They are responsible for feeding the entire unit, ranging from spot boys to stars. They have been doing the job so beautifully that everyone is back for more. Nataraj Caterers was perhaps one of the first to stars out. One can still locate their canteen in Nataraj Studios in Andheri. In 1978, when Film City started, they were the first to cater for them. Purshottam, the owner of Nataraj Caterers, fondly recounts that he has provided for films like Don, Om Shanti Om, Saawariya, Jab We Met, Tashan and Aaja Nachle. In addition, banners like Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision, Red Chillies Entertainment, SLB Films and producers like Boney Kapoor and Vashu Bhagnani only work with him. Lakhan Caterers supplies for Mukta Arts, Vijayta Films, Rajkumar Santoshi, Shyam Benegal, Kaun Banega Crorepati, Indian Idol, Voice Of India, Nach Baliye, and Biggest Loser. Although, he works on ad films as well, he charges a higher remuneration. His favourite patrons are Rekha, Jackie Shroff, Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan, the fittest of them all, who started the trend of non-oily food.Gopal of Gopal Food and Caterers is a novice in the business, with an experience of only 3-5 years. But he doesn’t mind the slow pace, as long as his quality is the best. He has already worked with Adlabs and Sajid Nadiadwala. However, like Nataraj, Lakhan and Gopal, there are many others.
Having worked with so many people, Rohit Lakhan caterers’ points out that people in the film industry do not enjoy eating in the company of others. He says the major difference between providing for an institution and a shooting unit is in the food packaging and delivery. As compared to providing for a bank, meals for films are packed in hot cases for stars, Tiffin’s for junior artistes and regular packs for the rest of the crew. Additionally, they’re sent to multiple locations simultaneously. If a shooting unit is large in number and the location is fixed for a couple of days, he also has the provision to cook on the sets.
Foreign trips, of course, are a part of the package. The provision of a local coordinator only requires them to carry with them Indian spices, perhaps a cooker and equipment like belans that are not likely to find abroad. They attempt to have a ‘tandoor’ on the set at all time. The usage of good oil, rice and dal earns them brownie points.
With changing times, the pressure on fitness is increasing. This has affected the caterers as they now have to prepare special diet meals. They have started, “calorie-conscious dabbas”. Their contribution is cereal, baby corn items, mushroom items and boiled or baked vegetables.
Charges are not at all steep at Rs. 55 for a non-vegetarian meal, Rs. 45 for a vegetarian meal and special meals are priced at Rs. 150. Gopal’s pricing system is slightly different, in that he charges Rs. 40 for a vegetarian meal, Rs. 60 for a non-vegetarian meal and Rs. 75 for a special meal.