This is a rant; so, if you are looking for aesthetic, optimistic, and motivational contents, you can stop reading now. If you have not watched the film yet, please stop here because this content has spoiler alerts. Having said that, I would like to add that you can continue to watch this space for many more rants from me. You can also send me feedback, opinions, and improvements after reading. Let’s go to the rant now, shall we?
Before I begin, there are few things I would like to clarify:
– I didn’t watch this movie recently; I must have watched it several weeks ago.
– The impact it left me made me write this week later.
– It’s just part 1 of this rant.
– This rant section covers only the first 20 minutes of the movie.
I wouldn’t even term the Great Indian Kitchen as a movie. In my opinion, it is a documentary about the real-life of the majority of Indian households. If feminism, patriarchy, male chauvinism and terms like these offend you, I advise you not to read any further.
The Great Indian Kitchen, a Malayalam-language film, a drama genre, is written and directed by Jeo Baby. The film distributed by Amazon Prime Video captures the realistic version of the women’s role in Indian households. After reading many versions of the review for this movie, I found how easily we digest the normalization of the woman’s role in a house. The more comments I read, the more disgusting I felt, as we even laughed together at these “normal” situations of women.
“First things first…”
Kudos to the director for two things in the film:
– for realistically capturing the backdrops in the movie: a realistic traditional kitchen, the wood fire stove, sacks and mortar.
– for not using names for any character: by doing so, the director establishes a next-door normal Indian household on the viewer’s minds. Also, there is no way you could get swayed by the character’s name or individuality. You could see you, your home, mother, father, spouse and your own kitchen when you see the characters in the Great Indian Kitchen.
As a result, when the movie ends, you hate the dominant mindset of a husband. You can’t stop criticizing the normalization of patriarchal society and admire how the wife took a stand for herself. Ok, let’s go to my rant part.
The movie opens with a beautiful soothing melody about women. I found that it is a cultural song of the Parayar people after extensive Google research. This song is about how a housekeeper lies to keep working in the house when she is menstruating. You can read the whole interview here by the 38-year-old director Jeo Baby.
“Women’s out of the kitchen”
The first scene starts with a woman dancing graciously with pride and joy in her face: a well-implied scene for saying how this generation of women are out of the kitchen. But the director uses the camera so skillfully to show how her mother (a woman, too) is still inside the kitchen. The woman’s father waits outside to welcome someone, while the mother sets up the table. I can’t find a more beautiful way to explain the century-old patriarchal setup we follow at home. Tell me, who goes to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee when a guest arrives at your home. If your answer doesn’t involve a woman, let’s end this article here.
There was hardly any conversation between the groom and the bride, but the wedding arrangements commence. All through those beautiful three minutes, you can see how we Indians associate food with every festivity. Granted, women associate with food too, because they’re “nurturing” by nature, aren’t they?
I don’t know where we learnt this phrase, but it is high time to unlearn it. As you might think, the pleasure of sex is not a man’s subject completely. This movie within seconds portrays, how we should unlearn this as soon as possible. As with every ‘after marriage’ scene of Indian cinemas, we would expect two people sitting on the edge of the bed, shyness all over their face, giggle, and the light goes off. The camera cut and open the next scene: the heroine wakes up with a sunset glow on her face. Behold!
The heroine hereafter referred to as a wife, waits for her husband to come. I expect that there would be conversations between them. The husband doesn’t disappoint me. He asks a series of questions about his family and his household, which implies that she has officially clipped off of her family. “Hey, what’s wrong with asking such questions to make her feel at ease?”, if you ask, they are not wrong at all. In fact, it is quite disturbing that there was no question about her or her parents as if she was an orphan.
“Are you scared of darkness?” asks the husband. Wow, what a romantic start, isn’t it? Do not expect anything more from the husband, because he is the “man” believing that pleasure is a word spelt only by men. Now, this point is where the movie starts to establish a disturbing takeaway: the expressions of the woman shows how disappointed she was with the husband’s “joke”. Well, at least, he laughed at his own joke.
Camera cut, open next scene: wife officially moving into the kitchen.
