Director Parthiban’s comments on upma were clearly about hunger, but he inadvertently sparked a most inane controversy.

How a filmmakers comment on the humble upma became a national controversy
Social Controversy Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 13:36

National Award-winning director R Parthiban found himself in the midst of a controversy after sharing what was essentially a personal story of fighting hunger and struggle in the early days of his career.   

In an interview to The Hindu Metroplus, Parthiban talked about how upma was his saviour in the days when he had very little money, and, said jokingly that it should be declared the national dish of India.

“When there was enough money, I used to make kesari, and if there was no money, it was upma. Many assistant directors survive only on upma even today. It requires less ingredients and it is a one-pot dish that can be made in a short time. Upma must be declared the national dish of India,” he said.

In case you were wondering, “Upma, also called uppittu, is a kind of porridge originating in the Western and Southern parts of India. It is made with vegetables, and some grain – rice/wheat/semolina/rava/sago etc., with seasoning added and cooked to a thick consistency,” writes Jaya Shravan in TNM.

And while Parthiban’s comments were clearly about poverty, hunger and food, he inadvertently sparked a most inane controversy, thanks to a very superficial reading by some.

Outraged by his “culinary chauvinism”, English news channel NewsX decided to hold a debate on this very pressing national issue - Can upma be the national dish of India?

With tickers screaming “Now they ‘force’ upma upon you” and “Politics over the ‘humble’ upma”, NewsX went on to hold a 15-minute debate with four panellists including a chef and a nutritionist.

Watch here:

And while the channel came to the conclusion that a country like India, which was so diverse, could not have one national dish, the controversy that it helped fuel had Twitterati up in arms.

 But the point the director was trying to make in his interview was not lost to some.

Incidentally, the man in question took to Twitter to clarify his comment stating, “I told The Hindu that upma was my national dish during my days of poverty.” Taking a dig at NewsX, Parthiban jokingly added, “But these people have added masala and made it a khichidi.”

Now, go get yourself a bowl of upma.