How is Irani cafe chai different from Iranian chai | Chai Mumbai EP 01 BTS:

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This was the first episode to be shot and we started with a blip! We had planned to start with Kyani Bakery opposite Metro cinema. The crew had reached before me for setting up. They had breakfast there while waiting and spent a considerable amount .The thought being that if we are seen as serious customers then they would let us shoot. Plus the food was very good!

I arrived and that’s when I got to learn that the owner was out of town and the staff were adamant about not letting us shoot. This was no Instagram stuff with a lone creator and his mobile phone. We had two DOPs, one assistant who was in charge of sound, the producer and the director. Quite a merry band and one that made allowing the shoot well beyond the pay grade of the staff. Plus they were not really friendly.
 We were sent off with a flea in our ears. Not the best of starts. Especially given our lofty ideals of creating a top notch show and investing big for this.
That’s when the producer, Vikas, called up a friend of his who owned an eatery nearby, Prasad. Prasad spoke to the owner of Sassanian Boulangerie who said we could shoot there. It was not that easy to find Sassanian compared with Kyani. Sassanian was relatively unknown among locals.
We reached Sassanian and our welcome was so different from that at Kyani. Both from the lady who was the owner and the staff who were so warm and helpful. The lady was shy and did not want be recorded. She got out a smorgasbord of cookies and cakes to have with tea and later, Parsi dishes such as dhansak and salli boti.  We needed this human touch after the disappointing start at Kyani. You could say that it was at Sassanian, that the story of Chai Mumbai began. Our endeavour to look at the city of Mumbai through the lens of tea.
We shot at Lucky Restaurant at Bandra a few days later. It’s owner, Sayed Mohsen, has become a friend over the years and I was on home ground this time.
We spoke kheema and anda burjee breakfast culture espoused by Irani restaurants such as there’s once upon a time. We spoke about the biryani which had made Lucky famous.
We spoke about the Irani Cafe chai which is milky as it was influenced by the British tradition of milk-based tea. A contrast to tea in Iran, which is drunk black.
K had two comments on seeing the film. The first was that the episode was more about food than tea. Which was understandable given my love for food.
The second was that my VO connoted a  rather depressing tale of Irani cafes and about how their time is up. ‘This is not you,’ she said.
I am not one for taking feedback kindly. I had to remind myself that I had the benefit of getting feedback from the CCO of the biggest agency in India and that I would be a fool not to take it.
The first feedback was fixed through a more tea focused edit. The second, by changing the VO. Funny the power that words have!
This was not the end of the story of this episode. We decided to shoot a starting and an end sequence for the show. This needed an extra day of shooting.We shot the opening outside Yazdani to go with the Irani chai motif.
I retrospect, I wonder if the additional day of shoot and the costs involved were worth it. Would viewers watch each episode as part of a season and individually,
The response that the film got was stupendous. This puzzled me as I thought that everyone would be conversant with the story of Irani cafes and tea.
Turned out that they weren’t. 
Here’s the video:


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