A fan pictures together the experience of ‘discovering’ the much-loved cooking show that reinstated joy and happiness during a period of uncertainty, ahead of the finale
Before I offend an army of Cook with Comali loyalists for claiming that Season 2 is the best, allow me to confess that I was nearly unaware of the show’s existence, until I chanced upon a clip on Twitter. It has been years since I gave up on television, but was forced to reconsider my decision when literally all the people I knew and value the most were talking about this show. I felt left out and succumbed to peer pressure, to watch one episode in January. I watched a lot more and since then, I have become a bonafide Cook… fan.
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The pandemic has been hard on all of us and we all have our own battles to be fought and hopefully emerge triumphant. Sometimes the frustration comes from the outside and sometimes, you never know from where it comes. And I personally have been going through a lot of mood swings since the beginning of the year, and discovering Cook with Comali, a show where reasonably good cooks are pitted against each other along with their amateur partners (comali), during this phase has got to be one of the best things that could have happened.
Baba Bhaskar and Sivaangi
For those two hours on weekends, I just let my guard down and realised the calming effect good comedy has on you. Though a reality show, Cook with Comali, for the most of us, became the equivalent of the breathing exercise yoga instructors would advise you to follow — none of this would have made sense without the remarkable contribution of the show’s editor and their timely Vadivelu-Tamil cinema references and song selections.
While it might appear that popular comedians Pugazh and Bala were the main driving forces behind the show, it would be blasphemous to overlook the contribution of fellow comalis, cooks, judges, the anchor, and the rest involved. Whenever the editor cut to a melodramatic song to show the Pugazh-Shivaangi bromance or Ashwin-Shivaangi romance, or each time Bala came up with a punchline only he could think of, I laughed. I screamed each time Tiger Thangadurai (I’m a massive fan) made an appearance to deliver his bag of 32 jokes. Actually, strike off that last sentence: I laughed harder each time Thangadurai tried to make a joke.
The show has turned out to be a massive stress-buster during the pandemic for TV audiences
As was the case with Madurai Muthu, whose gags could be both therapeutic and sometimes make you consider going to therapy. I laughed more looking at Kani’s apologetic face whenever there was a kara kuzhambu joke — something even AR Rahman couldn’t resist from poking fun at (in the promos for the finale). Not to mention the supremely energetic yet beautifully-animated Baba Bhaskar. I enjoyed Venkatesh Bhat’s pan-flip and the deadpan humour from other comalis.
Sometimes, cringe and boring have been few of the adjectives slapped against Vijay TV for reinforcing popular Kollywood stereotypes in television. There have been times when the channel was accused of their distasteful jokes and hot takes. But Cook with Comali is as much a turnover for the channel as it is for Shakeela, one of the contestants on the show, who has long been carrying the cross as a soft-porn actor. The showrunners have shown commendable sensitivity in the way they approached and acknowledged the presence of Shakeela, in their larger goal to make her feel warm and inclusive. The credit should be shared by fellow comalis for ensuring that their jokes were never below the belt, and it has never been that.
Shakeela has been one of the most popular contestants on the show this season
Director Parthiban and the showrunners too, on their part, have displayed admirable quality when it comes to correcting the wrongs, when a situation goes out of control. Like when a homophobic joke was edited out ahead of the show’s airing, when people who caught it online, pointed it out on social media.
As we draw curtains to the second season of Cook with Comali, it is back to square one for fans of the show. We don’t know where to go, to bury our sorrows and let go. For the newer loyalists like me, it is going to be hard to imagine a weekend without logging on to Disney+Hotstar… there is a hollow deep down. I wish I could say: “Chumma prank pannen… camera paarunga.”