Rishi Kapoor loves recalling how he felt like a prodigal son when he first visited the Johnnie Walker distillery in Scotland. The Scotch label, he remembers feeling at that time, owed his family at a least a square metre of land for the services it had rendered to it for three generations.The whisky-gargling generation of Bollywood heroes has made way for Bacardi-loving hunks. The three Khans of Mumbai’s dream factory – Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman – are famous for their love for Bacardi and Coke, so is Sanjay Dutt, and fawning film journalists dine out on stories of how Salman and Sanjay just breeze through their parts even after a night dedicated to Cuba’s exiled rum.But if there’s a drink that’s synonymous with Hindi cinema, it’s VAT 69. Think of any villain of the yesteryear, from Ajit to Pran, and there’s bound to be the light green bottle of VAT 69 somewhere in the background of the frame.Maybe the satraps of Bollywood couldn’t bear to see their favourite Johnnie Walker Black being sullied by bad company.VAT 69′ s biggest Bollywood moment, however, was when a very drunk Shatrughan Sinha lipsynched Zindagi Imtihaan Leti Hai swigging from a bottle of VAT 69 in the Manmohan Desaiblockbuster Naseeb (1981).For reasons I haven’t been able to fathom, the whisky of the villains went out of favour in the retail market despite all the free publicity it got from Bollywood, but VAT 69 is being re-launched in a new bottle and will be available across the country for Rs 900 (its price point, clearly, makes it the poor cousin of the guy who keeps walking). VAT 69, incidentally, is owned by Diageo, whose topselling brand is Johnnie Walker.advertisementThe world of alcoholic beverages can be incestuous.Will Bollywood be drinking to its health? I doubt it. Bollywood’s new generation tends to swing between Bacardi and wine ( Winchester- educated Saif Ali Khan is said to be quite a wine connoisseur, for instance), but VAT 69′ s recurrence in popular culture doesn’t cease to surprise me.Sir Ernest Shackleton took a stock of VAT 69 with him on the 1914 Imperial Trans- Antarctic Expedition. Gregory Peck drank it in the 1949 World War II film, Twelve O’Clock High.It shows up frequently in James Hadley Chase novels, and in Fawlty Towers, and puts in a guest appearance in Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake . And in the film version of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guinness, one of vacuum cleaner salesman James Wormwold’s agents is found killed with a bottle of VAT 69 in his hand.Even the high priestess of feminist literature Simone de Beauvoir had a thing for VAT 69. A character in one of her lesser- known novels, She Came to Stay (1943), makes this statement that’s often quoted in cocktail parties: ” When I’m rich and run my own house, I’ll always keep a bottle of VAT 69 in my cupboard.” That’s a line Diageo can filch for its promos. California Burger doesn’t sound any goodCan you imagine a Superbowl final without hot dogs or a Kentucky Derby sans a Mint Julep, or an English Premier League match without the lager fumes blowing across the stadium?Every big-ticket sports event becomes synonymous with a kind of food (or drink), so what is the signature offering of the Commonwealth Games going to be? We now know all about the kitchens that have magically become operational in the Games Village but what about the appetites of spectators?With Fast Trax, a lesser-known fast food chain backed by the Rs 1,000-crore meat processing company, Hind Group, getting the contract at the last minute – as we have come to expect by now – for catering to spectators and the media during the Games, it looks like the event will be remembered for the California Burger.I’m not being hyper-nationalistic, but shouldn’t thick chicken burger with mint yogurt sauce-in place of the traditional mayonnaise- been named after hamaari Dilli? I would’ve loved to dig into a New Delhi Burger, or Shera Tikki Wrap. And I would have wolfed down a Purani Dilli take on the vada pao with aloo tikki and chhole.Such finer details must have escaped Fast Trax – after all, it has had to plan in record for over 16 lakh meals that it estimates it’ll serve across 97 outlets at all the 12 stadiums during the Games. It promises to flip a burger in three seconds. I’ll be around to see if Fast Trax delivers on its promise.A little bit of trivia: Siraj Qureshi, who heads the Hind Group, is also the chief of the Indo- Islamic Cultural Centre, which has a fine restaurant that you enter, literally, through a back gate for a meal you would normally get only at Jama Masjid.advertisementBurger for veg buffs If you’re vegetarian and are tired of having the McAloo Tikki Burger, which insults both the aloo tikki and the burger, I strongly recommend Choko-la’s Lentil Burger. The name, let me forewarn you, can be misleading, for the burger patty does not have any daal. Instead, it’s made with kidney beans (rajmah) that are spiked with crushed walnuts and masala. It tastes different and its crunchy exterior quilts a melt-in-the-mouth core that entices you with its simple charm. I only wish chefs across the industry get innovative and make life peppier for the vegetarians.
