Ki & Ka: Is a Gendered Role Reversal of Marriage Possible or is it Reinforcing another Stereotype?

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Disclaimer: This is not a review of the Movie but how I find, the idea which it is endorsing, extremely problematic!

Ki and Ka is being celebrated as an unconventional story of ambitious Kia and homely Kabir; where the former is depicted as the bread earner, while the latter, a well-domesticated man, happy with his role as a house husband. His wife is seen to be completely at ease with her stay at home husband, ‘taking a backseat’ in the traditional couple equation’; and herself running the financial affairs and driving at the fore front.

The trailer was received by the public as a harbinger of changing times; breaking gendered stereotypes. Well why not? It was expected to be a break from the typical unequal relationship between a money making husband and a dependent housewife.

However, there is an immediate need to read between the lines and understand the implied meaning (maybe not deliberate), yet conveyed on the screen.

The idea that Ki and Ka is being applauded as a positive role reversal for marriage’ is extremely disturbing. Rather than breaking the norm, I personally feel that it is reinforcing the same stereotype, through a different looking narrative. Yes, a ‘house husband’ might appear a novel idea, but the movie still sells the same old idea of the bread winner of the family as having masculine traits and a stay at home partner, as possessing essentially feminine qualities that of, a natural nurturer; and one with an intrinsically unequal relationship.

Only the bodies have been reversed. Kareena, though having a woman’s body; her portrayal as a corporate honcho, is akin to being the ‘man of the house’. This is evident from the masculine traits her character is seen to possess such as, Kia after returning from work, demanding sex from her husband who, tired after finishing the chores of the house, at first declines but eventually has to comply. Even her attire lacks clothes traditionally associated with women, but more with men. What is more, her complete disconnectedness with the housework reproduces the image of a typical unconcerned husband.

Arjun, on the other hand, despite his body of a man, plays an internalised feminine role; this is implicit when Kia introduces him to her mother saying, he wants to be ‘my wife.’ Why wife? Because he says he wants to be like his mother, ‘a devoted house wife.’ He is shown as doing all the chopping, cooking, cleaning, asking money from spouse and etcetera tasks, ‘typically’ associated with a housewife. Same logic is extended when Kareena is shown as putting a mangalsutra around Arjun (his dutiful wife)’s neck.

In one of the talk shows I attended recently, where the cast had come to promote the movie and defend this idea of a role reversal of characters, the director, when questioned about this scene with the mangalsutra, replied that it is the symbolic meaning attached to this sacred thread that makes a women, the prisoner of the house, that he was trying to convey when Arjun, the home bound partner here, wears it. He says that it is we, the society, who has created these rules and conventions, so why can’t we break it as well?

While the idea to come up with such an offbeat script is commendable, yet innocuously it has missed the point by painting the same old cliché picture of a dominating partner and a subservient other.

What is even more disconcerting is the comical depiction of the house husband, a.k.a Kabir, in the entire movie; as if even the people who have made this movie are not too convinced and comfortable with the idea that a man can really pull off an ‘off screen’ stint as a home maker.

When I saw the trailer for the first time, a plethora of questions ran havoc in my head.

Why is it that we believe in a watertight compartmentalisation as to the sphere of the public and the private? Put simply, why can’t an ambitious and a financially strong armed woman, be at the same time, connected, rather engaged in what is transpiring at the home. Why is Ki shown to be so over-soaked in ambition, that she has no time to think of a family or her home? Why does a man, to be able to do housework, cannot do so alongside a job? Could Ka not have been a work from home and a ‘supportive’ husband? There are a lot of women today, managing the home and the work at the same time, yet why are the ones who totally give up their career and devote their lives to the home, eulogized as an epitome amongst all homemakers?

Why is ambition seen as a vice when it comes to being a good housewife, (here, house husband)?

Talking about ‘house work’, a significant theme of the film, why is it that people fail to see it as a work that too entails loads of energy, hard work and time? Why is it, almost always, seen as a waste of skill? Quoting from the movie, the repeated telling by Kia’s parents to Kabir, “to do something with his life? Some real work!”

Just because it is unpaid, is it not worthy of being called work at all. Why are we still not ready to give respect that housework genuinely deserves?

Further, this movie seems to be representative of a more elitist milieu where it is okay for one partner to work and other to run the chores of the house, be it a woman as the alpha. This privileged role reversal misses the boat when neither of the partners can afford to devote fully to the home, yet he/she longs for a helping hand from his\her better half!

Released on the April Fool’s day, Ki & Ka, appears to make a fool of its audience by promising a married tale with a twist, yet failing miserably on that promise by showing Arjun Kapoor (the house husband) dancing in red heels (a visible stereotype)!

An Aside: The world would definitely be a beautiful place if there were husbands who did not get jealous with their wives’ success, but do we really have such a male sample existing in our society? Doesn’t a house husband seem more of a myth than a reality?

In the background of centuries of social conditioning done by a male chauvinistic society, this will be a question worth asking!

This article was first published at – http://www.candidmedia.in/ki-ka-gendered-role-reversal-marriage-possible-reinforcing-another-stereotype/

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