The most impish joke – and a darkly ironic one too – that Keralite filmmaker Jeo Baby pulled on unwitting viewers was cannily naming this film The Great Indian Kitchen. Furthermore, he began it by focusing, in all its gastronomical glory, the minutest culinary details of an Indian kitchen, with all its chopping, cutting, grinding, boiling, sautéing, frying, garnishing and whatnot – so much so that, those absorbing initial sections are bound to get an epicure excited. Before long, though, its incendiary themes started surfacing – viz. casual, inbred, entitled and toxic patriarchy, masculinity, misogyny, and the accompanying religious bigotry, which together define most of Indian middle-class – and the effect was undeniably lacerating, potentially more so on account of its commonplace nature and banality. The titular kitchen is part of the home of a conservative, well-to-do family that the protagonist (Nimisha Sajayan) – an educated woman and trained dancer – moves into post an arranged marriage with a school teacher (Suraj Venjaramoodu). Both husband and father-in-law appear to be mild-natured men; in fact, when the latter starts displaying his regressive traits, the seemingly tender but essentially slimy husband initially provides false comfort before starting to reveal his nasty sides too; and as she increasingly starts displaying quiet defiance by not letting go of her identity, thought-process and resolve, the more belligerent they become. Baby made striking use of repetitions, sparseness and progressive tonal buildups while meticulously underscoring the putrid drudgery that the wife gets sucked into amidst domestic and conjugal obligations. Terrific turns by Sajayan and Venjaramoodu made the sordid marital drama that much more provocative and incisive; and, by the time the movie’s climax approached, the director had emphatically transitioned into activisit filmmaking too.
Director: Jeo Baby
Genre: Drama/Marital Drama/Social Drama