Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

Here’s the thing I noticed about kitchens, it’s often a space that sees a lot of emotions. I’ve seen many turn to the kitchen to gossip, turn their anger towards harmless utensils that lie around in the sink unwashed, rush to find the bit of sweetness lying around in the kitchen, express their love by sharing the chores, and on days when they are too hungover for any of it, they ransack for remedies and snacks to get by.

So many emotions unfurl here, making it one of the most interesting spots to study around our homes. And it makes for an equally interesting narrative device in cinema as well. So here are a few stories and emotions that were conveyed to the audience through the kitchens of Malayalam movies.

Cooking as a 6 to 9 job

The pattern of waking up, setting breakfast before 6 in the morning, making the next round of breakfast for those who love waking up late, cooking up poshaka aaharam for lunch, setting it before 2, returning to the same hotbox to prepare piping warm tea and snacks, going back once again for preparing the last meal for the day.

The 6-9 job ends with everyone having dumped the plates they licked clean, on the sinks.

Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

The first time I saw this in a movie (The Great Indian Kitchen) I was left speechless. However, the grown men in the room simply said “Enth lag’aa ee padam”. If it still doesn’t hit you, sit through more and more such movies. For many, cooking has been allocated as a 6-9 unpaid job with no vacations, holidays, gratuity, or anything.

Some characters that showcased this draining routine were Gopika from Veruthe Oru Bharya, Nimisha from The Great Indian Kitchen, and of course, our Innocent from Kilukkam. Except Innocent was getting paid at least a bit. Oru lottery adicha angerum povum pakshe.

Cooking as an enjoyable process

Aashique Abu’s Salt n Pepper was a feast in many ways. It showed Baburaj, Shwetha Menon, and Lal as true-hearted foodies who enjoyed every bit of cooking. From building a cake straight off the history books to taking a tribal man home to explore their cuisine, Salt n Pepper has many scenes that made cooking an enjoyable process to watch.

The same movie that spoke about latent patriarchal undertones within The Great Indian Kitchen also showed us how cooking could also be an enjoyable process. There was this tiny sequence in the movie which showed Nimisha’s friends excitedly discussing about cooking mutton. Those few seconds conveyed several flavours of a healthy relationship and palate.

Cooking as a need to prove oneself

Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

Who could forget the parotta adi scene from Ustad Hotel? For Faizi, getting a degree from Switzerland meant very little compared to getting his parotta approved by Karimkka. The relief and pride he felt after Karimkka smiled in approval of the parotta showed how the kitchen had become a space where he had to himself.

The same was expressed in the movie Vijay Super’um Pournamiyum. The food truck turned into a business cooked up by Vijay and Pournami to prove themselves.

Also Read: 7 Malayalam Movie Scenes That Won My Heart

Cooking as experimentation

For some, the kitchen is a lab where trial runs happen. And those being fed the experiments are no less than guinea pigs. On most days, these experiments result in taste trips, and on other days, you pray to all possible gods.

Examples of these are Pooja’s mother Annie from Om Shanti Oshana and Charlie from Spanish Masala. Every time they’ve stepped into the kitchen, they have given major main character vibes and we are totally rooting for that!

Cooking as a celebration

Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

For some reason, I remember the movies Kalyanaraman, Raapakal, and Pavithram for the kitchen scenes. The movies showcased sadya preparations and served them as a festival.

Crowding the kitchens, every person carefully crafted each dish while one person always came along to choriny kerals by saying “Ithil uppu lesham korav’aa”. If you are that person, know that you have ulupp lesham korav.

Cooking as a nostalgia

Ormakal karal thalodum pole – Vinayak Sasikumar wasn’t wrong when he wrote these lines and showed us Dulquar and Srinda beaming over a chatti full of meen curry. Cooking means a trip back in time for many. 

Another example of this is Salt n Pepper. Shwetha Menon can be seen ordering thattil kutti dosa when nostalgia hits home. She explains this sense of nostalgia beautifully by talking about how her mother prepares chood chammanti for the kutti dosa as well.

Cooking as an expression of love

Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

One person I absolutely loved in Da Thadiya apart from our megharoopan was Knight Rider – The Ammamma. When everyone else kept fat-shaming Luca, his ammamma simply said, “Ammamme chor thaa enn paranya, nyan kodukkum.” Her love language was cooking food and through her food, she became the og prakasham of Prakash Bhavan.

The same was the case of Jameela from Sudani from Nigeria, who brought love straight from the kitchen to the table.

Also Read: Iconic Hugs From Malayalam Movies 

Cooking as a clueless act

For some people, cooking would just not set aavals. To these people, if you told them you have to stretch the legs of a dead chicken before applying the masala, they would absolutely do it. Just like our Mohanlal from Boeing Boeing.

Then there are others who would rather stand at gunpoint than try and light a fire in the stove. Again, like our Mohanlal from Spirit.

Cooking as a place for drama

Kitchens As A Narrative Device In Malayalam Movies

This would be relatable in most households. It’s a space that builds up with most of the drama. We usually tend to run to our mothers or sisters to share even the first hint of gossip. And cue the patriarchal society, they’re almost always found in the kitchens. Any drama happening around the house will first be heard in the kitchens before it reaches any other place in the home. Don’t take this as a hint to eavesdrop like Shammi from Kumbalangi Nights though.

Joji and Kumbalangi Nights, both show this dramatic element. And in most cases, the tensions begin to build in the house exactly at the same time when the drama has been put out there in the kitchen conversations.

These were the few things that fell into my pot of thinking and I’m sure there’s more that can be brewed into it. So consider this a non-exhaustive list and pour in the contributions.

Laxmi Mohan
Talks about everything from pazhampori to aanavakaraar charcha.

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