Spot the wife. Hint: The one with the mangalsutra Image: Twitter / Eros Entertainment
When R Balki wears the director's cap, you sit up and straighten the crease of your shirt and pay attention. Balki just comes with that kind of clout. Cheeni Kum, Paa, (and even PadMan recently) — the man has a nuanced understanding of human relationships and societal idiosyncrasies that very few in the current crop of filmmakers seem to have. And his stories have always toed that slim line between what's expected of you and what you want to do, bending towards the liberal right.
And then there's Ki & Ka (2016). The Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor starrer was marketed as a gender bender, a film about a married couple and their role reversal, which turns out to be an eyesore for everyone around. Ki stands for the ladki Kia, and Ka stand for the ladka Kabir — they are just two anonymous fellows in love challenging the society, building a house of cards for themselves, until everything comes crashing down. Why? Because misogyny runs deeper than you'd imagine.
It will perhaps stir a hornet's nest when I say that Ki & Ka was perhaps the worst film I've ever seen, simply by virtue of the lie it tried to propagate, packaging it as the truth. Here's why I am okay with the lies Karan Johar propagates because at least he doesn't try to be righteous. As believers of the Ki & Ka-school of thought shift in their chairs, ready to plant a verbal fist on my cheek, here's my theory.
Who is Ka? He's essentially a lazy man, unambitious to the point that his father has given up on him, yet street-smart enough to package it as his choice to stay jobless. He wants to be a homemaker, like his mother was, and help build a home. But he's a man, it is abominable to have a man stay at home, cook, clean, dust while the wife earns the daily bread. But that's what he aspires to be. A househusband.
Who is Ki? She's a highly successful woman, earning truckloads of money with only her mother to take care of, well-settled — exactly how the matrimonial columns read — and yes, drop dead gorgeous. She doesn't want to get married because she knows she will be expected to be all wifey after marriage and she just can't give up her career for that. She's looking for a man who will understand her need to stay out, and thus he will be the one to take care of the house. Basically she needs a wife.
I say, and believe me I'm wiping a tear off the corner of my eye as I say this, what a load of crap! Yes, staying at home, being a homemaker is a choice for a vast majority of people across the world, mostly of the opposite gender to Arjun, but they are not doing so because they are unable to find another suitable job where they'd be productive. Societal pressure, yes, but not inability. (Again, some might believe so but that's just the product of the conditioning they've been through, and the subject of another story). But Arjun makes it look cool to be jobless. Ka latches on to Ki and Ki finds her wife.
No, really. If you thought this was bad, wait for the moment when they get married — he moves in as the homemaker and she puts a mangalsutra around his neck. Arjun starts working as a gym instructor, but he shoots to popularity after Kareena mentions their unique marital equation during a television interview. Who is this man who willingly stays home and lets his wife work? He must be interviewed, too.
And then it all goes downhill. Problems crop up, egos clash — not the male vs female ego, just the earning hand vs the feeding mouth ego — until Ki and Ka are just like any other bickering couple. Ka feels unappreciated and Ki is jealous of Ka's fluke success.
Irony just died, was put on life support, slipped into coma, came out and died again when it saw Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan, playing themselves, watch an interview of this revolutionary husband, as Jaya says, "Dekhiye, kuchh seekhiye," because you realise you've been watching Abhimaan (1973) all along with really bad acting and terrible songs.
What Abhimaan established as wrong 43 years ago, Ki and Ka deconstructs, serves it on a platter and calls gourmet. They settle, kiss and make up, and go back to being the quirky couple that they are. The one who stays home still cooks, the one who earns still demands that cup of coffee with their feet up on the table. But it's all cool now for we're very modern and very liberal. Right.