Finally, got to watch “The Great Indian Kitchen”, the much talked about Malayalam film which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Not just the title, the film is also like a Big Boss type reality show where cameras are positioned in different parts of a house and you just get to see continuous reels of what happens in the house every day. In fact, for more than one hour into the film, what you get to see is lady or ladies cooking, cleaning the vessels, cleaning the house and repeat. And all this while the men in the house are shown reading newspaper, doing yoga, eating their meals timely and getting about their job. So, you may ask what the story is, if it’s just a reality show. How the newly wed daughter in law played superbly by Nimisha Sajayan, liberates herself from the house which just expects her to cook, clean vessels, clean the house and provide pleasure in the bed in the night at the end, is the story.
Director Jeo Baby who has written the screenplay keeps the film very simple. In terms of making, this must be the most basic film I would have watched in so many years. Probably the director wanted to keep it so real and so the strength of the film is its realness. The setting of a middle class Kerala household, the characters, the happenings are all so real and familiar.
Suraj Venjaramoodu, one of Malayalam’s brilliant actors once again hits it out of the park in this film. As the misogynistic husband who doesn’t realise his failings till the end and keeps thinking that all is well like most men do in a marriage, he is superb. In one of the best scenes in the film, Suraj who is a teacher is shown waxing eloquent on family values and togetherness while his wife is battling a choked sink back at home. The film could have been very well titled as “The Great Indian Sink”.
But the film belongs to Nimisha. She portrays very ably, the transformation from a simple girl who has dreams of a blissful married life to a frustrated lady who is fed up with the daily rigmarole of cook and clean cycle and eventually to a liberated woman who starts pursuing her passion as a dance teacher. With very few lines, her eyes do all the talking. It takes courage for any young actress to pick up a role in which you are just cooking, washing vessels and clearing the sink most of the time and yes sans any make up in the whole film.
Another actor who you feel is plucked out from real life and planted in the household is Suresh Babu who plays the role of the Father in law. He is the smiling assassin in the house and epitome of patriarchy. Watch him checking his mobile in the mornings while morning tea is served in his hands to understand why I say, he is plucked out of real life.
While the film is close to reality in most parts, I felt that the director was also stretching it too much. Clearly the film is set in today’s times and not the 70’s or 80’s. It is unfathomable that a middle class household today doesn’t engage a domestic help to do the regular household chores. Also the men insisting on using grinding stone instead of a mixer or manual washing instead of a washing machine or the Father in law waiting for his wife to bring his slippers to him are over the top. The film also needlessly brings the Sabarimala controversy of women of certain age group being not allowed into the temple into the film’s gender discrimination narrative. I felt that there the director was touching a raw nerve briefly even among women in Kerala who strongly believe in maintaining the temple tradition. That brief distraction apart, the film nails the gender discrimination part hard and straight.
The Great Indian Kitchen is Thappad 2.0 i.e. another tight slap on male patriarchy and gender discrimination that fails to disappear from our society. By the way, if watching Nimisha’s belligerent long walk in the last scene reminds you of Taapsee Pannu’s walking style, it may be just a coincidence. It’s a must, must watch because as the wise lady in the house said there is a percentage of The Great Indian Kitchen in every house all over the world and so a reminder once in a while helps.