Juice Movie Review: Masaan Director’s  New Short Film Practises An Inverted Misogyny

Starring: Shefali Shah, Manish Choudhary

Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan

Rating: ***(3 stars)

It is easy to rave about a film that  champions the middleclass housewife’s cause with such intense  enthusiasm. Juice, is the  new film—or shortfilm, if you must insist—by NeerajGhaywan who made  the wonderful Masaan and also a heartwarming ad on the  life of  transgender-mother.

This  time Neeraj’s vision  is  on the war-path. His camera  prowls confidently into a dinner-party scenario  in a middle-income home where the man of  the house, played with vehement integrity by the wonderful Manish Choudhary, sits with his  office colleagues in the  tinylivingroom while the wives busy themselves  in the kitchen with the endless supply of food that the men require to replenish their appetite  for small-talk.

I have  to  admit that this livingroom-versus-kitchen politics is  not unfamiliar to me. However  its existence  is  on the wane now. Wives  do not run  into  the kitchen at  such get-togethers.  Cooking and kitchen  work is  no more the incriminating legacies  of  patriarchal tyranny that they used to be 20 or even 10 years  ago. Ghaywan’s  film, though brilliant with  its eye for topographical  and emotional detail, must be seen in the context  of  the nostalgic  rather than the contemporary.

This is a claustrophobic view of  a domestic despotism that grabs the  cult  of misogyny by its arms and tugs hard . The men in the livingroom(all played by accomplished actors)  babble hard and loud about Hillary, Obama,Emails and  females while the  wonderful Shefali Shah  playing the  hostess of this noisy evening,shuffles in  and out with plates of fried  chicken and  other snacks.

Shefali, God bless her sang-froid,  makes  her  presence felt eventhough she plays that near-invisible entity that  housewives in  middle-income homes used to be in  the last millennium.

Watching Juice I was  reminded  of  what Satyajit Ray had said about making the youngSoumitra Chatterjee’s character in Charulata a progressive feminist as a way of making himself feel like  a progressive feminist.

In Juice(why juice???) one late guest walks in with his pregnant wife and tells  his hostess, “Bhabhiji ,take her  inside.She has learnt some  new recipes.”

To these men their wives acquire a definition only through their  culinary skills. That seems terribly unfair  to the workingclass Indian male, specially at  a time when in  the recently released Tumhari Sulu Vidya Balan’s  husband  , right out of the  milieu that Juice recreates, was shown  to be so encouraging and supportive .

The men  in Juice are  uniformly  apathetic. But you feel the strong presence  of  the invisible  Liberal Male  in the  director’s  perception  of domestic tyranny. Ghaywan fills up the  tiny apartment home  with more people eating(in the  livingroom)  and being  fed(from the kitchen) than Jennifer Lawrence  was  shown coping with in the  recent horror extravaganza Mother!

Tyranny, specially patriarchal  tyranny, makes for compelling cinema. Neeraj Ghaywan’s Juice,  though engaging in its detailing and its  rigorous quest of misogyny, ends up seemingmisandrist.

Why  Juice, you may well ask. See that  glass of beverage  in  the  housewife-protagonist’s hand at the end when she decides  to join her husband and his friends in the  living room? That’s orange juice.

So  there.

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