Of Amitabh and Jeetu and Rajesh and all the heartthrobs!

masala vada masala vada

Remember those little printed booklets of song lyrics that used to be sold outside cinema theatres in the ’70s and ’80s?

Printed on the cheapest of paper – cheaper even than the Deccan Chronicle’s  paper quality (and that, let me tell you, is saying something about just how cheap it was!!) and sold for something like 25 p – chaaranne (four annas) as it was those days, these little booklets gave us tremendous joy.

You’ve just come out of the theatre, heart filled to overflowing with the antics of Jeetendra prancing like a monkey in his trademark white shoes, white suit outfit to the refrain of Piya tu ab tho aaja or thrilled to an Amitabh Bachhan saying in that t0-die-for baritone, Mere paas maa hai or swooned over Rajesh Khanna’s unmatchable romanticism as he croons Raina beeti jaaye and you melted into a puddle of sentimentality on the seat… (it could of course be that the thrifty theatre owner had switched off the airconditioning during the most intense moments on the screen when the audience is so engrossed that they don’t notice that the temperature has climbed -unexplainably!)

As you walk out, head in the clouds, heart somewhere in Kashmir with our hero and heroine, the heat and dust and stench don’t make any kind of impression on you! But you do notice the rows of vendors squatting by the roadside, hoping that one of these starstruck teenagers will buy a chaaranne ka song pamphlet from you!

And some always do, of course. And go around for the next few weeks (that’s how much time it will take them to gather together the price of the next movie ticket – if I remember right, the balcony ticket – the highest denomination – was 4 or 5 rupees! Cheaper tickets could be had, of course , for something like less than a rupee!) gazing soulfully into the distance mentally singing Kuch  tho log kahenge to a dreamy Sharmila Tagore as the reality of a dad or a mom yelling at them (those clearly gender-delineated days, it was the dad’s job to yell, mostly!)  to get back to their books – otherwise they would end up selling those booklets on the pavements for a living while their luckier classmates would become doctors or engineers, or even fly off to America!

More about these little booklets – the paper so cheap it left marks of ink on your fingers when you handled them, they taught a generation to sing and romance and swoon and sigh and dream… who cared about the paper quality?! And of course, the pleasure of listening to these songs tuned in to Binaca Geet Mala on the radio waiting to hear the radio jockey (I’m pretty sure that is not what they were called those days!) Ameen Sayani – a cult figure in himself – he rubbed shoulders (for all we knew!) with the likes of Kishore Kumar and R.D.Burman!

I remember an aunt and uncle, so crazy about movies that they saw every single pic that came to town – the “good” ones because they were good, the “bad” ones because we have to figure out why people are saying it’s bad, no? But of course you do!

Now this same aunt and uncle had four children – theatre tickets plus popcorn for six people would have put a serious strain on the family budget so what do they do? Stop seeing so many movies? Whaaat?? No way! So, we buy tickets and we take our own snacks to the theatre (allowed those days!). To prevent bickering in the theatres with whispers of “You got more than me” and “Pass that bonda” my wise aunt took to packing six little newspaper packets of snacks – everyone was happy!

Here’s the cause of the happiness (other than the movie of course!)… another variety of…


  • Chana dal – 1 cup – soaked for two hours and drained
  • Green chilies – 2
  • Chopped onion – 1 large
  • Red chili – 1
  • Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger – 1/2 ” piece
  • Garlic – 1 or 2 flakes
  • Curry leaves – chopped – 2 sprigs
  • Fresh coriander – chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Chopped mint – 1 tbsp
  • Cloves – 2
  • Cinnamon stick – 1/2 “piece
  • Pepper corns – broken- 1/4 tsp
  • Saunf (aniseed) – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt
  • Oil to deep fry

Grind the dal to a very grainy texture along with the garlic, ginger, onions, dry spices and salt. 

Add the crushed pepper and all the herbs. 

Shape into small, uneven vadas (uneven edges leave more room for frying and therefore more crisp surfaces!) and deep fry till golden brown. This vada is so tasty it needs nothing as an accompaniment! 

Just like the songs in Amar Prem… 🙂