I count amongst some of my best friends, house husbands. Or let’s put it in a slightly more nuanced way, men who like to stay home, take charge of the household, be the primary caregiver for parents and children. They know that they come in for more than their share of good- humored ribbing as well as nasty jibes, and they have learnt to take it in their stride because they are supremely comfortable doing what they do. Oh, and before I forget, their wives go to work, excel at their demanding jobs, and get in the lolly.
With ‘Ki and Ka’, Bollywood has got to the point of being able to place a man willing to be home, knuckle down to dull domestic chores, and wave the flag for ambitious women and progressive men. So hurrah for Ka and Ki and Balki? Yes, but only up to point. The film is fun when it is setting up the roles. But the execution, as it goes along, gets rocky. Much of it stays episodic, and starts reinforcing the very stereotypes it set out to negate. And so much of the writing is so explicatory that you begin wondering if the filmmakers really take their viewers for People Who Do Not Understand Anything Unless It Is Underlined Thrice Over.
Kia (Kareena Kapoor) and Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) get past their meet-cute in a tearing hurry, and jump into an exchange of garlands and glands. All is hunky-dory to begin with : Ka rolls out of bed, picks up after his office-going wife and mum-in-law (Swaroop Sampat ; good to see her back on screen), lays out steaming hot ‘khana’ ; Ki cracks open her Mac, and delivers smart campaign ideas to her advertising agency colleagues (great excuse for lots of product placements, yo), and goes up the corporate ladder.
She is into marketing; he is busy home-making, and they are happy playing footsie. And then jealousy rears its ugly head, and the lines Ka and Ki had set up for themselves start to blur. Who will go out? Who will have a public face and high profile? Who will stay in and cook fresh? Will a Ka be happy to be called ‘nikamma’? The film evades that problematic one neatly by a too-convenient plot twist, involving Ka’s disapproving papa (a permanently sneering Rajit, who is never given the chance to smile through the film) who thunders on about ‘ ‘mards’ and, haha, cautionary ‘chhaddi checks’.
The problem is the film’s unwillingness to go the mile and really explore what that ‘nikamma’ could do to the male ego. Ka, poor fellow, is a victim of confusion. He may say he wants to be like his mummy. He may adorn his wrist with a ‘mangalsutra’, hoho, but has no problem in using his legs to kick louts. He is shown hosting kitty parties and urging fat aunties into shape: huge stereotypes, dear director and writer, connecting all your jolly housewives and ‘kitties’, and stay-at-home ladies and bulges; tsk. When Ka is not doing all of the above, he is busy wheeling his trike (yes, trike) up and down certain heavy-traffic bearing Delhi roads – these are roads, any Dilliwala will tell you, where only trucks and buses and cars carrying passengers will traverse. Couldn’t they find a residential colony?
Ki is better drawn. The director is an ad man, so Kareena’s character is spot on. She plays it familiar but is svelte and lively enough. The office is just so, but I could not shake off the feeling that the Ka-Ki home was basically an overdressed set.
Plus, Arjun and Kareena give off precious little steam, despite all the canoodling on display. That takes some off the edge of the couple. Or is all that sibling-like matter-of-factness a thing these days? And then there is the incessant chatter about men and women, and this is what ‘they’ do, and this is what ‘they’ must not do. All too message-y.
Good to see the premise– send a woman out, keep a man in, and reverse gender expectations- on screen: it just needed to have been sharper and deeper.