Ki & Ka: role reversal or celebration of clichés?

Even as Ki & Ka has you engaged, at least in the early bits, there is a constant nagging question in your head: how will director R. Balki be able to stretch a one-line concept — a working woman and her stay-at-home husband — into a two-hour film? That is the primary undoing of Ki & Ka. It isn’t able to sustain itself and can’t hold the viewer interest beyond a point. Eventually, the light-heartedness gives way to familiar emotional tropes as the predictable family drama sets in.

The “double Scotch on the rocks”, quick-on-the-move, older girl Kia/Ki (Kareena) encounters casual sexism at a friend’s wedding and soon enough meets a slow-n-steady younger boy Kabir/Ka (Arjun) who isn’t shy of crying in public. It leads to several quick encounters between the two, some riding on sparkling conversations, refreshing friendly banter and quick wit. The setting up of the romance and the relationship is fun. So finally do we have a girl who loves to get ahead in her career and life and a progressive man who supports her?

Not quite. Even as the film seems to be breaking gender stereotypes in a fun, irreverent way (a woman not liking the much-revered idea of motherhood for instance) and might be propounding freedom of choice, it’s all on the surface. The heart remains steadily orthodox. The messages keep getting completely lopsided and confused. By the time you reach the end, you wonder if it isn’t reinforcing the very stereotypes it was promising to break. So while all the working women are smart, svelte and manicured to boot, the housewives are these gossipy, ditzy, totally out-of-shape creatures.

Genre: Romance/Drama
Director: R. Balki
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Swaroop Sampat
Run time: 126 minutes
Yet there is a perennial righteousness right from the start with which the film extols the artistry of a housewife and the virtues of domesticity; through the voice of the man/hero, mind you. There’s a clear-eyed way with which it keeps bringing down the ‘corporate robot’, ‘hard disk’ of a woman, who lives on ‘faaltu ke maqsad’ (pointless aims and ambitions) and neglects the house for a job. Building homes is much bigger an enterprise than constructing buildings, underlines the film. Perhaps am reading a bit too much between the lines, but the message reaching out to me then was that women are giving up on a lot by giving up on domesticity. In the next installment, (God forbid if there’s one) Ki might even just plan that kid she was avoiding here.

Ki & Ka stays sympathetic with Ka and speaks with the hero’s voice. Not only does he take care of the home well but will eventually be the protector of the woman and thereby prove his manliness (‘chaddi check’) too. Meanwhile, in the time-honoured tradition of Hindi movies, it portrays the ambitious woman as the one who is, eventually, in the wrong.

Kareena performs with ease and conveys all emotions—from love to ego to jealousy—with a lightness of touch. She gets a good response back from Arjun too. And it is nice to find Swaroop Sampat back on the screen as her mom. But how far can the actors pull the film along?

And then there are the brand promotions — from Stayfree to Saffola — that get irritating beyond repair, however clever the makers might try to be in placing them within the script.

A last word: much as I like the romance of train journeys, allowing someone to turn your nice, cosy home into a railway museum, as Kia does, is far from cool. Especially if Ka also has a chugging engine sound for a mobile ring tone. So many Hindi films—from Kitaab to Bunty Aur Babli — have built on and fuelled the romance for trains. Ki & Ka will put you off trains forever.

Also read:

Movies that upended gender stereotypes from a time when stepping off the beaten track was not received well. > Click here

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 12:00:26 PM |

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