Malayalam films finally pull the cape off ‘superheroes’

Since 2015-16, a few films have brought in a shift, portraying the ‘complete man’ as somewhat incomplete and less heroic’ and critically reflecting on the ‘toxic masculinity’ that glorified violence, aggression and domination | Image - Eunice Dhivya

The male lead in the recent Malayalam film, ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, a hit on OTT, is a man (played by Suraj Venjaramood) with no noticeable blemish in his character (as per the usual parameters that ‘define’ a responsible Malayali male). He does not smoke or drink, doesn’t hang around with his friends unnecessarily but returns home straight after work. He also doesn’t have any extramarital affair nor is he a wife beater. Yet, in the climax scene, his wife, played by Nimisha Sajayan, pours a bucket of waste water on his face (as well as his father’s) and walks out of the marriage.

The film portrays the life of a young woman married to an aristocratic Hindu family. The entire burden of household chores falls on her in the absence of her mother-in-law (when the latter goes away to attend to her pregnant daughter’s needs). As is expected of a ‘good’ daughter-in-law, she tries to do her best. She cooks, cleans and washes everyone’s clothes, including the undergarments of her husband and father-in-law—all this without a word of protest.

The film is a great show of how patriarchy works in different ways—sometimes overt, sometimes covert and cajoling. And all this while the woman of the house bound by societal ties burns in passive aggression.

‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ is the latest in a series of Malayalam films that have overturned the celebration of hyper-masculinity
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