chops, slices, dices and grinds. she cooks, washes, cleans, sweeps and rubs.
Meanwhile, she does yoga before breakfast and the office. in another part of the house, his mother-in-law waits for a woman of the house to put toothpaste on his toothbrush and take it away while he sits relaxing or reading the newspaper on the porch.
While the men exercise their bodies and minds, she picks up the trail of trash they leave behind.
she takes out the trash. she keeps out the holy lamp. she is the first to wake up and the last to go to bed, there to be raped by the one to whom she is legally and socially attached.
Writer-director jeo baby’s
great Indian cuisine, also known as mahaththaya bharatiya adukkala, is a great Indian film that captures a little-discussed horrific reality with pinpoint accuracy. amazing, simply replicating on screen what happens in millions of Indian homes. It’s in Malayalam, but the title reminds us that patriarchy knows no state borders. the characters don’t have names because it’s you and me and everyone around.
(minor spoilers in this paragraph) a wife who leaves her husband’s shoes for him to put on when he leaves the house, a man who cooks a meal and leaves a mess for the women clean it up while praising himself for giving those women a break; these are not just fictional scenes in a movie, they are snapshots of homes we inhabit or have visited, where women’s hard work is romanticized as a mark of a limitless capacity for love and sacrifice akin to devi in a preemptive attempt to demonize women who break free. (spoiler alert ends)
I walked into the great Indian kitchen expecting a pleasurable food movie, and sat enthralled for 1 hour and 40 minutes watching a gem like no other.
It could have been called portrait of a wife as cook, cleaner, full maid and sex slave, but that would not fully capture what this extraordinary film conveys.
There is no story to tell, so here is a recap of the first 9 minutes. nimisha sajayan plays a dancer in the great indian kitchen. the film begins with her family preparing for a pennu kaanal (a potential boyfriend who comes to see a girl for an arranged marriage). comes the character of suraj venjaramoodu. he is the future husband. we’ve seen his house and his family, but we’re told nothing about him, his occupation, or financial background in those early scenes, except bits of a fleeting conversation that implies he belongs to the kind of family that is considered “prestigious.” .
The paperwork is completed, the rituals are done and dusted off, and soon the new bride arrives at her new home, where her routine as wife and daughter-in-law is established.
watched jeo baby’s latest movie, kunju daivam (the little god, 2018), which won adish praveen the national film award for best children’s artist. it was sweet and clever for a while, but the storytelling lacked polish and it didn’t occur to me. nothing in kunju daivam prepared me for the sheer brilliance, the keen power of observation, the subtlety and delicacy of great Indian cuisine. note the song sung over the end credits, the lyrics brimming with literary tropes that have long been summoned to glorify women and thus keep them in chains.
sajayan here lives up to the formidable reputation she has built for herself in her brief career. from his debut in thondimuthalum driksakshiyum (2017) to eeda (2018), chola (2020) and a host of other films, his strength has It has been the ability to immerse herself so completely in a role that it becomes almost impossible to believe that she is not that same person in real life. in the great Indian kitchen she runs through the veins and breathes through every cell of the anonymous wife.
venjaramoodu, his main co-star in thondimuthalum driksakshiyum, demonstrates remarkable artistic intelligence playing the husband of great Indian cuisine not as an overtly repulsive fellow but as a seemingly Shy man with a nice-guy demeanor whose regressive attitudes emphasize the fact that the villains are usually the regular neighbors.
jeo baby has done well to pack his uniformly flawless supporting cast with unfamiliar faces: sidhartha siva is the only ‘star’ among them. the rest are kozhikode stage actors who look like real people pulled from real life for the movie.
The simplicity of his performance is complemented by every technical department, from supervising sound designer tony babu’s finely detailed palette of hisses, drips, bubbling oils and human mouths chewing food, to the filming of dop salu k Thomas from the protagonist’s dimly lit marital prison to that glorious finale with its explosion of brilliance and light. the editor, francies louis, makes sure that every shot in the film counts. and costume designer dhanya balakrishnan dresses the characters in outfits that provide a variety of insights into Malayali culture, right up to that delightful final scene where she unleashes her imagination. even the subtitles are top notch.
