Serving an unsavoury tale of sexism in home

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Beauty Sirikarn
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Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:35 am
Daily Driver: Fab Egg or Elbo Glass

Serving an unsavoury tale of sexism in home

Post by Beauty Sirikarn » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:38 am

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She peels, chops, grinds, cooks, serves, does the dishes, sweeps and mops the floor. He eats. She's rushed off her feet. He sits calmly, doing yoga - breathing in, breathing out.

That's the story of The Great Indian Kitchen, a small-budget Malayalam-language film that brilliantly captures the nuances of a patriarchal household and brings to light the horrors of everyday life.

Already being called "the breakout film of the year", the drama that unfolds in a dark, grimy kitchen in a "respectable", middle-class home, has become a huge talking point in the southern state of Kerala and on social media and raised many unsettling questions about insidious sexism within homes.

"It's a universal story. A woman's struggle in the kitchen is the story of almost all women in India," says Jeo Baby, the film's director. "Men think women are machines, for making tea and washing clothes and raising kids."

The inspiration for The Great Indian Kitchen, he says, came to him in his own kitchen.

"After I got married in 2015, I started spending a lot of time in the kitchen since I believe in gender equality. That's when I realised that cooking involves a lot of heavy lifting."

After a while, he says, he started thinking about "how to escape the kitchen - the drudgery, the monotony and the repetitiveness".

"I felt like I was trapped in a jail. And then I started thinking of all the women who can't escape and it troubled me."
The film opens with a wedding. Like a majority of Indian marriages, this one is arranged too - the bride and the groom, played by lead actors Nimisha Sajayan and Suraj Venjaramoodu, have met just once before, surrounded by family, and have shared a stilted conversation.

Once the festivities are over, the guests have left, the daily drudgery starts. The new bride joins the mother-in-law in the kitchen to ensure their husbands are well fed and happy. For, as the popular saying goes, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Life is equally sordid in the bedroom where she's expected to provide nightly sex, it doesn't matter whether she's willing or not - for the woman's heart, in India's patriarchal set up, is of little consequence.

The film - which is streaming on Neestream App after it was rejected by Netflix and Amazon - has won rave reviews from the critics and audiences, especially from women.

"It's very relatable. There's no violence in the film, no-one is demonised. It's a very realistic portrayal of the d eeply entrenched insensitivity within our homes," Clinta PS, assistant professor of English at Christ College in the town of Irinjalakuda, told the BBC pg slot .

Prof Clinta says she's seen her mother and other women struggle in the kitchen because meals in Kerala are "very elaborate".

"They involve a lot of chopping, washing, grinding and garnishing and take up a lot of time. It can be simplified but we don't do it. And that's because a woman is told that her husband and the family are everything, that she exists just to make them happy, she's told to be a superwoman."

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