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Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey
File:Madhur Jaffrey crop.jpg
Born (1933-08-13) 13 August 1933 (age 82)
Delhi, British India
Years active 1964-2013
Spouse(s) Saeed Jaffrey (?-1965) (3 children)
Sanford Allen (1969-present)

Madhur Jaffrey CBE (Hindi: मधुर जाफ़री madhur jāfrī; born 13 August 1933) is an Indian actress, active in radio, theatre, television and film as well as a food writer, authoring numerous cookbooks and television chef and entrepreneur who, alongside acclaimed performances in such films as Shakespeare Wallah, Six Degrees of Separation and Heat and Dust, introduced the Western world to the many cuisines of India.

Early life

She was born Madhur Bahadur in Delhi, British India, and was educated at Miranda House (of the University of Delhi). After college, she worked for All India Radio.[1] She then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), from which she graduated with honours in 1957.[2]

Personal life

She then met and married Indian actor Saeed Jaffrey and moved to New York City. She and Saeed divorced in 1965. They have three daughters, Meera, Zia and Sakina Jaffrey. In 1967, she married Sanford Allen, who at the time was a violinist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.[3] She is the aunt of the British journalist Rohit Jaggi and his sister the literary critic Maya Jaggi (their mother Lalit being one of Madhur's older sisters).

Merchant Ivory films

Madhur Jaffrey is said to have been responsible for introducing James Ivory and Ismail Merchant to one another.[4] She appeared in a number of their earlier films: Shakespeare Wallah (1965) (a role for which she won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 15th Berlin International Film Festival),[5] The Guru (1969), Autobiography of a Princess (1976), Heat and Dust (1983), directed by Ivory, and The Perfect Murder (1988). She starred as the title character in their film Cotton Mary (1999) and co-directed it with Merchant.

Other films and television

She has appeared in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) and Prime (2005). She starred in and produced ABCD (1999) and guest-starred in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Name" as a psychiatrist, and the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "The Healer" as a lecturer. In 1985, she was in the Hindi film Saagar where she played the role of Rishi Kapoor's grandmother. In 1992–94 she appeared with Billie Whitelaw in the British television series Firm Friends. In 1999, she appeared with daughter Sakina Jaffrey in the film Chutney Popcorn. In 2003, she played Roshan Seth's wife in Cosmopolitan, a film broadcast on PBS. She also starred alongside Deborah Kerr in the 1985 made-for-TV movie The Assam Garden. In 2012 she played a doctor in A Late Quartet who diagnoses Christopher Walken's character with Parkinson's Disease.


In 1962, she appeared in A Tenth of an Inch Makes the Difference by Rolf Forsberg.[6] In 1969, she appeared in The Guide, based on the novel by R. K. Narayan,[7] and in 1970, she appeared in Conduct Unbecoming, written by Barry England.[8] In 1993, she appeared in Two Rooms by Lee Blessing.[9] In 1999, she appeared in Last Dance at Dum Dum by Ayub Khan-Din.[10] In 2004, Jaffrey appeared in Bombay Dreams on Broadway, where she played the main character's grandmother (Shanti).[11] In 2005, she appeared in India Awakening by Anne Marie Cummings.


Jaffrey is the noted author of cookbooks of Indian, Asian, and world vegetarian cuisines, many of which have become best-sellers and several of which have won James Beard Foundation awards. She has presented several cookery series on television, including Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery in 1982, Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery in 1989 and Madhur Jaffrey's Flavours of India in 1995.[12] She lives in Manhattan and has a home in upstate New York. As a result of the success of her cookbooks and TV, Jaffrey also developed a line of mass-marketed cooking sauces.

Ironically, she did not cook at all as a child growing up in Delhi. She had almost never been in the kitchen and almost failed cooking at school.[13] It was only after she went to London at the age of 19 to study at RADA that she learned how to cook, using recipes of familiar dishes that were provided in correspondence from her mother.[14] In the 1960s, after her award-winning performance in Shakespeare Wallah, she became known as the "actress who could cook" and was hired by the BBC to present a show on Indian cooking.[15] After an article about her and her cooking appeared in the New York Times in 1966, she received a book contract that produced An Invitation to Indian Cooking, her first book.[16] The recipes in that book came from her mother, although she adapted them for the American kitchen.[17] During the 1970s, she taught classes in Indian cooking, both at the James A. Beard School of Cooking and in her Manhattan apartment. In 1986, the restaurant Dawat opened in Manhattan using recipes provided by her.[18]


  • Best Actress Award from the Berlin Film Festival in 1965 for her performance in Shakespeare Wallah[5]
  • Taraknath Das Foundation Award presented by the Taraknath Das Foundation of the Southern Asian Institute of Columbia University in 1993[19]
  • Named to Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1995.[20]
  • Muse Award presented by New York Women in Film & Television in 2000.[21]
  • Honorary CBE awarded on 11 October 2004 "in recognition of her services to cultural relations between the United Kingdom, India and the United States, through her achievements in film, television and cookery".[22]





  1. Practically Edible.
  2. "Moving stories: Madhur Jaffrey". BBC News. 22 December 2003. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  3. Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.
  4. Gussow, Mel."Telling Secrets That Worked For a Gambling Life in Films", The New York Times, 2 January 2003.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Berlinale 1965: Prize Winners". Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  6. Esterow, Milton: "Plays by Rolf Forsberg Open at the East End", The New York Times, 13 November 1962.
  7. Barnes, Clive: "Theater: Reluctant Guru", The New York Times, 7 March 1968.
  8. "New Castings Listed", The New York Times, p. 54, 21 September 1970.
  9. "Divided by Space and Captivity, but United in Spirit", The New York Times 18 February 1993.
  10. Wolf, Matt, "Last Dance at Dum Dum", Variety, 9 August 1999.
  11. Bombay Dreams Broadway 2004 cast.
  12. "Jaffrey, Madhur", Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC).
  13. Claiborne, Craig: "Indian Actress Is a Star in the Kitchen, Too", The New York Times, 7 July 1966.
  14. Jaffrey, Madhur, Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, Barron's Educational Series, 1983. ISBN 978-0-8120-6548-0.
  15. Bhaskaran, Nandini: "An actress who can cook", The Times of India, 18 November 2007.
  16. Johnson, Bonnie and Vespa, Mary: "Indian cooking's New Delhi delight is actress Madhur Jaffrey", People Weekly, 8 December 1986.
  17. Sokolov, Raymond: "Current Stars: Books on Indian, Italian and Inexpensive Food", The New York Times, 19 April 1973.
  18. Miller, Bryan: "Restaurants", The New York Times, 12 December 1986.
  19. Southern Asian Institute | About the Taraknath Das Foundation
  20. Welcome to the James Beard Foundation
  21. New York Women in Film and Television
  22. Madhur Jaffrey Made Honorary Commander of the British Empire

External links

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