[VoxSpace Selects] Review Of The Great Indian Kitchen: An Uncompromising Ode To Feminity

The Great Indian Kitchen has been popping up all over my feed, talking about it being one of the best films of the year. It definitely piqued my interest as it had a great cast that I really admire and I had no idea of what it was about. I thought it was some kind of a love story of sorts. After a lot of deliberation, I finally watched this masterpiece of a film, and let me explain.

The Story of Love Lost…

The film tells the story of a dancer by passion who marries a teacher who belongs to a well to do orthodox family that is steeped in tradition and history. What seems to be a peaceful union slowly starts to hit road bumps as Nimisha realizes that the women in the house have certain non-negotiable tasks that they have to perform. The everyday chore of cooking that most of us ignore becomes the bane of her existence. We watch in horror as this seemingly peaceful union turns into a noose around her neck slowly squeezing the life out of this sweet girl who seemed so full of life. You would think this is just another film about the woman rising above the patriarchy, which it definitely is, but also so much more.

A Battle Cry For The Unrepresented…

The film not only tells you this story but makes sure that the audience experiences every moment of it. Every moment is captured with utmost detail and absolute conviction. The film never spoon-feeds its audience, but rather chooses to skilfully juxtapose moments that lay bare the absolute hypocrisy that envelopes us to the point that we have gotten used to it. The tireless work going into the upkeep of the house is contrasted with the men doing yoga or chilling in the veranda. We watch as the women create beautiful looking food, just to end up cleaning the dirty table and eat the leftovers. The film never shies away from really shoving your face in the overlooked corners of the society we have created, so as to make us relive every moment of our privileged life through another lens.

A Technical Achievement…

This mood piece lives and dies by the atmosphere it creates. So, the filmmaker here, Jeo Baby makes some daring choices that seem to pay off in spades. He chooses to not score the film in any way except for the songs the bookend the film. So, the heavy-lifting here is done by the sound design. As the film progresses the very sounds that we hear everyday sound different with an expertly put together soundscape that makes repetition a tool to put you in the exact headspace of our protagonist. This is then amplified by the crisp editing by Francies Louis that also uses repetition of certain frames and motifs to show us the absolute hell-scape that has somehow imprisoned this beautiful soul crying for help. The cinematography by  Salu K. Thomas too which seems very simple as it never seems stagy is meticulously thought out, which is taken to new heights because of the seamless production design by Jithin Babu Mannur that truly immerses you in the movie’s world.

A Dream Cast And Wonderful Voices…

Nimisha Sajayan and Suraj Venjaramoodu who play the nameless protagonists really excel in their respective roles here. These two have already shown us the depths of their talent in their previous film, Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum. Nimisha who has to slowly go from a free-spirited young girl to a woman seething quiet rage is a revelation. The camera never shies away from just staying on her face to show us the multitudes of conflicting feelings her environment is putting her through. And Suraj provides the perfect foil for her showing his transformation from a man who thinks he is progressive to slowly fit into the regular mold of an everyday misogynist, while never making it too jarring or hasty. The rest of the cast is great, but M.V. Suresh Babu really shines here as the passive-aggressive father of the husband, that oozing with male privilege.

While the film touches on similar themes as the brilliant short called Juice by Neeraj Ghaywan. It expands on it by really delving into the everyday minutia of a family like this and the matter of fact way in which it depicts the abuse. It is never melodramatic, yet makes a point that is unmistakably a battle cry against the scourge of casual oppression of half of our population. The film is streaming right now on Neestream. Do check it out.

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