This is the first ever Malayalam movie that I have watched. Thanks to my friend, Mridula for recommending it to me way before it made its way to Amazon Prime. If I am not wrong, it was first released on Neestream that is where my friend first watched it.
I was first hesitant about watching a Malayalam movie as I believe that if you do not understand the language you can’t judge the movie based on subtitles. Subtitles never do justice to the original dialogues. But The Great Indian Kitchen proved me wrong. To understand the frustration the female protagonist is going through, you need not understand her language. The excellent part about this film is that it’s not dependent on the dialogues. It’s purely based on emotions and feelings. I had read somewhere that a good script is the one that doesn’t need dialogues. The Great Indian Kitchen is one of the best examples of it.
What is The Great Indian Kitchen all about? When I first heard the title, I thought it’s a cooking show, but it turned out to be a film. Not just any film but the one that speaks about ‘age-old traditions and women’ in today’s India. The story is a good mix of ancient India, today’s India, and the way women were/are treated in patriarchy.
The film revolves around a new bride whose life, after marriage, is suddenly confined to the kitchen. It becomes more worrisome for her when even her husband turns out to be the believer of the age-old tradition that women belong to the kitchen. On top of it, what adds to her misery is chauvinistic behavior. The scene where she tells him that they should consider foreplay as direct penetration hurts her is heart-wrenching. Nimisha Sajayan has undoubtedly done a fab job in the entire film, but this one scene was where she wins your heart by breaking your heart. Though the direction is to be praised here, her silent tears hit where it hurts.
The beauty of The Great Indian Kitchen is that 90% of the film is set in the kitchen of a traditional South Indian house. It may seem slow-paced sometimes. You might also feel that the film is not moving ahead but that is purposely done here – to make you feel the exact way the women who are stuck in the kitchen, for lifetime, feels. And you know, it’s not just about the kitchen but also the way women are treated by society. The sad part is women are also conditioned to treat another woman in a similar fashion. For example, the way men in the house eats or the way the female protagonist’s mother wants her to adjust at her in-laws by blindly accepting their traditions without questioning them makes you question our country, its belief systems, its traditions, and then makes you question yourself – IS IT ALL REALLY WORTH IT?
If you are a woman watching this movie, you might just end up questioning your existence. In metro cities, we at least have the privilege of being a ‘working woman’ and also of affording house help, but in rural India, the kitchen still belongs to the woman of the house where she is supposed to be its caretaker. Unfortunately, not just of the kitchen but also become the caretaker of the men of the house. The sad part is that instead of appreciating her of what she does for the family and her house, she is looked down upon. The kitchen is considered her ‘duty.’ The woman then becomes the UNPAID full time maid of the house. And the extra benefit of having a wife as maid is that the men also gets to have sex with her – FREE OF COST. If that line made you skip a heartbeat, that is the life majority of women in the country live. Some speak about it while others smile and make it a way of their life, just like the protagonist’s mother-in-law.
For a brief period, the film reminded me of Sakshi Tanwar’s Ghar Ki Murgi. Since it was a short film, it spoke only about a woman’s life in the kitchen. The Great Indian Kitchen is an extended version of that frustrating life.
Coming to the end of The Great Indian Kitchen, it shows how the cycle never ends. If one woman breaks the cycle, there is another who enters the cycle. The men are never at loss whether you choose to be the part of his toxicity or choose to walk out of it.
The predator always finds another prey.
P.S. The film about women and their miseries is written and directed by a man.
Where to Watch? Amazon Prime Video