Food Films: Rosogolla

There probably isn’t any other Indian sweet as iconic as the Rosogolla. These soft, melt-in-your-mouth spongy orbs of chhena or curdled milk soaked in a sweet sugar syrup continue to be an eternal favourite even today. They have even given rise to legendary wars – of both Indian states of West Bengal & Odisha claiming GI status for it. (West Bengal won GI rights for this, but that’s a story for another time).

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Rosogolla is an ode to the inventor of the sweet himself, the legendary confectioner Nabin Chandra Das (played to perfection by debutant Ujaan Ganguly) whose legacy still lives on in Kolkata through the K.C. Das sweet shop chain. Directed by Pavel (who only goes by a first name), this 2018 Bengali release traces the humble origins of the sweet through his life and times. What started out on a whim turned out to be a life-changing decision for the young sweetmaker, who toiled day and night to create the perfect sweetmeat for his betrothed that ultimately propelled him to worldwide fame.

The film offers a glimpse into the eccentric opulence and grandeur of 19th century Kolkata where sweetmakers called moiras vied with one another – all in the quest to earn patronage from aristocratic families who rewarded them if they liked their creations. Requests to create new and innovative sweets for special occasions like weddings and baby showers were not uncommon, and the reward for a job well done was immense. A scene in the movie where Nabin Chandra Das makes a mango-juice filled sandesh (probably a predecessor to the modern jolbhora) is particularly entertaining. So is another one where a rival sweetmaker tampers with Nabin Chandra Das’ creations for a wedding, causing all the guests to fall sick.

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Following some common tropes of simpleton-boy-falling-in-love-with-feisty-girl-next-door, we are introduced to Abantika Biswas who plays his headstrong wife Khirodmoni Devi. In an introductory scene, she is shown eating mishti with carefree abandon, landing the young Nabin into trouble with his boss. She is the one who chides him later on in their marriage, criticising him for his lack of business sense. Aparajita Adhya in a blink-and-miss-role as a bejewelled paan-chewing zamindar wife who encourages the young Nabin too is memorable.

This film is an ode to the power of perseverance – not giving up until you succeed. And when it comes to recipe testing and developing, as I do, perseverance is a must! Trying over and over again until you get the correct balance of everything – ingredients, flavour, texture, taste, proportion, and the subsequent euphoria on having perfected a creation to call your very own – is incomparable. And that is what resonated with me and continues to encourage me day after day – the rosogolla would not have been invented if not for constant trial and error.

This was a pleasant surprise as I rarely watch regional cinema – but the theme did merit a watch. Highly recommended!

Watch the trailer here!

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