Koimoi Recommends The Great India Kitchen: Imagine bringing a home appliance, say a toaster, from the fanciest of the stores to your kitchen. It looks all new but soon becomes just another machine for you, thus entering monotony. Now imagine a homemaker in that toaster’s place who you have given a side-eye all your life, offensive right? But look around you, and assess if it isn’t true. That’s The Great Indian Kitchen. We all have seen it, lived with it and have even been guilty participants, but never questioned it. Directed by Jeo Baby, the Malayalam drama is an open letter of frustration but never at the cost of demeaning anyone. Today on Koimoi recommends I recommend this gem of a film that shows you the deep-rooted patriarchy and how an orthodox creature lurks within all of us.
Director: Jeo Baby
Available On: Neestream
Raise your hand if a woman in your house picking up your plate every single time has seemed normal and no harm to you. Well, we all are proven guilty and deserve to watch The Great Indian Kitchen, so as to realise the grimy muck that we have adapted ourselves to. It isn’t a hidden secret, but it takes the lens a bit far and showcasing your privilege in the wide-angle. And trust me, it isn’t all merry; actually, it’s uncomforting.
Women empowerment is a subject rampantly explored in cinema and at the risk of being super preachy. Filmmakers across languages suffer the phenomenon, ‘What if the audience doesn’t understand the nuances?’. Writer-director Jeo Baby respects our intellects and lets his nuances be themselves without oversimplifying. He is simply telling the story of individuals we know, or we are. He doesn’t even name his characters (Thank me if you didn’t realise that, no one in this universe had a name, except the little girl). A specimen of how these people are either us or one of us, and the fact that Baby respects you, to not spoon-feed that.
The Great Indian Kitchen does not just talk about a woman, and how she has to adapt to an alien world that she is married into, it tells the story of every glass of water that is expected from a woman even if they have come home together. Jeo Baby is looking at his gender with a lens that makes him see the privilege but with clarity that it comes at the cost of suffering to the other gender.
In The Great Indian Kitchen, we get to see a raw portrayal of all the taboos we all have come across at a certain point. A menstruating woman not being allowed to move freely in the house, women in general not allowed in Sabrimala temple because they menstruate, a man expecting his wife to serve him s*xually even when she doesn’t want to, getting offended when she expresses her s*xual needs, the list keeps increasing, and we don’t even realise the constraints that we make the lady stay into. A lot has been spoken about the film already, but what needs to be is the fact that it isn’t far away from reality. It’s your kitchen, not a fantasy world.
What shines bright are the actors who have embodied these nameless characters completely. Nimisha Sajayan plays a girl with aspirations and a progressive approach, falling into a highly patriarchal family. Every time she comes to a kitchen full of dirty dishes the cringe on her face pierces your heart. It is a range from happy, to confused, to nervous, to triggering, to the blast, Nimisha does wonders in portraying all of them. She is a slow-boiling volcano and one that needs to blast.
Suraj Venjaramoodu plays the husband, who knows nothing but that women are made to work in the kitchen and have s*x without their consent. The Great Indian Kitchen doesn’t make Suraj a villain, and the actor is careful enough to understand that. His expressions are subtle and calculated, just like a person would in real life. Him giving lessons on family value, while in contrast, not even helping his wife to fix a leaking drain.
What is victorious in this tale is Salu K. Thomas’ epic cinematography. He uses his camera to show you the monotony that we as a society subject ladies to. After a point he goes on to create frames that are repetitive, while it gets jarring after a while, I understand why Jeo Baby and Thomas do that, and you will too once you watch The Great Indian Kitchen. With the close-ups of food being cooked, the hard work put into it, Thomas captures it all and in an eye-opening manner.
All said and done, Jeo Baby’s Malayalam gem is a testimony of the fact that patriarchy isn’t an evil limited to our grandfathers, but a piece of it has also travelled to us and is the parasite we need to kill. The next time when a woman brings you a glass of water remember to return the deed and do the same.
PS: The subtitles for The Great Indian Kitchen are done by a company named 1 “Barrier, a nod to Parasite maker Bong Jong Ho’s iconic Oscar speech. Such amazing Easter eggs!