Grandmaster’s Kitchen: Not Quite a Checkmate

Pooja Sarath

It’s not often that one walks into a much hyped about restaurant to be greeted by an apologetic manager.

At around 8 p.m. on a Saturday earlier this month, my husband and I saunter into the Grandmaster’s Kitchen in Thiruvananthapuram for a quiet dinner.

“We’re sorry the tables are all full and there is a queue of reservations as well. We suggest you try the buffet. It has a much better spread than the temporary menu we’ve set up for the crowds,” said Vipin, the manager.

“Temporary menu?” we wonder aloud.

“You see, this restaurant is meant for a niche crowd, the kind who come to dine at a fine restaurant discussing movies, art or literature. It’s for their tastes that our menu has been structured. But being the first film-themed restaurant here, we have a lot of people coming in just to see the place. We’ve developed a basic menu for them,” he said.

“So when will this place be in full swing?” I ask, staring at the sepia tinted photographs of cinema greats plastered all over the walls in the foyer.

“It will take another week ma’am. Tonight our Saturday Special Grandmaster’s Buffet is the highlight,” he says escorting us up a flight of stairs.


The deco and ambience wins us over whetting our appetites. Designed in black and white, the central themes here are chess and cinema, the passions of the owner B. Unnikrishnan, a filmmaker. The photographs of film posters and actors from world cinema, great chess players, dialogues from popular Malayalam films and film songs playing in the background jostle for our attention.

The deco is neat and uncluttered albeit crowded. The tables are spaced a tad bit too close to each other for comfort.

The Grandmaster’s Buffet, priced at 599 rupees per head, was quite a basic spread.

We started with the Hot and Sour Chicken Soup. Even I who don’t usually like soups as they are often bland with too much corn flour actually liked this one. The flavors and spice were just right.

The Shrimp Salad that followed was a tad bit disappointing and uninteresting.

The Saffron Chicken Kebab as starter made up for the earlier disappointment with its balance of coriander, garlic and onion. The meat was succulent and had fully absorbed the subtle flavors of its marinade.

The rice and breads offered for main course were the usual spread of Tandoor Roti, Kerala Paratha, Steamed rice and Cashew Pulao. The accompaniments included Chicken in Chilly Oyster Sauce, Grandmaster’s Chicken, Beef Ularthiyathu and Fish Mango curry for the non-vegetarians and Baby Corn Mushroom Masala and Veg Kolhapuri.


Not exactly spoilt for choice, we decided to mix and match. My husband chose to have Kappa from among the starters with Beef Ularthiyathu and Chicken in Oyster Sauce while I chose Cashew Pulao with the Grandmaster’s Chicken.

The kappa, well cooked, paired well with both the Beef Ularthiyathu and the Chicken. While the Beef did justice to the traditional recipe, the Chicken in Chili Oyster Sauce was an explosion of flavors. The Grandmaster’s Chicken lived up to its name and was an ideal accompaniment to the Cashew pulao. The Gajar Ka Halwa for desert was a perfect end to the meal.

As for the service, well, there was some confusion in the air among the staff. But I guess they are just finding their feet in the initial days. We definitely will make another visit to Grandmaster’s Kitchen because it wasn’t as damp squib as some of the recent Malayalam flicks!

(Grandmaster’s Kitchen is located behind the Saphalyam Complex at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram.)


The Wilderness Beckons


Ever been to a land where the air that embraces you hums and throbs with “Life”?

A land where the wilderness seeps in through the pores of your skin and conquers your heart.

A land where the splash of a single raindrop sends ripples through your entire being awakening senses you never knew existed.

Welcome to Thekkady.

Home to the richly diverse Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady lies on the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border, barely 4km from the picturesque Kumily.

It is a mere 3 hours away from Kumarakom- the village tourism destination which witnessed the rise of Responsible Tourism initiatives in Kerala, Alappuzha- the hub of backwater Tourism and houseboats and Munnar- the land which regales visitors with the history of tea plantations in Kerala.The Periyar Tiger Reserve with over 1965 flowering plants, numerous species of wildlife and a vibrant variety of birds is where Nature unabashedly flaunts her beauty and grace.