WhatmoreViswanathHopefully when the Indians queue up at Heathrow immigration on their tour of England, they will know who their coach is. What we already know is that Indian cricket is adamantly refusing to move up the evolutionary ladder. Going by the noise, this could be 2000, the first time the,WhatmoreViswanathHopefully when the Indians queue up at Heathrow immigration on their tour of England, they will know who their coach is. What we already know is that Indian cricket is adamantly refusing to move up the evolutionary ladder. Going by the noise, this could be 2000, the first time the Indians hired a foreign coach. The conscientious objectors to the idea have remained the same, their arguments have remained the same, and their choice of alternative candidates does not feature any new names. At least none that have made public.Sri Lanka and Pakistan, with equally capricious Boards, now know how to hunt for coaches. They put out ads, invite candidates. India’s method involves big-name committees, shooting in the dark, Chinese whispers and conspiracy theories.While other countries pick coaches in a planned manner, the BCCI believes in shooting in the darkWhat do the Indians look for when picking a coach? Er, who cares because coaches, apparently, come in only two kinds: Indian and foreign. Other qualities like a track record, the ability to manage men, to work hard, to build trust, are, apparently, built into passports, rather than the men carrying them.Dav Whatmore, as is known, is the front-runner but could be part of a package deal which includes G.R. Viswanath as batting consultant. South African Graham Ford is a late entrant with backers in the team, but more names will be thrown into the meeting for dramatic effect.In 1990, former India batsman Nari Contractor went to England to find a coach for the Mumbai Cricket Association’s bowling scheme. When no one impressed him, he returned and was not satisfied until he ran into former England fast bowler Frank Tyson. Twenty-seven bowlers from that scheme played first-class cricket and one of them, Paras Mhambrey, is a coach himself today. That’s the effect the right man can have in a job.advertisementLike Mhambrey, there are other former players who have committed themselves to cricket coaching like students, rather than gurus. Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad are already with the team. It won’t be long before an Indian heads our support staff. But to push for an Indian for the sake of his Indianness is meaningless.This is no defence of or campaign for What more. But the Sri Lanka-born Australian must be wondering what is it about him that has so incensed two of our luminaries, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar. When asked about Whatmore taking the job he once did (without any great distinction) Kapil Dev responded, “Who is Whatmore? Why do we need to talk about Whatmore?” So often has Kapil paaji replied to questions by asking “Who is…?” in his fabricated earthiness, that he should consider patenting the response to prevent other rent-a-quote artists from making capital out of it.Sunil Gavaskar’s recent newspaper columns have contained a series of sniper attacks on Whatmore. May 23: “While it is no secret that (Habibul) Bashar is not the greatest tactical captain, what was the dressing room doing?” May 26: “Bangladesh’s limited success… is largely a matter of a good team playing them having a bad day… If eyes aren’t opened after this, then we are a myopic nation.” May 28: “What more does it take to prove that they have been plain lucky in their odd oneday wins and have made zilch progress in Test cricket? Nothing more, I guess.” You get the drift.For a columnist, all this is fair game but Gavaskar was also part of the panel to pick the new coach. Couldn’t a candidate believe Gavaskar has it in for him? Didn’t this strident public stance muddy the process? Besides, is any of it constructive? As India staggered into a new season, the search to find a perfect fit for their backroom turned into a battle of wills, a contest of non-issues and an exercise in self-aggrandisement.