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‘Ki And Ka’ Review: What Could’ve Been A Revolutionary Film Is Actually Just ‘Messed Up’

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By Rohini Banerjee:

ki and kaWhen a film that’s supposed to be about gender equality begins with a Honey Singh song, you know that it’s not a good sign.

In the first 10 minutes of ‘Ki And Ka’, we are met with a bored Kareena Kapoor at a wedding, where the bride and groom are dancing to the aforementioned Honey Singh song. I get her irritation at the song, at the general enthusiasm of people present at the wedding, and I actually agree with her when she loudly disrupts the festivities by proclaiming how marriage will ultimately prove repressive to the bride-to-be. What I don’t get, and find difficult to swallow, is when, to rebuff a potential suitor she (again, loudly) declares that she’s on her period, on her ‘menstrual cycle’ to which the guy reacts as if he’s seen a ghost.

This sequence is pretty much symbolic of how the rest of the film unfolds—at a very basic level, it has some good ideas, some important points to make, but completely loses sight of it all in its desperation to loudly proclaim and scream them at us.

The film’s basic premise is this: Kia (Kareena Kapoor) is a full-on career girl who’s at a top corporate post and despises all things domestic, and Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is an (unemployed) guy who’s so in awe of his late housewife mother that he aspires to be like her someday (i.e, a ‘housewife’). They meet in what is initially an interesting scene but ultimately turns into the clunkiest meet-cute in all existence, start hanging out together (totally out of the blue), fall in love (even more out of the blue), and ultimately decide to get married in a situation where he’s the stay-at-home husband (except, in the film he is continuously called a ‘housewife’), and she’s the breadwinner. This kind of a flipping of gender roles could have been potentially revolutionary, especially for mainstream Indian cinema, but ultimately, it gets riddled with the very same stereotypes it seeks to dismantle.

The Genders Are Not Really Flipped

Really, this film is a series of could-have-beens. Arjun Kapoor’s character could have been potentially so subversive, because here was a man whose very introductory scene sees him crying in public (something so, so taboo not just in films, but also in our daily lives), who unconditionally supports the professional ambitions of his wife, who willingly wants to stay at home and engage in domestic activities. But then, all of this comes crashing down as the film continuously seeks to assert and assure us that this in no way takes away from his ‘masculinity’ (cringe level: max).

Kabir tells Kia that wanting to be a house-husband doesn’t make him ‘gay’; and that he likes women, and doesn’t like ‘pink’. I’m sorry, but what? Not only is that harping on homophobic stereotypes, but falling prey to concepts of toxic masculinity, which dictate that staying home, or being gay, or liking pink is in some way emasculating. Further, to remind us that Kabir is still a ‘man’, there is a random scene thrown in where he beats up a bunch of men on the street who were teasing Kia—to which, Kia dreamily says that she’s turned on by this, by him beating up guys and being ‘masculine’. I can’t even begin to explain how inherently messed up this is; that his desirability to Kia increases when he’s being aggressive and beating up baddies, things traditionally considered ‘masculine’. And really, this continues throughout the film. It’s as if this film can’t wrap it’s head around there being a man who can actually be free from professional ambition, treat his partner as an equal and not be what society terms ‘masculine’.

Another thing which consistently bothered me, throughout the film, is how it continues to use the word ‘housewife’ when it comes to Kabir. The film poses as if this is something revolutionary, with Kabir even going on a detailed tirade on how being a housewife is an art and is as important as going out as earning money. I get what he’s saying, that women in the domestic sphere work as tirelessly as men in the professional sphere, and often don’t get rewarded or even acknowledged for it. But the way he says it, the way he insists that he wants to be a housewife, not a househusband, just goes on to reinforce that housework is ultimately the wife’s job; and that a man doing it, makes him the ‘wife’ (further highlighted when Kia introduces him to her mother as her would-be ‘wife’).

Trying To Talk About Feminism, But Making The Woman Look Bad

Throughout the film, I couldn’t help but feel like the film was taking sides—Kabir’s side. Much like Kabir’s characterisation, Kia too could have been something brilliant and path-breaking. But no, she’s slotted into the ‘angry feminist’ trope. She’s often sceptical, irritable, and prone to paranoia. Yes, she shuts down sexism (and there are some such moments that I actually approved of), but she often becomes prey to sexism, and that really disappoints me.

