What’s Great About The Indian Kitchen?

There is a ton of cooking in “The Great Indian Kitchen” (TGIK) (on Amazon Prime), just as you would expect it. You will see repeated closeups of Dosa making as well as many other traditional Kerala favorites like Idiyappam, Puttu, fish, Sambar and stone ground coconut chutney etc. But this is not the movie for drooling over such. I can recommend several wonderful Mark Weins’ videos on YouTube for such material. The camera does focus on the stove and the minute details of the cooking as though it were a cooking show, but the focus is primarily on the lady who is cooking and the nuances in the expressions that mirror her emotions. The kitchen, the dining room or bedroom are mere backdrops for the interplay between the characters and a whole lot that is non-verbal as well.

TGIK poignantly depicts the rapid transformation of a new bride into a servile machine whose only purpose is to serve the men of this middle class household in Kerala, India. There is nothing uniquely Keralan about the theme itself. It could very well be anywhere in India – hence the title “The Great Indian Kitchen”. It took me a few minutes into the movie to realize the sarcastic nature of the title.

I was blown away by the brilliant acting of every single actor. The lead actress – Nimisha Sajayan conveys so much of her angst without saying much! The sub-titles are done very well and there’s a lot more that is said through her vivid expressions than through the dialog. My wife was so taken in by the story and acting that she was screaming very specific instructions to the actress about what she should throw and at whom – just the way any average American would at the Quarterback, while watching Monday night football!

Online, it was heartening to see several comments from young men who recognized themselves and their households in the movie, which held up a mirror to highlight the chauvinistic, uncaring and oppressive system for women. If the movie brings about this realization even in a fraction of the viewers, then the director’s goal would be achieved.  I can tell that this is a product of intense passion for the writer/director who felt strongly enough about this topic of chauvinism to highlight it in such a fashion, in spite of possible backlash from “traditionalists” who would love for the status quo to continue. You will notice that it is not just the men who oppress. There are women right there to enable this patriarchy, and in some cases even take the lead in the name of customs and traditions.

I loved this movie and strongly recommend it. It moved us and I can guarantee that it will do the same to you! TGIK obviously is not a date-night movie. I am sure you can find a whole lot of song and dance desi ones or even Hollywood ones for that. I am a brand new fan of Malayalam cinema. They seem to be at a totally different level of the craft. I just finished watching “Kumbalangi Nights” (superb acting by the ensemble cast) and “Ayyappanum Koshiyum”, and added a whole lot of other Malayalam movies to my watchlist. I will be busy for a while watching and writing reviews for these and so will not be available to help out with the chores around the house🤪