‘Ki & Ka’ is a romantic comedy film directed by R. Balki which aims to break the gender stereotypes imposed by the Indian society. It portrays a man, Kabir, who aspires to be a housewife like his mother, and a woman, Kia, who’s a ‘Corporate Robot.’ Kabir and Kia first meet on an airplane ride back to New Delhi from where they go to get drinks together to celebrate Kabir’s mom’s birthday. Here, Kabir gets Kia’s number which leads them to meet again and discuss their personal lives, talking about families and their past lives shaped them. Kia, who lost her father in an accident, was raised by a single mother (Swaroop Sampat) and both women decided to dedicate their lives to their work to deal with grief. Conversely, Kabir, who lost his mother, was inspired by her as he watched her get mocked by his father (Rajit Kapur) and never once get any appreciation for what she sacrificed; he called her a selfless ‘artist.’ As they fall in love and get married, they face various hardships in the form of scorn from outsiders, the social stigma surrounding the job of being a housewife, especially for a man, as well as conflicts within their relationship regarding who was under the spotlight. A major part of the film revolves around reversal of gender roles; the wife is the breadwinner while the husband handles the household and takes care of the family. This is shown by Kabir wearing the mangal sutra on his wrist, attending kitty parties, buying groceries; actions traditionally performed by women. He’s characterized as a ‘damsel in distress’ who needs Kia to protect as can be seen when she defends him in front of his father, making her appear more masculine. She’s also very aspiring and hopes to become the CEO of the company she works at. Being ambitious is a trait that’s associated with masculinity. Their conflicting desires become a driving force of the movie as both the characters struggle to adjust with their lifestyle.
The film gets a bit repetitive with Kia getting jealous of Kabir’s fame and later apologizing, making its message lose momentum; instead of showing how difficult the choices housewives make have to be, the sole focus on the movie becomes the relationship between Kia and Kabir and how they struggle through individual, slightly related issues. It also comes into question whether the film genuinely plays a role in attempting to break the gender stereotypes or only in reinforcing them. Kabir’s exaggerated feminine traits discredit the problems faced by women, making them appear hysterical and gullible rather than strong and selfless. Kia too is shown as an exaggerated version of a man who blames Kabir during her pregnancy scare, accusing him of trying to interfere with her aspirations and thinking he married her to use her. These smaller plots within the film distract the viewers from its main purpose rather than aiding it. Along with these factors, the humor in the film softens the impact it could’ve had on the audience, limiting the film to a romantic comedy rather than a social commentary. The film is also unrealistic in terms of how society reacts to Kabir and Kia’s lifestyle. The society is shown in the form of Kabir’s father who despises his choices. When first introduced, Kabir’s father scorns him for not having a job and for living off of a woman. He thinks women should be protected and taken care of rather than being the ones men rely on for money. They’re merely a ‘support system’ who never come under the limelight. The conflict between Kabir and his father about his choices encapsulates the reaction of the society. However, towards the end of the movie, he offers Kia to be the CEO of his company, making the movie seem unrealistic. It only shows a glimpse of how people react to them rather than following Kabir through the problems that he faces in society due to a toxic and prevalent image of masculinity as being self-sufficient and independent. The introduction of Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan helps bring out the contrast between how different audiences receive the message Kabir tries to send out. The women agree with and can relate to the struggles Kabir brings up about giving up their identities, living away from the spotlight and not being jealous of their partner’s success, while the men are skeptical and defensive about being portrayed in a bad light; ‘maine kya bigada tha tera? Ab chaar din lecture sunna padega’ (What did I ever do to you? Now I’ll have to listen to her lectures for four days). In this way, the film accurately captures the reactions of its audience. However, the film seems almost episodic as it jumps from one problem to the other while being only partly related to each other; Kabir being a housewife.
The role of a housewife is constantly disregarded and degraded and invalidated by Kia. This represents the conflict between Kabir being a housewife and the notion that they tend to ‘stay at home and do nothing.’ This very notion is challenged by the director. The film forces the audience to understand the sacrifices the care giver of the house makes and to stop and think before disregarding their difficulties. Even though the film lost the weight of its message in some areas, it was a satisfactory attempt at challenging gender norms and giving a voice to the home maker. Ki & Ka was based on a brilliant concept with a somewhat lacking depth and execution.
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