Helluva poster, huh? Stereogum editor and dosa fanatic Amrit Singh has finally completed his cinematic homage to dosa, appropriately called DOSA HUNT. As you may have surmised from the title, the documentary stars Singh and his friends from the bands Vampire Weekend, Das Racist and Neon Indian as they drive around searching for the best dosa in town. Here's the trailer:
The movie premieres at Williamsburg's Nitehawk Cinema next weekend with a series of late-night dosa-centric food screenings and DJ afterparties that sound like a blast—each ticket comes with dosa and samosa provided by Anjappar, and the afterparties will feature free Kingfisher (Indian beer). On Friday and Saturday, the doors open at 11 p.m., with dosa & samosa at midnight and the screening at 12:30 a.m. (It's 30 minutes long.) This will be followed by a Q&A with John Norris, then the DJ-free beer afterparty. On Monday (Columbus Day), the doors open at 1 p.m. but the event follows the same format with the food and the beer and the Q&A.
Tickets went on sale today, and we took the opportunity to speak with Singh about the flick:
The hunters, and the hunted.
A dosa is a South Indian crepe, generally made of fermented rice and lentil batter, usually filled with potatoes (aloo masala) and served with condiments (coconut chutney, tomato chutney, miligai podi) and a vegetable stew called sambar. It is a simple, staple comfort food that is utterly delicious, typically gluten free, and has myriad varieties, and if that isn't reason enough to make a movie I don't know what is.
But the inspiration for the "hunt" was also predicated on the fact that it wasn't really until young adulthood in NYC that I became deeply enamored with the dish. I'd had dosa as a child here and there, but my family is from Punjab in northern India, which is not historically a dosa-stronghold. "Discovering" dosa took me from being someone that thought he knew "Indian food" to realizing I just knew a specific region and style of Indian food. All of which reinforced a basic fact which I've always thought about: India is an incredibly diverse, culturally rich land mass. For me, dosa came to stand for that humbling thing that reminds you you don't really know shit even when you think you do, and thereby the most enjoyable "humbling thing" imaginable.
Is the dosa a metaphor, and if so, for what? There is a line in the film that Himanshu says that begins "Dosa is a metaphor for..." and I'm going to go #nospoilers for the other side of the ellipses. It's a "bonus scene," though, so you'll have to watch some of the credits to get it.
What impact do you hope DOSA HUNT will have? At every step of the process of making the film I thought of DOSA HUNT as an essay on culture. Being reverent to the food was paramount, of course, but I felt there was potential, with this particular group of guys and with this scenario, to frame something beyond just food and jokes. (Rest assured: It's a lot of food and jokes.)
As a kid growing up I had, like, Tony Kanal and Kim Thayil; in the time since I've started writing about music I've seen the faces change and have often thought about how incredible it must be for a young brown kid now, to look up and see someone who looks like Anand make music like Yeasayer's, or get inside the mind of someone like Hima as he thinks and talks about his experiences in such a pop culturally-digestible way. It's not just that this cast wouldn't have been possible even 10 years ago, it's also that we are all in the same place, in the same scene, at the same time.
And I just felt that if I was a kid now, and I knew that someone was in my position—to steer a project like this and frame a snapshot of this new phase in America's immigrant/art experience—and that person then fucked it up or just didn't take it seriously, I'd never forgive them. So basically I was inspired by the 15-year-old me, to make something that would matter to me forever.