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Soubin Shahir and (right) Shane Nigam in 'Kumbalangi Nights'
Soubin Shahir and (right) Shane Nigam in 'Kumbalangi Nights'

Film heroes and housework: Doing their fair share

Housework in Indian films, as in real life, has traditionally fallen to women. Here are a few instances where men have stepped up to cook, clean and dust

Indian men aren’t known for doing an equal share of work around the house. This is reflected in our cinema, which isn’t exactly replete with images of men (especially married ones) cooking, cleaning or washing clothes. To mark this week’s cover on covid-19 and working women, we have rounded up a few good men in Indian movies who, for various reasons, stepped up and did the work.

Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan in 'Ki & Ka'
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Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan in 'Ki & Ka'

Arjun Kapoor in ‘Ki & Ka’ (2016)

A film that completely reverses traditional gender roles. In Ki & Ka, Kareena Kapoor Khan plays the ambitious career woman and Arjun Kapoor the contented homemaker.

Kamal Haasan in 'Sadma'
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Kamal Haasan in 'Sadma'

Kamal Haasan in ‘Sadma’ (1983)

Kamal Haasan plays a schoolteacher who brings home a woman who has regressed to a childhood state after a head injury. He does all the housework, though there’s still the weight of traditional expectations on women—after a kitchen mishap, he complains, “There’s a girl as tall as a pole in the house but I have to do all the work."

Naseeruddin Shah in 'Katha'
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Naseeruddin Shah in 'Katha'

Naseeruddin Shah in ‘Katha’ (1983)

Shah’s extremely competent clerk in Katha gives bachelors a good name. He’s neat, fastidious, can cook up hot samosas and chai—unlike his freeloading friend, played by Farooq Shaikh, who is closer to the average male.

Soubin Shahir in 'Kumbalangi Nights'
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Soubin Shahir in 'Kumbalangi Nights'

The brothers in ‘Kumbalangi Nights’ (2019)

This Malayalam film quietly upended traditional ideas of masculinity—starting with having the men do all the work. The four brothers at the film’s centre clean, cook, fish and make their home a welcome place for strangers in need.

Ritwick Chakraborty (centre) in 'Labour of Love'
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Ritwick Chakraborty (centre) in 'Labour of Love'

Ritwick Chakraborty in ‘Labour Of Love’ (2014)

This poetically shot, wordless film tracks a couple as they go through a typical day. Since she works during the day and he at night, a lot of the film is Ritwick Chakraborty’s character at home, eating, doing small chores, going shopping. We get the sense that this is an equal partnership.

Aamir Khan in 'Akele Hum Akele Tum'
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Aamir Khan in 'Akele Hum Akele Tum'

Aamir Khan in ‘Akele Hum Akele Tum’ (1995)

Forced to take over the housework after his wife leaves him and their son, Aamir Khan’s musician does a predictably terrible job at first. The hapless husband is a longstanding trope in Indian cinema, seen recently in films like Thappad and Panga, in which the husbands literally can’t boil water.

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