“I am the number one nani, don’t f**k with me” – 85-year-old actress Madhur Jaffrey lays out the bottomline in the video for rapper Mr Cardamom’s new song, Nani. Jaffrey, best known for her for playing the film star, Manjula, in James Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah (1965), and popularising Indian cuisine in the West with her cookbooks and television programmes, has returned as a foul-mouthed grandmother for the hip-hop video released on Monday on YouTube.
The video starts off with Jaffrey’s matriarch being admonished by her son for not being a dutiful caretaker of her grandchildren. Jaffrey morphs into a rapper, sporting giant red sunglasses, a yellow beret and an oversized jacket, who is “85 years old” and “the best damn nani that you ever done seen”. Soon, she is slapping annoying men who don’t know their vegetables and flipping off haters from behind a food truck.
Mr Cardamom is the performing name for 27-year-old Zohran Mamdani from Queens, New York City. He is the son of filmmaker Mira Nair. Mamdani had created, in his previous avatar as Young Cardamom, along with Abdul Bar Hussein aka HAB, the food-themed song #1 Spice for Nair’s 2016 film Queen of Katwe. Mamdani has also directed the video for Nani.
In an interview with The New York Times, Mamdani said that the song Nani was inspired by his actual 85-year-old grandmother Praveen Nair, a social worker from Delhi. She founded the Salaam Baalak Trust, which works for street-dwelling underprivileged children.
Speaking about her role of a tough-as-nails rapping grandmother, Jaffrey said, “It’s like playing Lady Macbeth. If you’re an actress, you have to play everything.” For research, she studied hip-hop videos and found mouthing lines fast on rhythm to be a challenge. At one point, she recalled thinking, “I thought I can do this. Then I read the words.” Nani’s video is Mamdani’s first for his solo rapper avatar.