Stream or skip? 'Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey' on Disney+
Malayalam comedy-drama film Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey arrived on Disney+ Hotstar on December 22 (Thursday). The Vipin Das directorial opened in theaters on October 28 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Now accessible to a wider audience and available in Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu, this poignant social commentary mocks rampant patriarchy. Here's why we think it deserves a spot on your weekend watchlist.
Story of ambitious woman trapped in stifling patriarchy
The coming-of-age story narrates the tale of the titular Jaya (Darshana Rajendran), an ambitious woman brought up in a conservative household who is further clutched in primitive sexist customs once she is married to Rajesh (Basil Joseph), a mercurial man, and the very definition of a male chauvinist. Not the one to be suffocated under misogyny, Jaya eventually handles the reins of her life.
Microcosm of a larger, extremely distressing picture
The quirkily titled film acts as an effective microcosm of a distressing scenario where women's wings are clipped timely, lest they learn to fly. It addresses multiple issues at once: sexism, internalized misogyny, toxic relationships, ambivalent sexism, dowry, gendered roles, and more. What works best is how these themes don't get in the way of the central narrative, but instead, drive the plot ahead.
Look carefully at the intelligently curated opening song and sequence!
Another peculiar aspect that struck me instantly was the introductory song. Something most of us usually skip by default, the animated sequence foreshadows the film's content: the screen is populated by items that belong to the "feminine" territory: washing machine, utensils, etc. A line in the title song goes: "Women guard the dignity of a man." The scathing sarcasm is right in our faces.
Presents a realistic, truthful portrait of society
The aforementioned song and the film, both act as a mirror to society vis-a-vis women's position at the lowest pedestal. Women are always "someone's something (wife, mother, daughter)," and their own persona is shoved somewhere into the bleak background. It's as if these relations are thrust upon them, with their individuality having been scissored out of their lives to make space for other "responsibilities."
How does lack of agency play out in everyday life?
Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey caustically portrays the way women's lack of agency plays out in everyday life—it's so ubiquitous and pervasive that it has become commonplace. Jaya's desire to study leads to deafening silences, she gets bruised and beaten up daily but it doesn't raise any eyebrows, her husband prides himself on "allowing" her freedom. Who snatched it away in the first place?
Humor dilutes what would have been cumbersome melodramatic scenes
The film's humor is not derived from, say, slapstick comedy or any guffaw-worthy long-drawn sequences; instead, it keeps simmering under the surface and is extracted out of dramatic and situational irony. The background music and cricket match-style running commentary lend a helping hand, too. These tonal shifts don't catch us by surprise but rather rescue the film from becoming cumbersome and needlessly melodramatic.
If you like this, also watch 'The Great Indian Kitchen'
Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey is particularly reminiscent of another Malayalam film, Jeo Baby's The Great Indian Kitchen, which, too, talked about how a marriage gone wrong enslaves a woman, and how her ambition is mercilessly crushed due to the regulations imposed by her husband and her in-laws. Both movies, through their uninhibited protagonists, launch a war cry for feminism and equality.