The Blaft Anthologies of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. I & II & South Indian Sambar
Royal curses, reincarnated goddesses, flirty detectives and vengeful robots — The Blaft Anthologies of Tamil Pulp Fiction are the perfect light reads if you’re in the mood for pure entertainment. Translated into English by Pritham Chakravarthy, both volumes focus on the serialized stories that were widely popular in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s and 1970s.
Flipping to the middle of the books gives you a pretty accurate idea of what you’re getting yourself into. There you’ll find glossy inserts of the original book covers which feature poorly photoshopped images of women toting guns, women cowering under large monsters and other scantily clad women in general peril. The books were considered so racy that when Chakravarthy was a child, her mother would hide them in a cupboard. However, Chakravarthy’s bus driver would surreptitiously slip her copies.
By modern Western standards, the stories aren’t racy at all. In fact, there’s an art to their suggestive nature: A sari slips off a woman’s shoulder, a man fails to avert his gaze and this is enough to titillate without being cheap. In her forward, Chakravarthy lists out the “three golden rules” of commercial novel writing as described by Tamil author Sudhandhira Sangu:
1. The title of the book should carry a woman’s name — and it should be a sexy one like Miss Leela Mohini.
2. Your story must absolutely include a minimum half-dozen lovers and prostitutes, preferably 10 or a dozen murders, and few sundry thieves and detectives.
3. You can make money only if you are able to titillate. If you try to bring in any social message, forget it.
The fiction featured in both anthologies is curated according to these three golden rules, and while not all of them have women’s names in the titles, stories like “Sweetheart, Please Die!” and “Hold On A Minute, I’m In The Middle Of A Murder” offer a fun, often hilarious way to pass the time.
The stories in The Blaft Anthologies Of Tamil Pulp Fiction are a mixed bag of sexy, humorous and suspenseful — and they’re a fast read. What better way to mirror these traits than with a typical South Indian sambar? Sambar is a mixture of spicy, salty and sour — and so tasty it gets gobbled up fast.
SOUTH INDIAN SAMBAR
- 1 cup red masoor dal (pink lentils)
- 1 pinch asafoetida
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 large carrots, chopped
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp sambar powder (can be found in most Indian grocery stores)
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2-3 whole dried red chilies
Begin by boiling the lentils, asafoetida and salt in 2 1/2 cups water for 40 minutes. When cooked, remove from heat and stir until the mixture turns creamy.
Dissolve the tamarind paste in 1/2 cup warm water and add to the cooked lentils.
In a separate pan, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat and toss in the onions, carrots, turmeric and chili powder. Fry until the onions soften and turn translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Stir the vegetables into the lentils, add the sambar powder and pour in more water if necessary. The sambar should have the consistency of a thick soup.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small pan over medium-hight heat. Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chilies and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Pour the hot oil mixture over the lentils and serve.