The Great Indian Kitchen: The Malayalam Movie's Moving Take On Gender Roles
- Aanchal Mathur
Updated : January 20, 2022 05:01 IST
The 1h 40m Malayalam movie created quite a stir online when it released on Amazon Prime in early 2021.
How many typical Indian homes have you come across where the man of the house is seen toiling in the kitchen with spices and dishes instead of the woman? While the modern concept of home in metro cities may have evolved with time, where partners have divided the household chores simply because both of them are working. But what about where the woman is a housewife? The Great Indian Kitchen on Amazon Prime is a poignant take on the same. The 1h 40m Malayalam movie created quite a stir online when it released on the OTT platform, earlier this year. And for all the right reasons.
Based on a patriarchal household in Kerala, a state known to be progressive and with the highest literacy rate in India, the movie works with the point of view of a newly wedded woman who grew up with all the freedom and luxury in her maternal home. Post an arranged-marriage setup, she moves into an extremely traditional household where her in-laws still follow many age-old traditions. Point in case- banishing woman from the kitchen and other parts of the house during her monthly cycle, banishing her in one separate room.
The Great Indian Kitchen is a startling representation of not a fictional house in Kerala. The movie is a scathing snapshot of patriarchy through the Indian kitchen- where it is believed that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and so a woman should do everything to please that. South Indian meals, specifically in Kerala are very elaborate and involves a whole lot of chopping and grinding, and that is how the day of the wife in the movie begins every day, and ends with her cleaning tons of utensils, and the blocked sewage. The kitchen, food and the process of cooking have been used as the primary tools in the movie to showcase the very minute details of how men of the house can decide everything, while being conscious of the acute gender roles. From deciding how the rice should be slow-cooked on firewood instead of an easy way of pressure cooking, to not letting a woman enter the kitchen while on her period, the men are in charge of not just the house, but of woman's bodies too.
One of the very poignant scenes in the movie is when we see a couple photographs hanging on the wall including that of the newly-wedded couple, along with those of husband's extended family. The background sounds are simply that of chopping, grinding, cooking of a sabzi, spluttering of seeds in oil, and yet in a way communicate a lot about a married life of a woman in her new house. It encapsulates the life of a married woman which has limited itself to the kitchen, with her only concerns being husband's lunch, a perfectly cooked rice and carefully chopped vegetables.
It ends with the woman leaving her husband and his house with smelly sewage water and kitchen chores, for an independent life as a dance teacher, something she yearned to do. The Great Indian Kitchen doesn't demonise anyone, has no violence but brings down patriarchy in a brilliant narrative shown through simple daily household chores.