Director Jeo Baby's The Great Indian Kitchen is a simple, sentimental, gripping, entertaining film with an aesthetically brilliant amalgamation of light and shadow and camera movement (Camera Salu K Thomas, Editing Luis), subtle, powerful message-oriented images turned as an essential film in contemporary India.
The protest shown in the movie surprised and touched the audience for its bold and believable presentation, though, in the end, the entire protest turned out as 'journalistic contemporary.'
The film starts with a dance sequence where the protagonist is seen taking part as a member of a dance troupe, and the film ends with a dance sequence where she is shown as the lead dancer of the same troupe.
This circular and flawless development portrayed the character's growth and conveyed the film's primary theme in an artistic and influential way.
The girl from an affluent urban family got married into a wealthy family from a rural area and the family's affluence was frequently announced in several contexts throughout the film.
But the girl fought and came out from that 'prestigious house' seeking freedom from the mental torture, physical suffering, and the suffocating environment she was living in.
She suffered silently to the last moment, and when she reached the unbearable point she announced her revolt- not silently but with her actions.
She is Nora of Ibsen, but Nora went out through an open door, but this protagonist locked the door of her torture room from outside and went out to the free wind.
Film and literature are loaded with woman characters similar to that of Nora, but this woman is different, and she reflected her uniqueness and firmness in the action of hooked the door from outside.
This subtle symbol proved the command of the director over the craft and aesthetic. This symbol and the entire narrative are also textured with similes and metaphors, and those elements artistically expressed the inner philosophy of the film.
The dominating word in the title 'kitchen' finds its importance while the two main female characters remain busy most of the time inside the kitchen preparing food for the family and most important thing is that they have to follow the illogical orders of the males of the family.
Both the ladies prepare food inside the suffocated kitchen, and the males exercise Pranayam or read the newspaper sitting on a reclining chair.
Both the male members are attentive to the food they take but hardly express their concerns about their ladies. The primary duty of the senior woman, the bride's mother-in-law, is to serve her husband, who does not even put on his shoes by himself. His wife will have to keep that ready.
The son had hugged his wife just once in the kitchen and all he wants from her is physical intimacy on the bed.
The father-son duo has a habit of making the dining table dirty with the leftover food, and the newlywed had to clean those with her hand. She even had to clean all the dirty utensils in the kitchen.
The wash basin pipe gets a crack and water also starts to leak. Though the wife tells her husband about the problem, he ignores it and her repeated requests fall on deaf ears. Shen then manages the problem on her own, which turns into a meaningful metaphorical representation of the core crisis of the film, and at the end of the film, this minor incident echoed the sound from the kitchen up as the primary tool of protest raised by the young bride.
The kitchen is not only the working place of both the ladies but their entire life is surrounded in and around it.
They are the owner of a big house, yet the bride had to use her laptop in the kitchen only, on the table where she chops vegetables.
The impact of the kitchen and its noises is such in her life that these noises echo in her ears even while she is sharing intimate moments with her husband.
Not just that, the dirty kitchen sink, the dirty utensils flash her mind as she closes her eyes to feel the intimate moments.
The screenplay of The Great Indian Kitchen is based on some episodic narratives and lead them in a linear pattern of a screenplay's traditional three-act structure.
All the principal characters of the film are flat, they live their lives only to speak the director's lines. There is minimum inclusion of crisis and conflict in the narrative.
The writer focused everything to increase the intensity of the torture targeted to the bride. This film contains several limitations, yet it captures the audience with the brilliant performances and the lively situation created by the director with his skilled utilisation of the audio-visual elements.
The director creates an environment of suffocation with such brilliance that the pain and the suffering felt by the bride is also felt by the audience and this he makes effortlessly.
Protest of women against patriarchy or male domination is not a new theme in Indian movies, however, the innovative and artistic way in which the theme is portrayed through The Great Indian Kitchen is sheer brilliance and is extremely commendable.
The dirty kitchen in the movie has been presented so meticulously that one can easily believe the existence of this kitchen- a kitchen from the most literate and progressive state of India i.e Kerala.
But, this kitchen does not represent the kitchens of India. The English title and the word Indian gave a broader perspective to the film, and it worked.
A movie from a regional OTT platform came forward to the national platform.
The film may start some socio-anthropological study, such as why male chauvinism dominates women's feelings in such a state where the literacy rate is high, and where most people are known as progressive and follower of communism.
What could be the reason that education has not lightened up the minds of people in the intimate environment, etc? This would be a significant success of the film.
The Great Indian Kitchen has been winning hearts across India even though it is a Malayalam language film. The pan Indian message that it throws is what the audience today loves and admires.