Monday, April 11, 2016

Not a Review of Ki & Ka

Dear Mr Balki,

This is not a review of Ki & Ka: after all, I didn’t even sit through the whole movie. I left during the interval: and would have left earlier if I wasn’t wary of disrupting the experience for other viewers. But much as I tried to forget the part of the movie I did watch (like Kia near the beginning of the movie, I even downed a drink in frustration), I am still full of questions. 

a) Was there a script for this movie? Because there didn’t seem to be any plot, and no characterization. I suspect the “character sketches” must have read something like this: 
  • Young son of rich man who has no ambition, likes trains, and wants to become a housewife/husband. Oh, he also works out and can beat three men up because he’s not effeminate. He’s definitely not gay also. We have to make him say so because his lack of interest in men is not obvious enough. 
  • Ambitious young woman.
  • Controlling rich industrialist father of Kabir.
  • NGO-wali mother of Kia who’s really cool, you know, asks her daughter and her fiancé if they have had sex yet, thinks marriage is stupid, that kind of thing. (Actually this was the one character I liked and would have liked to know better, but she was as much a cardboard cutout as the others.)
And that’s it. After spending over an hour with the characters, I couldn’t figure out what motivated them. For instance:

b) Why does Kia want to marry Kabir? She isn’t interested in having children, she doesn’t seem to need a man. If all she wanted was a housekeeper, she could have hired one — does her apparently high-flying career not let her afford it? (How much does Kia really earn? She’s 30 and apparently doing well at her job, but she can’t afford to buy an apartment and have full-time house help? Yet she can apparently afford to renovate the entire house in Kabir’s really bad taste without blinking an eye? Or maybe that’s why she can’t afford it — Kabir used up all the money she was saving and she’s too polite to say so?)

c) For that matter, why does Kabir want to marry Kia? Only because no other woman was willing to support him?

d) Yes, they had one kiss. That’s not really a basis for a marriage. Or is Kia much more conservative than her mother and doesn’t believe in sex without commitment? That doesn’t seem to fit her characterization (oh wait).

e) Why couldn’t they just date or live together (if Kabir was so eager to leave his father’s house he would go anywhere, which may be his primary motivation)? You do know some couples in India live together before/without getting married, right? Do you want me to introduce you to some?

f) Why is Kabir so eager to be a housewife? What is the reason for his violent aversion to employment? I sympathize with his desire to avoid a corporate career. But he can’t even join an NGO or something? What was he doing before meeting Kia? How did he afford to get on a plane just to go comfort a friend who had a breakup? How did he go out drinking?

g) Wait, not done with Kabir’s weird aversion to paid work yet. He will never consider it? Never? He  will not work for a year, even a month? Not a part-time job? Why not?

h) Do you realise most housewives are not housewives by choice but because society has restricted their choices? That they’re not all IIMB graduates and daughters of rich parents who stay home managing the house and going shopping and daytime socialising because they want to?

i) Also, do you realise many, even most women stay home because they have young children who need care? Kabir doesn’t express any desire for children in the first half of the movie (he only questions Kia about her feelings), so why does he want to stay home? Is he just really into cleaning? (Yet he couldn’t start a cleaning service?) 

j) Did you intend this movie to confound gender expectations and subvert stereotypes? Because it’s really doing the opposite. Saying a man is a wife and not a husband because he intends to stay home and manage the house is reinforcing the idea that that’s what wives are supposed to do. There are husbands who stay home - you know what we call them? Husbands. 

k) Did you realise Kabir comes across less enlightened man and more overgrown baby? Kia was right when she said he needs to grow up. 

l) Did you intend Kabir to have anger issues or is that your idea of a liberal man? He yells at Kia in public, when they’re on their what, third date? Her remark was tasteless, but his reaction was scary. That’s the sign of an abusive person — she should have run then.

m) Why didn’t Kia run? What was attracting her to this (okay, physically very attractive, but then so is she) juvenile, abusive man? Is the message that even smart, successful, mostly nice women deserve no better?

n) Oh and he had to prove his masculinity by beating up a bunch of men? Who were obviously placed there by the director so they could harass the heroine and get beaten up? (Seriously, this was a totally unconvincing scene.) 

o) And did you have to add to the stereotyping of household workers as lazy and duplicitous? You don’t think they get treated with enough suspicion already? Why is it you think an extremely privileged man doing housework in his own home is to be celebrated but a poor woman doing such service work for money should be mocked?

p) Oh wait, your hero even sexually harasses her. (Yes, threatening to share a video of her having sex with the police — whether or not he actually shot such a video — is definitely sexual harassment.) He deliberately waited until she was done having sex — not out of respect for her bodily autonomy and privacy — but so he could shame her more thoroughly. Oh this is not a question yet. This is the question — did you not realise how misogynistic, classist, and reprehensible this is?

q) And your hero is irrationally jealous. At this point I have to ask, were you really not aware that this is looking awfully like an abusive relationship?

r) Have you met any actually liberal couples? There are lots of unconventional, equal marriages. I am in one. My husband’s better at housework than I am, and probably does more of it, though we don’t keep count. It’s not actually that much work “managing the house” if both partners chip in and you have some paid house help: maybe you should try it? We even find time to go for movies sometimes. 

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