‘Women are not happy’ – Rediff.com movies

‘Women are not happy’ – Rediff.com movies
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‘Women are not happy’ – Rediff.com movies

‘Family is the most important thing in a society.’
‘That’s why I am always thinking about family and society. I want it to be better.’

IMAGE: Jyotika and Mammootty in Kaathal: The Core.

Director Jeo Baby says he is affected by what happens in families and wants his cinema to reflect that reality, whether it’s his critically-acclaimed The Great Indian Kitchen or his latest Kaathal: The Core, which is making waves for its portrayal of a marriage in crisis.

Kaathal, starring Mammootty and Jyotika, revolves around Mathew Devassy, a retired bank manager who decides to contest local elections. Omana, his wife of 20 years, shocks him with her decision to file for divorce alleging he is gay.

“My society affects me a lot and that’s the reason why (I explore it). Family is the most important thing in a society. There are a lot of issues. Women are not happy. That’s why I am always thinking about family and society. I want it to be better,” Baby told PTI in an interview.

“A woman’s perspective is important in every aspect, everywhere. But decision makers are mostly men,” he added.


IMAGE: Suraj Venjaramoodu and Nimisha Sajayan in The Great Indian Kitchen.

The director, who made his feature debut with 2 Penkuttikal in 2016, said he learned a lot from the reviews and write-ups for The Great Indian Kitchen, which was praised for showing how women are chained to household chores like slaves.

Baby believes he received ‘good parenting’ but it was a gradual process to become a feminist, one that has continued even after The Great Indian Kitchen, his fourth Malayalam film that’s already being remade in Hindi. A Tamil version of the movie released this year.

“I think in high school, my parents, who were working, asked me to wash the plates when some guests were visiting. I realised how painful the job was and I thought to myself, ‘Why is this the responsibility of a woman?’

“But the actual change happened after my marriage. My partner was studying at the time so I became involved in the kitchen. I started to read books written by women, I started to follow feminist writers on Facebook. Gradually, I became a feminist. That’s my experience. I learned a lot about the kitchen and other places in the house, and realised that everywhere, there is a woman, there is discrimination,” he said.

When he started thinking about gender roles assigned by society, Baby found a lot of issues within him and it became a source material for his 2021 hit.

“The husband and the father-in-law of The Great Indian Kitchen… There are shades of me in them. My wife told me that I have become better after The Great Indian Kitchen. It’s an eye-opener for me. Before I make a decision, whether it is in my professional life or personal life, I speak with my wife,” he said reflectively.

The Great Indian Kitchen had an interesting journey to the screen.

The movie was rejected by major streaming platforms and released on Neestream, a Kerala-based OTT platform, only to become a runaway hit there. After its popularity, the movie also found a home in Amazon Prime Video.

“Those who rejected the movie were all men. But they were forced to change their decision. So, a woman’s perspective is very important,” the director reiterated.

IMAGE: Jeo Baby with Jyotika. Photograph: Kind courtesy Jeo Baby/Instagram

Like his previous film, Kaathal, which released in theatres last month, also trains its lens on a woman’s decision to file for divorce citing her husband’s homosexuality.

“It is a story told from a woman’s point of view and how a gay man affected a straight woman’s life. This movie connects different characters emotionally but there is also pain that affects them,” he said.

All the critical and commercial success coming his way is “unexpected but great”, Baby said, adding that he did not anticipate such a strong word-of-mouth for a serious film like Kaathal.

“When people like a film, they talk about it, write about it on social media and encourage others to watch it. Now, I am getting messages that people are watching it for the second or third time,” he added.

IMAGE: Jyotika and Mammootty in Kaathal: The Core.

Asked about the praise that Mammootty is receiving for the film, the film-maker said he knew that the superstar would have no issues playing a gay character if he liked the story.

“I didn’t doubt it because I knew Mammootty’s potential. I knew if he liked the role, he would do it. He is a nice human being. Jyotika worked so hard on the movie. She had no idea about Malayalam. She put in a lot of effort to learn the language,” he said.

Mammootty had liked Baby’s last film and sent him a message. When writers Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria approached the film-maker, Baby immediately thought about reaching out to the Malayalam star, who has also produced Kaathal.

Baby is now planning to take a break before he starts his next project. The director, however, wants to subvert expectations by working on a ‘cool entertainer’.

“Generally, I am not worried about my next film, but I am totally worried about what I will do next because I know people expect more from me. I have decided that it will not be political.

“I would like to change genres, so it may be a cool entertainer. I have a reputation for being a political and feminist film-maker, which I love. But as a director, I would like to try all genres.”

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