by Anushree Ghosh
Directed & Written: Jeo Baby
Starring: Nimisha Sajayan
: Suraj Venjaramoodu
The close shots of cutting, chopping, cooking, and cleaning throughout the film, are not merely shots but a day spent in the life of a woman. The Malayalam movie, The Great Indian Kitchen is the much-needed reminder of the unappreciated work that a woman does in the kitchen, coupled with other household responsibilities — cleaning, ironing, washing, serving, and finally ignoring her own needs, she continues with the process of cutting, chopping, cooking and cleaning.
So, what is so different about the movie?
Yes, we have other films on the topic. One of the short movies by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s “Ghar ki Murgi” also portrays the same, however, in a subtle, and chiseled way. On the other hand, The Great Indian Kitchen is raw and unbridled. The men of the house speak nicely to the newly married bride of the house but they deny her rights with a numbing cream — the one that leaves you speechless, and you don’t even want to contest, words seem to swallow the letters in the process of coming out from your vocal cords.
If this is the story based within the premises of the Indian state with a 100% literacy rate, then imagine how could it be different for the other states of India. The father-in-law proudly announces how his wife molded herself to the norms of the house and didn’t opt for a career outside the house, because that’s what a traditional woman is supposed to do.
The docile mother-in-law is shown to be in momentum with the everyday mundane activity, making and accepting the fact that household chores are a part of her system — as blood flows through her veins, the inner urge to perform the household chores runs through her body (as induced by the system). The trouble arouses when the newly married daughter-in-law is expected to follow the steps of her mother-in-law.
The small budget movie shows a dingy kitchen and the life around it. This particular scene in the movie where the husband is seen to follow social etiquettes while eating at a restaurant, and carefully placing the bones on the waste plate, instead of placing them callously on the table (as he is used to doing at home), shows the hypocrisy of patriarchy. It is not that he is not capable of following protocols, however, he chooses to be a spoiled brat when he is at home, leaving it to the wife to clean his mess after every meal.
The film also raises some serious questions about deeming a woman unfit to perform the household task while menstruating. How she is thrown in an outhouse and left to feel unclean and unwanted for the period. Replacing her, another woman would come and begin with the cutting, chopping, cooking, and cleaning — a woman replaces woman in every cycle and gets into the same rhythm of chopping and cutting.
The ending of the movie makes all the difference – throwing dirt on the many faces of patriarchy. At least, the mundanity of cutting and chopping opens up an avenue for starting a conversation, in the hope of changing a small fragment in the system, that could get a long way afterward.