 The way the artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam reflects the myriad hues of green and entwines it with serenity is in itself disarming.

Situated on the northern boundary of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, deep in its dense forests, is the ancient Mangaladevi Temple. Made of huge pieces of granite, it stands at an altitude of 1337 m above the sea level embalmed in spiritual aura.

Yet another jewel hidden deep in the Tiger Reserve is the Lake Palace Resort. This century old palace was the summer retreat of the erstwhile Travancore kings. Today travelers stay here to take time off from the world to listen to the call of the wild. Thekkady offers travelers avenues for a wide range of accommodation facilities to choose from- both pocket-friendly and otherwise.

Be it praying at this mystic temple, trekking through the Tiger Reserve, Boating in the lake, bathing in the waterfalls, bamboo rafting, exploring the tribal life, art and culture, savouring the Village Life Experiences, enjoying the Elephant Safaris, pursuing the tiger trail or camping in the Jungles, Thekkady is sure to make you return to its embrace over and over again.


Draped in simplicity and adorned with grace, Thekkady is not just a destination. It is an experience in itself. Nuzzle into its arms, take a deep breath… and let go…

[A script written for a film on Thekkady.
The video of the same title is available on You Tube]


Millions of jobs waiting to be filled. But who is qualified?

Highly literate, Multicultural, a young population bursting with energy and PASSION & an attitude for seeking global employment.


Here is your opportunity to INVEST IN the TALENT of Kerala!


A Govt. of Kerala initiative born from brainstorming by think tanks at the Nypunyam Global Skill Summit.

Implemented by the Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence, iSTEP is an International outreach programme. A platform for investing in the talent of Kerala for filling the global skill gap.

A single window online clearance system for investment REDEFINING the COMPETENCY BENCHMARK of skills.

A GAMECHANGER for the young population of Kerala,




[AGENCY- Invis Multimedia
CLIENT: Kerala Academy for Skills Excellence (KASE)]


A Fragrant Legacy

Ever felt the cool mists of the Hill stations in Kerala kiss your cheek? Or trekked through the luxuriantly green forests of God’s Own Country?

When you do, stop in your tracks and breathe deeply to discover the fragrant blessings hidden deep in the bosom of Nature…

Every year the Monsoons conspire with the unique geography of the land to churn out a sensuous gift.

Spices- a small thing that made a BIG difference…


Their fragrance, enticing as it may be is subtle. Centuries ago it was this very fragrance- the scents of spices- that made ships from foreign lands set sailing in search of God’s Own Country.

Spices shaped Kerala’s destiny. It was the enticing scents and flavours of the spices that awakened the curiosity of explorers across the globe. Many braved mighty oceans and seas to seek this land out for its veritable treasure. Kerala’s spice trade with the world dates back to the 3rd millennium BCE when the legendary Spice Route was first formed.

Ancient Kerala was the hub of world trade. The Malabar Coast of Kerala was witness to the arrival of Arabs, Chinese, and European powers like the Portuguese, the French and the British. The spices of Kerala had become the most treasured and traded commodity. The port Muziris became the busiest of ports with sailors, traders and explorers making a beeline for it. For years this fabled land mesmerised Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs, Chinese, Romans and Greeks.

Kerala with its warm, humid climate and hazy hill stations with loamy soil rich in organic matter and adequate rainfall makes it ideal for spices to thrive here. The high ranges of the state where most of the spices are grown have a unique climate and geographical features that give the spices a distinctive quality.

Cinnamon and Cardamom were the first to draw the attention of foreigners. It was much later that Pepper became the chief attraction of the Malabar Coast and received the title ‘Black Gold’.

Soon, one at a time Cloves, Ginger and Nutmeg also found their way into the list.

In Kerala the spice plantations are concentrated around Wayanad, Idukki, Munnar, Kumily Thekkady and Wagamon.

