DOSA HUNT is a short film about many things, but first and foremost, it is about dosa, the South Indian comfort food made out of fermented rice pancake, stuffed with potatoes and served with varying degrees of spicy sauces. Sure, the dish may be a ruse to talk about other things, mainly friendship and a connection to one’s race and heritage, but it is the driving plot point for Amrit Singh’s new short film, which follows him and six musicians—Anand Wilder of Yeasayer, Himanshu Suri and Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Alan Palomo of Neon Indian and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer—on a mission to find very good dosa around New York City.
For Singh, an Indian Sikh and executive editor of the music blog Stereogum, the film was a vehicle for telling a comical, coming-of-age story about being a minority in the already niche subset of indie music. “Growing up, all my time was spent around people who had a similar interest in art or playing in the same band as me. It wasn’t until that last few years of watching what was happening in the music community that I started to feel like things were changing and the faces were changing,” says Singh. “It was like, I see that you clearly had to have had a similar upbringing to me in that you chose art and you did that because you loved it and not because you saw faces like yours. It was something more essential and spiritual and aesthetic than that. That really sparked something inside of me.”
This experience was something he found he shared with the rest of the cast of DOSA HUNT, as well as with his tattoo artist-cum-guru, Anil Gupta, who perhaps more than anyone else in the film has seen Singh through some major life realizations. “When you apply to get a tattoo from [Anil], you have to write a short essay about your tattoo and the concept, and when you go in to get it, he’ll be really intense,” says Singh. “I liken getting a tattoo from him to putting your idea into a crucible. It gets really heated, but at the end you walk away with the essence of your idea. It’s important, because it’s going to be with you forever.” Gupta also serves as DOSA HUNT’s spirit guide, providing the rubric for judging dosa quality that Singh and the rest of the cast refer to throughout the film. As it happens, he was also tasked with designing the film’s poster.
Gupta got his start as a designer under the tutelage of his father C. Mohan, who’s perhaps the best-known Bollywood poster designer of all time, and so designing the poster for DOSA HUNT also provided him with an opportunity to get back to his roots. For DOSA HUNT, Gupta rendered the film’s logo in a tan, cracked text which manages to reference both the color and texture of dosa, while also recalling the Bolly-wood classic Sholay. Singh remembers being overjoyed by the logo’s richness, later learning that, as a teenager, Gupta watched his father design a vast number of film logos, Sholay’s being among them. “I’ve strived to make logos as quickly and elegantly all my life,” Gupta told him.
Sholay’s influence on DOSA HUNT runs deeper than the logo, though. A Bollywood reinterpretation of The Magnificent Seven, which was released in 1975 and features stars like Amitabh Bachchan among others, Sholay’s tagline boasts “The greatest all-star cast every assembled.” Closing the loop between The Magnificent Seven, Sholay, and DOSA HUNT, Singh’s documentary has its own seven stars. While they might not be the greatest all-star cast ever assembled, they are on “The greatest hunt for South Indian food in NYC ever committed to film!” It might be grading on a curve, but it’s not wrong.