It was the first and probably, the last time (with this wife), the husband drinks the coffee in the kitchen. A sweet little romance, it seems, and there he goes, leaving the unwashed mug on the slab. Kudos to the director for showing a realistic kitchen without modular settings like furnished cupboards and chimneys.
But, hey, they do have a gas-connected stove and mixer in their kitchen. Why am I mentioning these insignificant details? Because you should not think that they are too poor to afford a mixer or electricity when you see the MIL (mother-in-law) grinding the chutney on a mortar. The FIL (father-in-law) seems to have some problem with the chutney made in the mixer.
Now, welcome to the most controversial scene of the entire movie: the table manners. People who speak in defence of those men who ate and left with such mess on the table should never discipline their kids about food-eating. Alright, it is their house and no offence on how they enjoy eating the food. But, where are your manners in cleaning up the mess after you?
The shocker is when the MIL so naturally moves her husband’s plate aside, sit and start enjoying her food as if the mess doesn’t matter. Now, again, stop taking a defence mode. Why are you preaching “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” to the kids if you will turn blind to the men at your house?
I know that it might seem like a gender-specific rant. But, yes, why not? The wife clearly disposes of the vegetable wastes after cutting them into the dustbin. She cleans that messy table, and she feels disturbing to eat with so many wastes on the table. It seems like we are teaching cleanliness only to a specific gender, don’t we? Stop glorifying how women are patient, calm and inoffensive about the disgusting things that they have to experience. It is not normal.
If you are going to ask me “what’s wrong with a normal virundhu scene?”, save your breath. The same old, same old: the husband of that household waits on the porch to welcome our hero and heroine, while the wife prepares food in the kitchen. As I said, a classic patriarchal setup! Apart from that, you can see how the little boy made to sit with the guests, while the little girl asked to eat with her mom. Why, man, why?
There is not a single conversation between the husband and wife, except the frequent communication of his interest of wanting to have sex. MIL seems to work in the kitchen single-handedly, while our FIL scrolling through the WhatsApp forwards leisurely. Hey, is that why we showed interest in marrying a girl of a younger age to an older age guy, so he can show his age as a reason to not split work when he is old?
But, wait, again, the husband never works too: he has all the time for yoga, getting ready to go to his job, eating and having sex. He takes no part in household chores, or perhaps, the word ‘chores’ doesn’t exist for him. The FIL is no less when it comes to not doing any chores at home. He has a maid married to him too. While he wakes up with the newspaper in his hands, the MIL runs to the bathroom to fetch his toothpaste and brush. When he steps out of the house, the MIL runs like an athlete to the front porch with his sandals in her hand.
Throughout the twenty minutes of the movie, the wife and the MIL seems to not relax, sit or enjoy their activities. They are always in a hurry, doing something in the house. On the contrary, the men in the house are well-relaxed. Don’t you see, feel or read anything disturbing yet? Then, you have become quite comfortable with the patriarchal setup of the Indian households. If you feel disturbing already, this rant is just a trailer. There are more shocking events and incidents in the movie.
Hey, you, if you are going to write the review of this movie as “visual delight for foodies,” how do you even feel like eating when you see a woman treated like a maid? If you are not in that situation, is it so difficult to empathize with other women in such situations?
Why is it not bothering you to see a woman taking the burden of all the household chores in a house? I am not against a woman cooking in the house. In fact, I recently found out how much I love cooking. My only concern is about the shared responsibility. If she cooks, why can’t he serve? If a guest arrives, why can’t she entertain them on the couch while he prepares the coffee? Why is it all looking so abnormal for you, while glorifying women as multi-taskers is perfectly normal?
Why do you want to praise her so much, when you can share her workloads? Why, I wonder, that there is no equality when it comes to protecting and taking care of each other’s families. His house, parents and family become her responsibility naturally. Is it your first point in the marriage agreement? Why isn’t the same importance given to the woman’s family? Why even pleasure becomes a word only recognizable by men? Why is the word ‘respect’ associated with the services offered by wives to the husbands?
Why aren’t you asking “why?”?
Until next rant, bubye,
Sahana, aka the Tummy Mummy.