Jeo Baby's The Great Indian Kitchen has been in the news ever since it was released on the Over-the-Top platform Neestream in January this year. The film has reached a much wider audience after Amazon Prime Video decided to stream it in April. Among them is Supreme Court judge Justice Chandrachud, who was on the five-judge Constitution Bench that gave the landmark judgment allowing the entry of women in the menstruating age group in the Sabarimala Temple.
Manu Sebastian, Managing Editor at Live Law, tweeted a video of Justice Chandrachud speaking at an online event for the launch of CEDE (a network formed for legal reform and inclusive justice), where he refers to The Great Indian Kitchen.
In the video, Justice Chandrachud says, "Recently, I watched a Malayalam movie The Great Indian Kitchen released and nominated for the Shanghai International Film Festival of 2021. The movie was situated in modern Kerala, where a newlywed bride was adjusting to her husband's household. In the latter half of the movie, there are men who are shown to be preparing for their pilgrimage."
He goes on to explain the plot of the film, and how it is connected to the Sabarimala verdict: "The film charted out the compounding indignities that the bride faced in unpaid and thankless labour that was exerted in domestic chores and cooking. The denial of her ambitions to work a job of her choice, and finally, the harsh isolation and associated untouchability when menstruating. The movie poignantly engaged with the news of the Supreme Court judgment and juxtaposed it with the lived reality of this woman who was not asserting...she was not asserting the right to go on the pilgrimage, but was fighting a much deeper battle as her existence was diminished by her gender. This is a stark reminder for how mere legislative or judicial intervention does not automatically upend the inequities that are entrenched in our society."
The full video of the speech can be viewed on the Live Law website.
In 2018, the five-judge bench ruled 4:1 in favour of allowing the entry of women in the menstruating age group in the Sabarimala temple. Justice Chandrachud was among the four judges who were in favour of women's entry. While Hindu right-wing groups objected to the verdict and even indulged in violence, several women's rights activists, rationalists, feminists and members of the public welcomed the verdict.
The Great Indian Kitchen, directed by Jeo Baby, stars Nimisha Sajayan and Suraj Venjaramoodu in lead roles. The film follows the story of a nameless bride who enters her marital home and finds herself neck-deep in housework. The film also shows how misogyny is sanctioned by religion by linking it with the Sabarimala issue. The film saw an outpouring of emotions from women viewers who felt, at last, that their silent suffering of many years had found a release on screen.
The film is currently being remade in the Tamil film industry with Aishwarya Rajesh and Rahul Ravindran in the lead. It is being directed by Kannan.