The only scene that lacks subtlety in Great Indian Cuisine involves a phone conversation between the female lead and her friend. no other point in the film is underlined so much.
jeo baby weaves the sabarimala temple’s refusal to allow menstruating women to approach the deity so gently into its story that it’s hard to tell when it begins. this film is different from lal jose’s relatively insipid nalpathiyonnu (41), which used sabarimala as a hook, but was hesitant to make any controversial statements about it.
It should be a point of pride for the Malayalam film industry, also known as mollywood, that in the span of a year it has given us stinging criticism of both Hinduism (this film) and Christianity (anjaam pathiraa) in the state. there are many such films in Malayalam and there is no space here for an exhaustive list. at a time when muslims are being demonized across india, delivering a fair and balanced critique of islam is more difficult because the community is on edge and liberal filmmakers may fear their works will be mistreated by anti-muslim elements, but mollywood has shown the intellect, sensitivity, and courage to do even this. In a post-9/11 setting, for example, producer Aryadan Shoukath and director T.V. chandran made paadam onnu: oru vilapam (2003), skewering a reprehensible Muslim social practice.
The uniqueness of Kerala society compared to other Indian states lends itself to this type of cinema: Hindus make up about 55 percent of Kerala’s population, Muslims about 27 percent, while Christians they are a little above 18 percent. this means that although Muslims and Christians are a minority, their percentage is still large enough compared to the 14.2% of Muslims and 2.3% of Christians nationally to ensure that neither community has a reason justifiable to feel unsafe in kerala.
Among many memorable elements in great Indian cooking is that moment when a woman uses as a weapon a man’s conviction that menstruation makes her impure. take that, misogyny!
That said, the film falters marginally in its conversation about periods. Of course it is despicable that a woman is seen as a contaminant when she is menstruating, but great Indian cuisine misses a crucial nuance: unlike the heroine of this film, many women suffer from pain or extreme discomfort on top of heavy bleeding and forced segregation in households that consider them dirty at this time of the month is, ironically, the only reason they get much-needed rest.
in a mollywood that tends to normalize domestic violence (recent examples are aadya rathri and ayyappanum koshiyum), great Indian cuisineillustrates how horrendous realities can be portrayed without being casual about it. (Minor spoilers ahead) It also shows layers among progressives exemplified by a Hindu man who has no qualms about eating beef at home but also has no reservations about his wife serving food to family and guests. while sitting. around being served.
(minor spoilers in this paragraph) unlike many movies that make light of men for the patriarchy by emphasizing the women who buy the patriarchy and perpetuate it, the Great Indian Cuisinehas the intellectual depth to portray a variety of women, from victims to rebels, from enablers of patriarchy to allies of other women. My favorite supporting character in the film barely has any screen time, but a key plot is conveyed through her: Contrary to social and cinematic stereotypes, the mother-in-law (a wonderful ajitha vm) here symbolizes female solidarity and shared suffering. – paromitar ek din by aparna sen (Bengali, 2000) devoted its entire length to this topic; Great Indian Cuisine does so with brief conversations and showing the old lady working as a slave in the luxurious home of her wealthy married daughter of hers who is nearing the end of a pregnancy. This also brings up another facet of Indian society, family support, which is endlessly romanticized while its exploitative aspects are ignored: Indian families going the extra mile to support each other is great, but that’s no reason to ignore the uncomfortable truth that this culture is routinely misused to take advantage of considerate family members. (spoiler alert ends)
The director’s commitment to his subject matter is best illustrated by his decision to start and end with sajayan shots. Even take off, one of the best Malayalam films of the last decade, veered off course (like so many female-centric films) by ending with fahadh faasil’s voice and image, though it featured the story of parvathy’s character.
Great Indian Cuisine is a startling, scathing, startling takedown of patriarchy and its eternal companion, religion. that jeo baby achieves so much with the simplest of stories, one that has been staring us all in the face our entire lives, is what makes it such a great piece of work.
score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
great Indian cuisine is available on neestream streaming service in Malayalam only.
(all images from the movie trailer)
jeo baby director’s cut: on great Indian cuisine, piracy, censorship, sabarimala and fear of right-wingers among TV channels