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A restaurant named after Raj Kapoor in Tashkent

An Indian restaurant in Tashkent celebrates Uzbekistan's love for Bollywood

The interiors of the Indian restaurant in Tashkent named after Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor.
The interiors of the Indian restaurant in Tashkent named after Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor. (PTI)

In the heart of Tashkent, a city known for its rich history, stands an Indian restaurant celebrating the legacy of legendary Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor and the love of the Uzbeks for him even 35 years after his death.

The Bollywood themed place, named Raaj Kapur is one of the three major Indian restaurants in Tashkent. It's at least 16 years old and is a hit among not only Indian tourists but also locals for its lip-smacking dishes.

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Three superstars from the Kapoor family—Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor—have also dined at the restaurant on different occasions.

"People in Uzbekistan are crazy about Bollywood and generations of people from Uzbekistan and Russia - even the young - are aware of Raj Kapoor and his cinema and regard him as Bollywood's numero uno. The restaurant attracts more crowd for its name and less for Indian food, which most visitors discover after enjoying a meal," Sameer Khan, Resident manager, Raaj Kapur restaurant said.

Housed in the Le Grande Hotel in Tashkent, the restaurant is a definite stopover for tourist groups from India and is popular for its Bollywood nights where Uzbeks also groove to top chartbusters from the 90s.

While Khan, who is originally from Mumbai, manages the property, the idea of the restaurant was first conceptualised by Jay Al Atas, an Indonesian who fell in love with Indian food during a visit to the country and was also impressed with the craze for Raj Kapoor in Russia and Uzbekistan.

"A lot of Indian tourist groups come here on a regular basis while Uzbeks enjoy the food on occasions and also love clicking pictures here. Whenever a Bollywood celebrity from India comes here, there is a bustling crowd," he added.

The restaurant is also the official caterer for the majority of Indian events--be it the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit or ones like a recent Bollywood night which saw performances by Daler Mehndi and Ravi Kishan.

Five chefs from different parts of India are behind the variety-loaded menu at the restaurant.

"We offer all kinds of cuisine that are available in India. Our bestselling dishes are butter chicken, biryani, cheese naan and dosa," said chef Kalamuddin Sheikh who hails from Orissa.

A wall in the restaurant boasts of the renowned people who have visited the restaurant; from politicians like Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, as well as Bollywood celebrities like Mithun Chakraborty, Shibani Kashyap, Daler Mehndi, Gulshan Grover, among others.

“We have placed signed sketches of the celebrities from India who have visited us. The restaurant is a big hit here,” Sohail Khan, Quality Manager at the restaurant said.

Born on December 14, 1924 to Prithviraj Kapoor in Peshawar (now Pakistan), Kapoor made his official acting debut with the 1947 film Neel Kamal and went on to become "the greatest showman of Indian cinema". He made a mark as an actor with films like Shree 420, Awaara and Barsaat.

At the age of 24, Kapoor became the youngest filmmaker of his time when he made his directorial debut with Aag (1948) featuring himself alongside Nargis, Kamini Kaushal and Premnath.

Kapoor was famous for his Charlie Chaplin-esque style of acting, which garnered attention not only from the Indian audience but also made him a fan-favourite in Russia.

Kapoor died of complications related to asthma on June 2, 1988 at the age of 63 in New Delhi.

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