, friends and relatives get to enjoy the food that Swarnalakshmi makes every day.
While as audiences, we only see sparkling utensils and the beautiful setting, Shivboojitha says that the work that goes into making all that happen is back-breaking. “When we collaborate with brands, we want everything to be perfect and sparkling. Just washing the big copper utensils and getting them to shine takes me the entire day sometimes.
For Shivboojitha and Swarnlakshmi, the effort that they put in when they had 5,000 followers and now with over 6.93 lakh followers has been constant. She mentions that now they add close to 2,000 followers each day. “If we continue with the same kind of work then the dream of reaching 1 million will be achieved soon. As of now we would like to continue to be behind the camera and do not want to reveal our faces just yet,” says Shivboojitha.
With celebrities like Komal Pandey and Sonam Kapoor endorsing this Instagram page, reaching for the stars doesn’t seem like an impossible task.
Check out their videos here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)