The first season of MasterChef India (on Star Plus) was, not to put too fine a point on it, disappointing. The abiding images from that show are of plump, homely auntyjis presenting chief judge Akshay Kumar with their dishes and promptly bursting into tears - regardless of whether he liked / disliked / loved / hated the dishes. Many of the women then launched into impassioned speeches about how they were Akshay's biggest fans and couldn't believe that he was tasting their food.
Season 2, which has just started, is a distinct improvement. It looks better (more like the international MasterChef shows) and flows better too. Akshay may have added star value to the first season, but if you want a food show, you need to have a proper chef. And despite Akshay's something-to-do-with-food stint in his early days in Bangkok (was he a cook? Was he a waiter? Or did he both cook and wait tables? No one seems to know), he wasn't really the best fit for the show. (Khatron Ke Khiladi is more his style, he certainly seems more comfortable hanging from helicopters than hanging around a kitchen).
Vikas Khanna, the Amritsar-to-America chef replaces Akshay in this season of MasterChef India. He has an engaging screen presence - more amiable than the other two judges, Kunal Kapoor and Ajay Chopra, who sometimes sound like sergeant majors marshalling the troops. (In a chillies-potatoes-cabbage chopping task, both of them said they would give a 'tap' to those contestants who were doing well; however, their version of a friendly shoulder 'tap' was more like a solid shove).
But there's plenty of room for sentimentality too. It is almost compulsory for reality shows these days to have at least some contestants with if not outright sad, at least moving / touching back stories. It is as if the success of these shows is directly proportionate to the quantity of tears shed on camera. (Tears = TRPs. I don't even want to think of what that says about us viewers).
So in MasterChef India 2, there is a lady who works as a maid in Mumbai, cooking for different families. When the judges praised her food, she wept. Then there are two single women, separated from their husbands, of whom one has already broken down and cried. There is also a contestant from Benares - a caterer - who couldn't control his tears. And so on. In the midst of this flood of tears, it was nice to see some jolly contestants, such as Puneet who calls himself an "out of control Punjabi' from Hyderabad. And yes, there is much more food in the show this year, just as there seem to be more innovative cooks too (one of the contestants, Shipra, made a yam mousse, which earned her a MasterChef apron).
And finally. There is a new music channel up and running - Sony Mix. A full on desi music (read Bollywood) channel, the good thing is that it is just a music channel. There are no reality shows, no serials and no allegedly funny animated characters. Only songs, including slots for songs from the Seventies and Eighties (which is a good idea if you get fed up of seeing the latest hits over and over again. Think about it, how often can you see Dhinka chika?)
Sony Mix has also taken the word 'mix' quite literally - because the logo and promos of the channel have a mix of every colour imaginable. But for fans of Bollywood music, a welcome addition.