Saturday, April 09, 2016

Ki & Ka  

Gender Bashing

In 1942, there was a film called Ulti Ganga that made fun of male-female role reversal, the point being that the roles should not be reversed—women stay home, men provide.

Now K. Balki’s Ki & Ka makes a contemporary version with the idea, but after a good start does not know what to do with his ‘unconventional’ couple—ambitious corporate wife, stay-at-home husband. In the end, he seems to get confused with his own ‘progressive’ sloganeering and ends up sounding phony.

First of all, Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is not the first and only male homemaker in the country for everyone to go gaga over him and turn him into a sermonizing TV and internet star. Millions of urban couples share financial and home duties rather well; the men help with housework, women climb the corporate ladder and have kids. In the film, Kia goes ballistic when she suspects pregnancy—screeching that her life is over, and blames her husband for the ultimate male revenge against successful women—kids.  Really?  Mr Balki needs to look around a bit more.

So while he may talk of gender equality and have Kabir willingly insist of wearing a mangalsutra and doing the cooking, he is still needed to play the male role – of protecting his wife against Delhi street harassers.  

With no real conflict in sight—Kabir comes from Delhi’s richest family, so it’s not as if there is a real financial crunch looming—Balki falls back on the old ‘jealousy’ track and Kia for all her feminist flag waving, falls on the typical insult used on housewives—that they do nothing.  But the housewives in Balki’s world really seem to do nothing, except have kitty parties and fitness sessions. So Kabir point about his mother being an artist because she looked after the home is somewhat diluted.  The insult thrown at men who stay in their wives’ home is they have no shame living off a woman’s earnings—so Kabir, for all his gender-equality flag waving, does not really take his wife’s money. So how does he afford the home makeover and that too in one day?  He turns his home into a railway museum (he has a passion for trains), with toy trains chugging all over. (And by the way, just ask the domestic help, chances are her husband lives off her earnings and shows off his mardangi by drinking and thrashing her.)

The hypocrisy of the film is galling. Even with the two lead actors doing their best, the dominant emotion after watching this romcom is not amusement, but irritation. Mainly at what the film could have achieved but ended up a just what it set out not to be—a gender insensitive mess.


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