Kerala’s tryst with spices has survived the test of time. Remove spice from Kerala cuisine and you will understand how bland and flavourless Kerala would be sans its spices.

Irrespective of cultural, religious and other differences, spices occupy a special place in providing a unique flavour to the culinary specialties of Kerala.

Even today the scenario is no different. Spice extracts are a booming industry. Spice extracts are produced by extraction and distillation and represent the true essence of the spices. They represent the true essence of the spices and can replace spice powder with equal or better flavour characteristics.

Spices have and always will be an integral part of the cultural fabric of the state. The flavours and scents are timeless and have been passed on from generation to generation.

Even today the whole world stands enamoured by the fragrances of this quaint strip of land.


[Script written for a film on the Spices of Kerala

The video of the same title is available on You Tube]


The Legacy of Muziris


A legendary port, the heart of the historic Spice Route vanished off the grid over 3000 years ago. Historians and archaeologists spent years hunting far and wide for it but to no avail. Little did they know that a small town in Kerala, Pattanam, held the secrets to that ancient port hidden in its bosom.

The ancient world’s greatest trading centre in the East, the lost port Muziris traded in everything from spices to precious stones with the Greeks, Romans and the rest of the world. The name “Muziris” is said to be born from the native Tamil name to the port, “muciri”.

Hundreds of Amphora jar fragments, West Asian and Mesopotamian pottery, thousands of glass and stone beads, small gold, lead and copper ornaments, brick structural remains, human bones, roof tile pieces and more have helped piece together the rich legacy hidden in these sands.

The Muziris Heritage Project initiated by the Government of Kerala with the support of the Central Government is reviving that lost legacy to conserve and showcase a culture of 3000 years or more for posterity.

The heritage that sleeps in these sands is as significant as the Indus Valley.

The project utilizes at a global level the possibilities of a region that forms a part of the heritage tourism circuit between North Parur and Kodungalloor.

The Muziris region is home to social reformer Sahodaran Ayyapan, Nationalist leader Abdul Rahman Sahib, scholars like Kunjikuttan Thampuran and Kesari Balakrisha Pillai and social movements like the Paliam Satyagraha. The entire project is designed to involve and integrate the local community in all intended developmental initiatives.

A MoU with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been signed to begin a historic cooperation between the State and the world’s foremost cultural organization for promoting and protecting the ancient Spice Route heritage.

Muziris welcomes you to the cape of trade culture, left behind by its ancestors from around the world, to the waves of Azhikode where Christianity first entered India, to the Cheraman mosque, which gave out the first Muslim call for prayers, to the legendary Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple, to the original culture of the Jewish synagogue, to the village where handloom spins think of heritage, to the Palium palace and to the old waterways that lead one to Muziris.

Once the doorway to India for varied cultures and races including Buddhists, Arabs, Chinese, Jews, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and even the British, Muziris has stood witness to civilisations being born, wars being waged and history being written.

Come… let us together clamber down the ladders of time to a past whose riddles await us. A past cloaked in the grandeur and glory of our ancestors…


The video of the same title is available on You Tube]

From Thailand with Passion

An interview with Thai dancer Sarjnya Emradee that got published in BrandKerala… It is the first ever time that I am getting to see my name in print.I have done feature stories before but since they were all online writing I have never gotten a by line.

This is the first and it sure as hell feels AMAZING!!! 🙂 🙂

Here’s the story…






Method in Madness- Blending of Passion and Skill in Writing

Nearly 6 years ago during my degree days a session was organised by the Writer Forum under the leadership of Mr. Manu Remakant, my teacher. The guest was Mr. Sabin Iqbal and here are some of the points I jotted down in my little diary back then. I stumbled upon them this morning and figured I’d share them with you.