When Kabir starts being celebrated for being a successful house husband/wife, she starts getting jealous that the attention is on him instead of what she’s accomplishing in her workplace. This again, could have been a commentary on ‘male’ feminists (debates about this term, in another piece), but the film, again, takes it so far that it ceases to be that and instead turns into petty jealousy.
In one utterly baffling scene, Kabir accuses Kia of sleeping her way to the top (an accusation that’s utterly unexpected, coming from a character who seems so gender-sensitive as him), and Kia, understandably furious, starts yelling at him and calling him out for what he has said; but he shuts her up by kissing her. The classic ‘silence her with a kiss’ trope which is painfully patriarchal, disrespecting of a woman’s opinions, and has been around the block since medieval times—that’s what this film resorts to. Surprisingly, Kia doesn’t even struggle against it, and this is followed by a lovemaking scene. Kabir is let off completely scot-free both for his ridiculous accusation, as well as for silencing Kia’s opinions.

In fact, in the majority of the second half, Kia’s character comes across as unsympathetic and self-centered, while the film continues to focus on how lovely and amazing Kabir is and how much he’s supporting Kia and keeping the household together. For a film that’s supposedly feminist, making the woman look bad kinda defeats the whole purpose, no?!

The Only Saving Grace

The only saving grace, and a moment of great subtle poignancy in the film is a cameo by Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, playing themselves. They discuss gender roles, and Jaya asks Amitabh whether he could have ever sacrificed his career for taking care of the family like she had done, and while he readily says yes, that he would have, the not-so-subtle implication is that he could never have. That one moment is so small, and so telling—about societal expectations, about gender roles and about internalised misogyny. If the rest of the film was more like that, and less like a misplaced ad campaign, loudly shouting concepts without understanding them or really exploring them, this could have actually been a great film. But it falls prey to crowd-pleasing measures, and to same old stereotypes.

While the film’s concept deserves an applause, I wish, I really wish, Mr Balki had delved deeper, had actually understood the issues surrounding gender and gender roles and tried to actually be subversive, rather than yet another reiteration of the status quo. ‘Ki And Ka’ wants to and pretends to be revolutionary, to be a statement for gender equality, but it isn’t even mature enough to realise how vast the concept it has taken on is. This is a film very much like its misguided hero—a sham.

You must be to comment.
  1. The Hulk

    Women are now being sold the idea that professional work is the most important thing in life. Feminism wants us to believe that gender is a social construct, without explaining why there are two genders if everyone is the same and equal. Women are endowed with body parts – breasts, vagina, womb – which point to their gender role. Men are bigger, faster, stronger than women for another purpose. Men and women’s brains are also wired completely differently, to fulfill different roles in life.

  2. G.L.

    Patriarchy?

    A man must help a woman lift her car out of the snow, a man must change a woman’s tire, a man must propose, a man must pay on dates, a man must buy a woman flowers, a man must lose his life savings paying alimony, a man must be ripped-off on the pretext of child support, a man must do more jail time for the same crime committed by a woman, a man must almost always lose custody of his child in a family court, a man must leave his seat for a woman, reservations in buses must be in place for women, metro compartments must be reserved for women, special quotas in schools and colleges for women, during hostage situations women should be released before men, after shipwrecks women should be provided lifeboats ahead of men, women can walk scot free are filing fake cases against men, 99.9% war casualties are men, 97% workplace deaths are of men, 80% homeless are men, no domestic violence shelters for men, no prostate cancer awareness for men, majority unemployed are men, law does not recognize rape or domestic violence against men …

    Clearly the patriarchy isn’t doing its job.

  3. Daredevil

    If it was made mandatory for women to work outside the home and men became homemakers, women would complain about how easy men have it; they watch TV, play with kids, have fun, while the women have to work so hard in the office. A happy woman is a myth (Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2). Furthermore, a person’s true character is revealed once they have power. Just look at how women behave once they become mothers-in-law. How do you think they are going to behave if they became the money earners in a family?

