Ki And Ka – An Exercise In Exploring Gender Role Reversal In A Marriage

Ki and Ka is a film about gender role reversal and challenging the gender based division of labour in a marriage.

Ki and Ka is a film about gender role reversal and challenging the gender based division of labour in a marriage.

Film maker R. Balki, known for unconventional films like Cheeni Kum (2007) and Paa (2009), invites the audience to imagine a utopian couple in a utopian world where the husband happily stays at home doing the house work and the wife goes out to work in a big company and aspires to be a corporate giant.

Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is the only son of a millionaire businessman. He is an IIM topper but has no interest in either his father’s business or money. He is anti-ambition and refuses to be one of those corporate zombies who just keeps climbing corporate ladder without even knowing where they are going.

Kiya is the daughter of a social worker mother who runs multiple NGOs. She believes in climbing the corporate ladder as fast as she can, she is ambitious, strong and fiercely independent.

Marriage is not a priority on Kiya’s list. She believes that marriage is good for fun, it is nice to have company, someone to talk to, someone to cuddle at night. But that women pay a heavy cost to get married. After marriage a woman merely becomes the pillar of her family and husband’s success. She toils all her life so that 40 years later her husband can look into her eyes and say, ‘Thank you for being my khamba (pillar)’.

Kabir on the other hand cannot wait to get married and assume the role he saw his mother (now deceased) playing all her life. He believes the home maker is a true artist, one who knows the art of sacrifice, the art of putting the family before herself. He aspires to be like his mother, a house wife.

With this unusual approach to life, it seemed like a win-win situation for Kabir and Kiya to marry each other, plus they also fall in love. Kabir’s father doesn’t approve of the marriage so he leaves his father’s home and moves in with Kiya and his mother-in-law.

Where does life take them from here? Do they actually survive a marriage with complete gender role reversal? How does the society accept this arrangement and what kind of peer pressure do the couple face? Is Kabir truly a man who is comfortable taking the back seat or is he just in an ideological bubble soon to be burst by male ego and jealousy?

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The film tries to deal with these important questions. Unfortunately, it fails.

The good news is that Ki and Ka is a well-intentioned film which carries some interesting perspectives and message. The bad news is that it fails in execution and presentation.

The technical aspects of the film are mediocre and fail to leave a mark. As a result, the positive message carried in the film seems lost. The script is loose, and the treatment lacks depth and intensity. Gender stereotypes are challenged in over simplified scenes which only look like public service announcements. The entire film appears to be a series of loosely connected social media memes or viral videos. There is a dash of weak humour sprinkled all through the script which makes it difficult for audience to take the message seriously.

So readers may want to go ahead and spend 300 bucks to see how gender roles are reversed, what messages they carry and is was the big conclusion. But for benefit of those who don’t want to spend money on a film which is not well made, let me give the crux of the points it makes. (Spoiler Alert)

  • The film challenges our own imagination of masculine and feminine through some interesting visuals. A woman’s face on the cover of all business magazines as the Marketing Person of the Year and a man’s face on women’s magazine like Femina, Griha Shobha; A handsome man being surrounded by lots of pretty women not in the kind of narratives we saw on posters of ‘Desi Boyz’ but in narratives of ladies kitty party or ladies shopping day out when their husbands attend a conference. A stay at home husband being the brand ambassador of healthy cooking oil, these are just few such scenes.
  • The film challenges the practice of women wearing signs of matrimony. The scene where Kiya ties a mangalsutra around her husband’s neck seems comical because of the way the scene is treated, but it raises the question, why is it not equally comical or ridiculous when it is tied around the women’s neck?
  • The film effortlessly introduces an older woman younger man couple without making much issue of it.
  • Wife’s stereotypical qualities of being sweet, shy, soft, sacrificial and nurturer is replaced by unreasonable anger, jealousy and crankiness. While the husband is quiet and non-reactive. I particularly liked the scene where Kiya loses her mind in jealous rage and goes on a vicious ranting spree saying the most hurtful things to her husband and yet Kabir doesn’t utter a word in retaliation. I thought it was a very unique take on relationships.

Finally, the most important message of the film which appears in the penultimate scene, that while it takes a man of great courage to take the backseat, stay at home to take care of home and kids, it takes a woman of greater courage to love and respect such a man.

I recently discussed this topic with my students in a gender workshop and it was revealed that men live under a tremendous pressure to perform, earn and be the bread winner against all odds. Gender stereotypes hurt men as much as they hurt women. I then asked the girls if they would accept a house husband? To my delight the answer was a resounding yes. “Why not? If he can take care of the household, do the chores, I would be happy even if he doesn’t earn,” they said.

However, the point is not to reverse roles and reinforce the same stereotypes with a different gender. This is where the film Ki and Ka miserably fails. We have to look at a future where there are no gender roles at all. Where any two people may build any kind of marriage based upon love and not gender roles and gender based division of labour.

Image source: trailer on youtube.


About the Author


Writer, photographer and a story teller. Women and Gender Studies is my theme and media and communications are my tools. read more...

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