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Eat like a bird, nestle at Seven


WHO NEEDS food when you are face-to-face with someone as beautiful as Shobana? But if this film star, Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, choreographer, and glamorous scion of an illustrious family of artistes is a stunner, she also knows how to carry on a warm, cheerful conversation. One which gives ample evidence that there is plenty of whirring grey matter to light up those huge limpid eyes. Sparkling in navy blue with glittery eye shadow to match, Shobana has taken some time out during a whirlwind visit to Delhi, for lunch at hotel Crowne Plaza Surya's Seven restaurant.

An interactive Indian cuisine restaurant, Seven takes its name from the seven cooking styles offered. These refer to cooking utensils such as the tawa, mahi tawa, kadhai, the bhatti (charcoal grill), tandoor (clay oven), the pathar or Deccan stone and the steaming technique, bhaap. It offers customers the choice of eating at a table or round a larger interactive carousel in the middle of the restaurant, where the chefs custom-prepare the dishes. There are also private carousels with fixed vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus.

No fan of cooking

You can't get Shobana to rave about such culinary niceties, simply because, while she has her favourites in food - "East Asian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan... Thai is okay too" - she has no pretensions to being a passionate cook. Some celebrities might like to project the image of the homebody who whisks on the apron and rushes into the kitchen to cook for the family on the first day free from shooting, but Shobana is categorical that cooking is not one of her hobbies.

"It is the greatest compliment to someone if I cook for them," she declares, tucking into a platter of starters featuring non-vegetarian kababs. By preference non-vegetarian, Shobana announces she is on a diet. With a rigorous schedule of dance rehearsals, between film shootings and running her dance school in Chennai, one would have thought Shobana's lifestyle was active enough to keep her fit. But she finds it otherwise.

Forget her latest celluloid venture in English, Dance Like a Man, directed by Pamela Rookes, and the hundreds of Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu films she has starred in, besides Revathi's acclaimed Mitr - My Friend that brought Shobana into focus for North Indian audiences.

All this work, all the dancing required in commercial cinema besides her own exacting brand of classical dance cannot take the credit for that lithe figure. So what is her secret?

A no-carbohydrate diet.

Quite a diet

"For 20 years I've consistently gotten up in the morning and decided to stay off carbs," she says seriously. It sounds like rather a supreme sacrifice for a South Indian living in Chennai to give up dosais, iddlis or even, being from Kerala, the traditional puttu kadala breakfast. "Oh, I start with carbs," clarifies Shobana. "I have one-and-a-half iddlis for breakfast."

That doesn't sound like much of a deviation from the diet. "Then I swear off carbs till lunch time," she continues, straight-faced. For lunch she indulges in one chapatti.

"Then I absolutely make up my mind to stay off carbs. And for dinner I have biryani," she smiles.

The Seven staff is all geared up to serve Shobana the main meal. But she finds the starters so sumptuous that anything else is out of the question.

Dancing like a man is all right. Shobana eats like a bird, too.

ANJANA RAJAN

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