This is an appreciation blog.
‘Women are auspicious if they stay home.
Your contributions towards your family are even more than ministers and others running the country..’
We see a father-in-law telling this to his daughter-in-law, the protagonist when she got an interview opportunity for a dance teacher’s position. He tells her that even her mother-in-law had a post-graduate degree. But if he would have let her work, then who would have raised the children with proper values? This is coming from a patriarch of a ‘respectable’ family.
That’s how deep-rooted patriarchy is. It’s not always about violently forcing a woman to stay submissive, it’s the gaslighting that plays a huge role too. Jeo Baby did a brilliant job of showcasing the lives of women who are forced to live a voiceless life under patriarchy masquerading as a superficial tag of ‘keeping up the traditions’.
The movie shows how women slave away in the name of being a homemaker and how their efforts are never appreciated. The movie depicts countless scenes in the kitchen and activities that we see around us every day. But, here, it becomes unsettling, and that is why I felt it hits the audience at the right place. Jeo makes the toils of everyday kitchen work repetitive. As the audience, after some time we start to feel certain tiredness and restlessness, then we start to see the exhaustion it brings to the women. It’s like being trapped in a loop and the society keeping you bound to it.
The characters have no name, well probably they don’t need names. They represent our society, irrespective of religion, caste, and community.
We see a newly-wed bride, well-educated and a dancer quickly and uncomplainingly resorting to a life of endless toil of cooking, cleaning, tending to the men of the house. She looks up to her mother-in-law and follows in her footsteps. She is unaware of her husband’s feelings for her. She thinks the way to reach her man’s heart will be through his stomach.
Until she starts to speak up bit by bit and starts to see the change in her man’s behaviour and feels how insignificant her efforts are to him. A particularly shocking scene was when she asks her husband for foreplay during conjugal times, which takes the husband by surprise that she knows what foreplay is. He gives back a shocking reply that he does not feel anything towards her for having a foreplay with her.
The film also highlights the present socio-political scene in Kerala with the Sabarimala Temple and menstruation. We see how the bride is treated in a medieval way while she is menstruating. A particular scene shows how the husband pushes the wife back in rage, shouts, and treats her like a vermin when she comes to help him seeing him fall off his scooter, just because she was menstruating and was not ‘pure’ enough.
Nimisha and Suraj come back as a couple again after Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. Nimisha Sajayan has played the Bride to perfection. From playing an ever-smiling and blushing newlywed to a woman who seeks her own voice and wants to stand up for herself, her work in developing the character is remarkable. We see Suraj Venjaramoodu playing a teacher who is seen teaching what is family and its foundational values in school, while at home, he is completely ignorant towards the family’s biggest stakeholders, the women. He does complete justice to the role.
Other significant roles include the patriarchal head of the house the father-in-law, one of the husband’s cousins who mansplains the bride on making the ‘perfect’ black tea, the husband’s aunt who is born another woman who has accepted the fate of women under patriarchy and obliges to them. A significant role, personally to me, was of Usha’s, a maid who tells she works during her period days and hides it at the households because she can’t afford to lose the money for those 4 to 5 days. We see the bride empathizing and starting to help her while she cleans the floor, empathy that women must have for one another.
The climax and ending were relieving. The movie shows both partners being happy in the end. It is not in the melodramatic conventional way, or in a way we mostly see, something I was scared to watch after the climax scene and all those uncomfortable scenes of unsung slavery. But, it was something relieving and will make women feel more appreciated. This film is surely going to my recent favourite list of movies. So, spare about one and half hours, sit with your family and watch this visual lesson on women’s lives and contributions that remains unappreciated.