Whether it was learning the dance to ‘Le Gayi’ from Dil To Pagal Hai or Aaliyah’s ‘Try Again’, music videos were a big part of my formation into an adult woman. I wanted to wear that awful costume adorned by Kajol in Karan Arjun’s ‘Jaati Hoon Main’ and be a member of Shirley Manson’s band, standing around looking into the distance, in Garbage’s ‘Only Happy When It Rains’.
I went to university because I was obsessed with Tool’s claymation music videos – leading me to study Film & Animation.
Needless to say, music videos are important to me.
Recently, there’s only been a few times a music video was so good it stuck with me (Cassie ft. Nicki Minaj ‘The Boys’, Cassie choke me etc) but then I checked my inbox in the middle of one of my periods of insomnia and watched something that made me laugh louder than I’d ever anticipated.
A song about Nani’s (yes, you capitalise out of respect)! Featuring Madhur Jaffrey? I paused. Madhur Jaffrey. The whole of India’s Nani is in this music video – the woman who taught the whole diaspora how to cook just mimed the word ‘fuck’.
Mr. Cardamom (I’m getting hungrier as I write this), the rapper responsible for creating this masterpiece was raised in Kampala, Uganda until he was 7 years old when his family relocated to New York.
“I work during the day as a housing counsellor specialising in foreclosure prevention and spend some nights and most weekends doing local electoral organising. I’ve been making music for about ten years but it took about half that time for me to take it seriously. Initially it was just how I launched my ultimately unsuccessful run for Vice president in high school or a song my college roommates and I made for ourselves. I started to take it more seriously in 2015 thanks to my brother Abdul, who would eventually become HAB and I, Young Cardamom”.
Our Nani’s are always interesting people – from their power to overcome patriarchal attitudes, partition, the British Raj, immigration, love, loss, traditions and still yell at us for burning the onions, while tutting and pushing us aside. They have so much inside of them, including a lot of secrets, so I understand the fascination. As a musician, though, another layer is added when you come up with an amazing beat.
“My Nani came to visit two years ago and she, myself and my two sisters were hanging out. I started free styling like an idiot about Nani just being an absolute boss. Weeks passed and I couldn’t shake either the chorus or the general idea out of my head and so I talked to my friend Magnus about producing a beat for it.”
I wanted to know how he got Madhur involved. After coming up with the initial concept for the video (which I assume is something a family would do at home in the kitchen with their Nani’s, until they get embarrassed and wonder off - probably into the kitchen to re-do the dishes for the third time), how do you convince Madhur Jaffrey?
“I shared my idea for this video (of a Nani lip-syncing my lyrics and generally being a take-no-shit character) with Rahul Chitella, a good friend of mine, and he said that Madhur would be the ideal person. I thought it was a genius idea but I told him I had no idea how to contact her, never mind convincing someone of her stature to be in a video like this. I sat on the idea for a bit until I spoke with another friend of mine - Poorna Jagannathan - who told me that she was friends with Madhur and could pitch her the idea. Madhur was intrigued, the two of us emailed, and then I met her at her home to talk to her about it all”.
The start of the video broke my heart. After a few slices of Madhur’s old cooking videos, with her now making some food in the kitchen, you hear her son call for her. The conversation is well known – it was also covered in Master of None – her son starts yelling at her and we watch her face as a combination of pain and disappointment fills her.
“I think there’s sadly is a lack of respect for our older generation. It isn’t uniform but there are so moments we see in which elders are infantilised and scolded”, Mr Cardomom confirms my heavy heart, “We’ve been given one standard idea of who a desi grandmother should be and we leave little room for anything else. Even Madhur - an 85-year old Nani herself acting in this is a shock to so many people.”
It was a shock for a few reasons – I haven’t seen her in anything in a while. Maybe I haven’t been looking, but I feel like I almost forgot her. My heart’s getting heavier and heavier as I type this. I wonder how many other people who I looked up to when younger are vanishing from my mind. It’s important to celebrate them when we can, with our own success and the turning clock of generations – we can still and absolutely always should be looking back.
The video itself is colourful, fun and has a polished DIY element to it, but filming is no easy feat – not matter how fun it looks.
“The shoot was both fun and absolute chaos. Both of those descriptions come from just how ramshackle it all was - we were shooting in my friends' parents apartment, paying the owner of a halal cart to use his cart for two hours, taking over a tutoring centre, and just running around the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn over the course of 48 hours to try and bring a ridiculous concept to life. And through the whole thing, Madhur was just amazing”.
It’s already a success as Mr. Cardamom puts it: “my family WhatsApp groups gave it the thumbs up, so you know it’s real”.
Director: Zohran Kwame Mamdani
Cinematographer: Jasmine Velez
Writer: Zohran Kwame Mamdani
Editors: Joel Jay Blacker & Raymundo Archila
Colorist: Tanner Hall
Make Up: Melanie Harris
Grips & Electric: Jose Osorio
DIT/AD: Gabriela Azevedo
PA: Olivia Ramos Granja Reed