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Masterchef Vikas Khanna Is Now a Film Director too

Masterchef Vikas Khanna is now  a film director too,among many other things. He talks to  Subhash K Jha  about the trauma and philanthropy of  2020 and how he  survived the year to emerge  triumphant  at the end with his Feed India Campaign.

Vikas, how did  2020 treat you?

2020 was hard on  everyone. It was a tough year to endure. I think the pain isolation chaos hunger…also the failure of almost every government to cope with  the crisis has broken all  of us. Here in New York where I live,the hospitality industry was shut down. That meant all the major events  I  had planned had to be cancelled. Everything fell apart. And then  realized  one thing.

What  is that?

I  was better off than many and that I should use my privilege  to help as many as I can. That is when I started my campaign to feed  people. I did it because my mom told me  to. Like everyone she was totally defeated and  crushed. Everytime I spoke  to her she sounded so dejected. That’s when  my Feed India campaign  started. 

Did Feed India  take  time to  concretize?

Working out the logistics of  feeding the needy in India  from NewYork took time. But I continued, hoping that  my efforts help ease  the pain. I put all my other  projects  on  the  backburner. We were supposed to start two new restaurants  this  year. We cancelled everything to concentrate on Feed India.This was our priority. And I’m glad we did it. I hope such a  crisis never  recurs. But whenever we are needed we will  be back with Feed India and work to fill bellies to the best of our abilities.

Have you  faced segregation and isolation the way Neena Gupta does in your film  The Last Color?

Racism, colorism, isolation,  segregation  are prevalent in  the US. And it’s not easy  for an outsider  to find his way to  the  top. The competition is very stiff. I had to fight tooth and nail to get where  I am.My friends say I’ve the  thick skin of  an elephant and the temperament  of a poet. I succeeded because of my obstinacy. That scene  in The Last Color where Neenaji and the little girl are not served samosas in a roadside dhaba did not happen to me in India. But I  experienced it in the US.

Tell  me about it?

I  went  to a restaurant  in NY  and  I was asked to leave because  some girls sitting behind me were feeling  uncomfortable. This was after 9/11. Racism and segregation are  everywhere. I  never wanted to  reach the top in anything or anywhere. But I because I  was told I couldn’t I was determined to prove them wrong. I rebel when  I hear negativity. I couldn’t bear the  thought that I couldn’t break the  code of success in America. 

Will you continue making  films?

Yes, of course. I believe cinema  is a powerful tool for change. I  am advantaged  being an Indian in the US and I’ve the opportunity  to  tell such  culturally diverse stories.

What  future plans?

I normally release 4-5 books  a year, In  2020   it was  not possible because of pandemic  and  my campaign  Feed India. Next year we  may launch  more than  4-5 books.

Between  you and Sonu Sood who according to  you is  Indian  of  The Year?

No one  should take away the tag  of  Person Of  The Year from  the Covid frontrunners .I’ve lots of Doctor friends  in NY . Every single day  is a battle  for them. Watching them  going through their  trauma makes  me feel so small and  humble. This year belonged to the Covid soldiers.  The other heroes of the year are Jo Biden  and Kamala Harris. They are getting bring so much change in the way racial relations are perceived in America.

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