The Great Indian Kitchen - A terrific film that strips toxic patriarchy to its disgusting naked self!
The lead characters or for that matter anyone in 'The Great Indian Kitchen' do not have names. That is, their names are not revealed to us. This isn't for novelty but because their names hardly matter. What we have are men and women and the story is centred around one such woman and her husband. The film is a portrayal of the ugliness of patriarchy and the man and woman on screen are just a representation and hold a mirror to us. What we see is what we are as a society!
We are introduced to the woman (Nimisha Sajayan) who is in a dancing class and in between there are shots of various mouth watering dishes being prepared. These, we then learn are being prepared for the family of the prospective groom (Suraj Venjaramoodu) that is coming for the bride seeing ceremony. The marriage soon happens and the woman now moves to the man's house (to his kitchen to be more precise). From this point, 'The Great Indian Kitchen' puts us in the woman's shoes and through her we get a first hand experience on how patriarchy functions in an average household. Remember that in the first scene we had shots of food being prepared in the kitchen. Now, we keep getting similar repeated shots. But what then seemed like a visual delight slowly starts feeling like a mundane activity before it gets to a point of repulsion.We also get to see how the kitchen gets cleaned and the mess that gets created after each meal and this keeps happening in loops. And the sound that emanates from these activities (slicing of the vegetables, whistle of the cooker, water leaking from a pipe) is what doubles up as the background score of the film. In between all this, we have intercut shots of the husband doing yoga and the father-in-law watching something on his mobile.The world around her hasn't stopped but the woman's presence is now merely reduced to that of serving the members of the household.
Violence isn't always physical and The Great Indian Kitchen showcases the kind of psychological violence that is inflicted upon women. Throughout the film, the husband doesn't even raise his voice against his wife. And for most of the film, the woman (despite not being given a choice) isn't shown frowning upon carrying out her 'accepted' duties. She basically has no time to frown and there is also a part of her that maybe loves the man and is under the impression that he too reciprocates the feeling. But it isn't long before she realises that she is basically a machine that has been purchased free of cost to serve this new house that is now her family. The days involve cooking, washing and cleaning. And in the nights she becomes a sex toy and someone whose cravings and feelings don't matter. And as she lays like a lifeless doll every night during the sex , all that she can visualise are the messy images from her daily routine in the kitchen. At one point she tells her husband that the sex hurts and could he also involve in foreplay and the response is possibly what makes it clear that there is no love on his side.
Nimisha Sajayan is terrific as the soft spoken young woman who is caged by what is thrust upon her. This is a performance that doesn't involve any specific scene that is going to put you in awe but after the movie the character is bound to stay with you. Suraj Venjaramoodu too is very good as the husband who seems to be the average decent guy. But this average guy would remain decent only till his wife remains someone who can never say 'No' to him. Faced with an iota of resistance or even if his wife has an opinion on something that is going to put his male ego to test, the mask of decency drops and we get to see the ugliness within. And this ugliness is a result of years of conditioning by his immediate surroundings. His father is someone who takes pride in saying that he ensured that his wife who is a post graduate remained a housewife. The film is a reflection on how those practicing misogyny and patriarchy are often ignorant and actually think that they are doing the right thing. This is also that rare film that doesn't shy away from pointing out from where this belief of self righteousness stems from. The final stretch of the film is a hard hitting take on how religion treats the female gender. God is Love, they say. But we now see how peope who consider themselves pure by sticking to religious customs aren't able to show love to the women in their own family.
A must watch film that holds a mirror up to the patriarchal setup. For men, there is enough food for thought from The Great Indian Kitchen!