Husband: Sanford Allen (Violinist)
Hometown: New Delhi
Age: 88 Years
Some Lesser Known Facts About Madhur Jaffrey
Madhur was born in Delhi but when she was two years old, her family had to shift to Kanpur as her father went there to manage a Ghee factory named Ganesh Flour Mills.
At the age of five, she played the role of a mouse in the play ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin.’
In 1944, after living for eight years in Kanpur, Jaffrey moved back to Delhi with her family.
When she was in higher school, she played the role of Titania in the play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was also a lead actor in the play ‘Robin Hood and His Merry Men.’
She used to attend the plays being hosted by her elder brother`s college.
Madhur used to follow Mahatma Gandhi and, she used to spin Khadi during the day. She also experienced the partition of India. Her school friends who were Muslim had split. She also saw the exchange of powers at the Rajpath. In 1948, she also attended the prayers at Birla House after Mahatma Gandhi died. She also attended Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral procession at Rajpath and his cremation at Rajghat.
After the partition, the Punjabis who had settled in India brought different cooking styles. They introduced tandoori chicken, dal makhani and butter chicken. Madhur liked their cooking style and she used to pick up Punjabi food for her family picnics. She also used to teach chicken recipes on the BBC cooking show.
She used to answer a summons for All India Radio and used to get paid for it. She considered this as her first job.
While writing letters to her sisters who were in Nanital at that time, Jaffrey used the initials of their names to address each other.
During her graduation in 1950, she took part in many plays in her college. In 1951, she joined Unity Theatre in Delhi that was founded by actor Saeed Jaffrey.
After her graduation, she worked as a disc jockey in All India Radio where actor Saeed was the announcer. They both fell in love with each other.
While she was dating Saeed, she met a British novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala who wrote the book ‘To Whom She Will’ in 1955 that was based on the love story of Saeed and Madhur. The book was later published in America as ‘Amrita’ in 1956. She also worked with her on All India Radio plays.
In 1955, she became part of the play ‘Auto-da-Fe’ in which she played the role of the mother. Her last play with Saeed was Othello.
After this, she decided to pursue acting as a career and took admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
There she found the food very tasteless and she requested her mother to send her the recipes of food that she could cook easily. Talking about her own cooking skills, she said in an interview,
I wasn’t taught cooking. I am self-taught through my mother’s handwritten recipes. But I must have had a good palate, although I didn’t know the word ‘palate’ at the time. I could instinctively translate a three-line recipe into a dish and through trial and error I got it right.”
In 1956, Saeed went to Madhur`s parents and asked to marry her but her parents refused as he was not earning well at that time. However, Madhur convinced her parents to get her married to Saeed.
Madhur graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1957 and she was confused about staying in London or returning back to India. She seeks help from Saeed who was at the Catholic University of America. She started teaching pantomime in St. Michael’s Playhouse at Winooski and also worked at the Drama School Library in Catholic University.
Madhur and Saeed got married to each other in 1958 and moved to New York City. Madhur worked as a tour guide to the United Nations while Saeed did public relations work for the Government of India Tourist Office. They gave birth to three daughters.
In 1965, after their marriage collapsed Madhur left the children with her parents and sisters. Her ex-husband Saeed regretted leaving Madhur and posted a message on Facebook later. The message was as below:
I was 19 when I was married to Mehrunima and she was 17. As I grew up, I learned to speak English fluently, wore suits, and developed impeccable etiquettes. But Mehrunima grew up to be my complete opposite – a typical housewife. And she was not what I wanted. All my advice and admonishments couldn’t change her basic personality and I didn’t want her. The more I tried to change her, the more we drifted apart. After 10 years, l gave her a divorce and left her. For about 6-7 months everything went well. Then I started realizing, my new wife was not caring and affectionate. She was only concerned about her beauty, her ambitions, her wants, and desires. Sometimes I missed Mehrunima’s caring touch and concern for my welfare. But, life moved on and we were 2 different persons living in the same house.”
She then started the shoot for the movie ‘Shakespeare Wallah’. She also won Silver Bear for Best Actress award for the movie. Madhur started dating Sanford Allen in 1965. Talking about her shooting days for the film, in an interview, she said,
I was very young, I introduced James [Ivory] and Ismail [Merchant] to each other in England, we were all friends. The initial plan was that my ex-husband, Saeed Jaffrey, and I would go back to India and start a touring theatrical company there. Jim said that was a wonderful idea for a film and we would sit and discuss it in his apartment. Then he went to India and met the Kendals, whom he wanted in his film. Jhabvala [the story and screenplay writer] created the character of Manjula so that I could be in it as well.”
In 1967, she started the shooting for the movie ‘The Guru’ that was released in 1969. To earn more money, she started writing for food and travel magazines.
She got married to Sanford Allen in 1969.
She also featured in other films such as Autobiography of a Princess (1976), Heat and Dust (1983), directed by Ivory, and The Perfect Murder (1988).
Madhur Jaffrey has written many cooking books and appeared in many television shows. She did the shows ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’ in 1989 and ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India’ in 1995.
After she appeared in the film Shakespeare Wallah, she came to be known as an actress who can cook.
In 1973, her first cookbook was published titled ‘An Invitation to Indian Cooking’.
The restaurant ‘Dawat’ was considered one of the best Indian restaurants in New York by Jaffrey. She worked as a food consultant for it.
In 2006, her memoir of India ‘Climbing the Mango Tress’ was published.
In an interview, she was asked about her views on the word ‘Foodiee’. She said,
That I think is being obsessed with taking pictures of food and showing off. The younger generation is very much into that little gadget you have there [pointing at my phone] and into sending around what they are doing to all their friends — it’s a new attitude that I don’t have. I don’t want to tell the world what I am eating, I just want to enjoy it.”
In an interview, she talks about her belief in making food. She said,
I have faith in the Ayurvedic belief that when you cook for your child or family, you are not only giving them food, but also passing your love on to them.”
In 2019, she appeared in a rap video with Zohran Mamdani (director Mira Nair’s son) and proved that there is no barrier to what you want to do in life.