The session was called- ‘Method in Madness- Blending of Passion and Skill in writing’. Here’s what he had to say…

  • Practice makes perfect
  • Keep a journal
  • Write everyday
  • Never quit no matter what


  • Weigh and value each of your words
  • Feel the words
  • Words can make or break a story so be sensitive to language


  • Be passionate about your writing
  • Passion is what ignites the power in your words


  • Read and Read
  • Observe and experience life
  • Bring in the magic of detail
  • Observe your surroundings
  • Experience life and develop empathy
  • Living out of the box makes your writing more diverse, heartfelt and believable
  • Develop your imagination


  • Stay motivated and be willing to grow
  • Set goals for yourself
  • Stay organized
  • A muddy thinker can never write good English


  • A happy blend of passion and skill makes an exceptional writer
  • Keep your feet rooted firmly on the ground. Do not let fame or fortune shift your focus.
  • Never write to impress others
  • Never exaggerate beyond a point


“Simple writing is the best and most difficult writing”

“Words first become your acquaintances, then friends, then slaves.”


Expect the Unexpected

A few years ago the superstar saturated waters of Malayalam cinema got a new lease of life. From around 50-60 films a year, film production increased to up to 120 per year. Film making donned new garbs with respect to styles of direction, scripting, acting, cinematography, music, editing, form and format. International styles and trends of film making joined hands with scripts deeply rooted in the Malayali psyche and life.

The Industry heaved a sigh of relief. New Wave Malayalam cinema was born.

Riding the crest of this revolution was a youngster who vanished from filmdom right after his not so successful first venture into the film industry, ‘Kaiyethum Doorath’, more than 7 years ago.

After a long hiatus, the youngster, Fahad Fazil strolled back on stage, stole the spotlight and with equal ease helped pen a new chapter in the history of Malayalam cinema. A bundle of surprises this young actor is!

Son of the renowned film maker, Fazil, Fahad is renowned as one of those rare artistes who ‘live’ their roles rather than perform them. It was with oodles of talent that the State Award winning actor won the hearts of the masses in his second innings in the industry.

With each of his performances Fahad has proved how the character portrayed is much more important than the actor. He played a key role in transforming the very concept of ‘heroes’ in the industry not only by making baldness a new style statement but also with the subtleties to the characters he has portrayed throughout his career.

The fact that such a realistic portrayal of characters that is starkly different from the larger than life concept of heroes prevalent until recent times won the hearts of the audience reflects the changing attitudes and preferences of the Malayalee audience.

Fahad who made a comeback into the industry with his role in Kerala Café established himself in the industry with his outstanding performance as Arjun, a character with grey shades, in ‘Chaappa Kurish’ which won him his first State Award. He was bestowed the State Award for Second Best Actor for both ‘Chaappa Kurish’ and ‘Akam’.

Fahad has been repeatedly noted for acting with his entire body rather than just his face. If for instance the manner in which he runs in the film Chaappa Kurish reflects the body language of a polished businessman, in ‘Indian Pranayakatha’ his mannerisms, body language and even the way in which he runs reflect the comical aspect of a typical politician. His stellar performances as Cyril C. Mathew a ruthless womaniser in ‘22 Female Kottayam’ and as Harikrishnan, a youngster grappling with a psychological disorder in ‘North 24 Kaatham’ are ideal examples that highlight the finesse of his acting.

The self centred, selfish painter, Micheal Agnelo in ‘Artist’, Jeevan Raj, the ruthless executive in ‘Immanuel’, Dr. Arun Kumar from ‘Diamond Necklace’, Shiva Das in ‘Bangalore Days’, the lover boy Solomon in ‘Amen’, Sreeni in ‘Akam’, Aloshy in ‘Iyobinte Pusthakam’, Rasool in ‘Annayum Rasoolum’, no two of the myriad characters played out by Fahad throughout his career can be compared with the other. Each is so wildly different that it doesn’t take a critic’s eye to note just how versatile the artiste is.

Though the recent flicks from the young actor, including his latest, ‘Monsoon Mangoes’, did not set the cash registers ringing, going by the quality of his work and dedication to his art, his upcoming film ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’ releasing on February 5th definitely shows signs of the winds blowing favourably for Fahad. If anything it is sure to hold a few surprises. We’ll have to wait and watch wont we.