Treat Yourself To India With Video And Snacks

April 12, 1992|By Marie Westhaver | Marie Westhaver,Contributing writer

It's not really New Delhi, but you can find authentic Indian food and ingredients and Indian movies in Columbia.

The Zip Food Mart andVideos Unlimited have been in the Snowden Center since December 1990, catering to the approximately 500 families from India who live in Columbia. Both stores are owned and managed by Sheela Luhar.

Luhar views the two or three new Indian films released on cassette each month, and selects videos for the store. India is second only to Hollywood in film production, making most of its films in Hindi. There are no English subtitles.

Instead of popcorn with their movies, Indians often eat supari, a mixture of beetle nuts and seeds, while they watch movies. And Luhar sells it at the Zip Food Mart.

"I try to keep each and every thing," she said of the food items.

But only about 30 percent of her clientele is Indian. Americans with a taste for Indian cuisine also are becoming regulars.

Luhar, who lives in Columbia, has listened attentively to the requests of her customers, and now feels that the store is well-stocked with Indian supplies.

The market sells several types of Indian pita breads (without pockets), along with various other ingredients such as saffron, fresh green chilies, coriander leaves, lentils, frozen sweet casava, mango ice cream and even a boxed product called Mr. Falafel.

Those yearning for native food can even find Indian alternatives to Stouffer frozen dinners. In the freezer section, boxes described a dish called "in chhole" as "whole chick peas, seasoned with green peppers, onions, exotic spices and gravy," and another called "aloo began" as "potato and eggplant stew." Most boxes are printed in English and indicate which region of India originated the dish. The adjective "masala" appears often, indicating a collection of hot spices of different colors.

Luhar's video store rents more than 1,500 film titles. Unlike mostrental cassettes, none of the Indian films prints a synopsis on the back of the box.

"The name of the movie tells you what it's about," she said. Last year's Film Fair (the Indian Oscars) award for best picture went to a film titled "Parinda," which translates to mean "free bird," about a free-spirited young man.

Other clues to film content are the stars. Indian films have cult heroes, such as actor Amita Bachan, who plays roles similar to Sylvester Stallone's Rambo. A video cassette box with his name will steer the browsing shopper towardan adventure movie.

Common adventure scenarios involve smuggling,political corruption or drugs. A movie with Dimple Kapadia usually indicates a social theme, while actor Amrish Buri often plays a villain and Kader Khan a comic.

A classic like "Mahabharate," an epic historical movie, continues for 26 to 30 cassettes.

Romantic movies get a dramatic picture on the box, resembling the covers of American romance novels. They often feature a well-known glamorous star like Shrivedi.

Shrivedi, like Cher, goes by only her first name, and is often featured in Indian celebrity magazines such as Celeblitz, Street Smart and Stardust, which many people depend on for movie reviews.

"If I don't read about it, sometimes a movie is recommended by someone in the Indian community," said Roshni Ray, a West Bengali nativewho has lived in Oakland Mills for the past six years.

Stars likeShrivedi appear over and over because many of these films involve dancing.

"She's a serious dancer," said Ray, "not just hip-swinging." Indian romances often feature star-crossed young lovers who eventually convince their parents to accept their relationship.

The average Indian movie runs for three hours, with breaks every 45 minutes. Unless you fast forward the film or get up to make a sandwich, you'll see advertisements for toothpaste and other sundries until the film resumes.

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