Home [not so] Sweet Home: Crime, Fear and Domestic Space in Pandemic Malayalam Films

Proceedings of The 6th World Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities

Year: 2023



Home [not so] Sweet Home: Crime, Fear and Domestic Space in Pandemic Malayalam Films

Pooja Radhakrishnan




The Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainties it wrecked has compelled recent Malayalam films (a film industry based in India’s Kerala) to experiment with styles and themes that adequately register the strangeness, disruptions, and bleakness of the contemporary world. This paper argues that Malayalam films post-2020 serve not just as memoirs of the pandemic times but project a retrospective vision that tries to dismantle the normalised truths of any formally stable society by depicting its most shocking dysfunctional realities. Notably, the events following the pandemic have been synergistic in portraying how societies discard some of its underlying, material, social, cultural, psychological and political fears to preserve themselves (Liboiron and Lepawsky 2022). In the films under analysis, the discarded entities encroach into the stable household, resulting in complete subversion. From deromanticising the kitchen as a site of exploitation, to shocking episodes of crime in maladjusted households, and evoking horror from mundane objects, the fear stemming from the disease deranges the language of the everyday, and the most coherent cultural artifacts (home) suddenly become the site of the uncanny. Through films like The Great Indian Kitchen (2021), Aarkkariyam [Who Knows?] (2021), Joji (2021), Nizhal [Shadow] (2021), Kala [Weed] (2021), Kuruthi [Slaughter] (2021), Puzhu [Worm] (2022), Antakshari [The Last Letter] (2022), this paper tries to understand using the tenants from studies on discard, how the micro politics of the home space unravels the horrors lurking within the seemingly harmonic spaces of the everyday and how it participates in the larger debates concerning the public sphere.

keywords: Covid-19, discard studies, home, Malayalam films, uncanny