  4. Batman

    It’s only common sense to know children who are raised by strangers, media, cable tv, music industry with no real direction and working mothers are the problem with society today. Look at it everywhere, from pornography to girls clothing to the lyrics in songs. Where are the morals? Where are the parents? Too worried about having the best house, the best car, the best outfits etc. What’s more important? We have a generation growing up alone with no parental guidance. Mothers should stay home and raise their children. Mothers who place their babies in day care, and leave them there 40-50 hours per week are causing irreparable damage to the development of the baby; he or she will grow up with some sort of attachment disorder. Most children are left in day care these days, and that is one reason why the crime rate is so high, why prisons are overcrowded, why bullying is rampant in schools, why school violence is prevalent. We are raising unattached, conscienceless children because we are leaving them at five to six weeks old in the care of inadequate, poorly staffed day care centers, and our babies are growing up without the capacity to love, feel empathy and compassion, and to have healthy relationships with people.

  5. ND

    Looks like Ki and Ka has done it’s job. I just read three angry rants from butt-hurt men about the “naturalness” of gender roles.

    In fact, “The Hulk” brilliantly surmises that since women have breasts, womb and a vagina, they MUST necessarily be only good at sex, and child-bieth, and yeah, cooking (women have a cooking gene!).

    The poor little darling has no awareness, apparently of the trans community — men with chest hair, penises, semen and muscles, who think of themselves as women. Or conversely, women with perfect orbs for breasts, and a fertile womb, who think of themselves as men.

    if this young man is representative of the younger generation in any way, or the raging MRA who frothed against “alimony” India has a long way to go before a real life Ki and Ka is celebrated.

    A number of young men are butt-hurt that the privilege that their fathers and grandfathers enjoyed, the unquestioned supremacy that they viewed as their birthright, is slowly being chipped away.

  6. Sangeetha

    Please don’t go by this review or any other negative review. It is a good movie, well made and a beautiful concept that should not be missed. I wonder what crept into the heads of these reviewers that trash good movies – I guess they would keep doing this until all the good movie makers quit the business, with us – the audiences, having to live with the B grade trash.
    This is a wonderful idea, beautifully woven, passionately executed and the actors have done their very best. The camera work is excellent and so is the music. Please do see it for yourself to believe it and I can vouch that this is a work that is so unique and authentic when compared to the commercial masala trash that is churned out time and time again!

  7. The Hulk

    How people “feel” is irrelevant. By the same token people who indulge in necrophilia, paedophilia, incest, sex with animals, homosexuality etc can also justify their perverted, vile acts with statements that they “feel” that way. They need therapy, not excuses to justify their behaviour. If a person undergoes a sex change operation, they still remain a member of the original sex. To pretend they don’t is a lie. As for gender roles, they are also found in animals. Men and women are coherently and inherently different. Different biology and psychology. They also think differently. Women are men’s support and created to help men. Men and women are designed to complete each other, not to compete with each other. As for househusbands, a woman’s hypergamous nature demands that he be stronger, richer, more able than her. No woman wants to.marry a loser who wants to be a househusband. No woman wants a wimp.

  8. Gyan

    Its a good movie.
    Pick story of your taste- ” http://www.pickurstory.com

  9. Vandana

    Totally disagree whatever writer has mentioned here.. I liked the concept.. N I liked the way they have potrayed .. Everything seems to be “but obvious” kind.
    Like if she introduced him to her mom by saying him as her “wife” it’s because to her also a guy liking household work and to be like his mom was something awkward. .. N what if any normal girl at first instance instance consider a man like this. It takes times to digest something which is different. And this she proves when she lied to her colleagues because even she knew her colleagues will not understand at first instance…n yes she feels jealous.. Which can also be considered as natural.. May be the one who is use to get attention may jealous…
    She doesn’t want to become like that..but since it is just natural tendency of human being..she was jealous of her husband getting attention..
    Yes being a Bollywood movie..they have put bollywood masala.. Like in the end kabir’s father offered kia for CEO post.. Which can only happen in movies.. at the end the family is happy.. N happy ending..lol..
    But in all the movie was good n they have presented the idea well..

  10. Lalitha

    We should not overthink guys… The cinema is cool and very well made..

  11. Dsk

    Oh my god.. I can’t believe such a comments exist even in yka… I can’t believe people who r educated comment those words… I am not feminist.. But still I expect to be humane to women.. I looked up to yka.. I taught u r awesome… But no so.. It is a patriarchal.. I don’t think women can fight thses kind of people…

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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