Issue 30 (2010)

Bakhrom Yakubov: Super Daughter-in-Law (Super Kelinchak, 2008)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010

kelinchakBakhrom Yakubov’s Super Kelinchak is an example of a low-budget film, like many other films made in Uzbekistan. A 2008 box office hit, Super Kelinchak is one of the most popular feature films by Yakubov who is well-known among Uzbek viewers from his previous works—Fatima and Zukhra (2000), and Sogdiana (2006). Super Kelinchak drew much attention from regular spectators, and at the 2009 Festival of national Uzbek cinema KinoViZa received a special jury award “For virtuoso mastery of genre.” After working in documentary filmmaking for over a decade, Yakubov started making full feature films in 2003, and since then has continued working with the genre of melodrama. Super Kelinchak includes various components of the melodrama genre: the story of a young student Diana and a young businessman Sardor whose parents are intervening in their love relations; an evil neighbor who helps the mother-in-law to get rid of Diana; and tearful music performed by a famous Uzbek pop-singer Ziyoda. The film also invokes a rags-to-riches narrative through the use of colorful costumes, expensive cars, and luxury life style of the main characters. At the same time, Yakubov tells the story of an unequal marriage in which inequality is established not by the characters’ social status or financial position but through their contrasting cultural and ethnical values.

kelinchakBoth young characters come from rich families but with different ethnic background. Sardor’s parents are Uzbek and his father owns a bowling alley, while Diana’s father is also presumably a businessman but her family seems to adhere to Russian or Western traditions. Diana drives an expensive car, dresses up extravagantly, carries tens of thousands of dollars in her purse, and spends her free time with her girlfriends at the bowling alley. From the very beginning of the film the main characters are distinguished by the languages they employ: Sardor speaks Uzbek while Diana uses mainly Russian. By the end of the film, Russian almost disappears from the screen and all characters communicate only in Uzbek. This linguistic shift follows the alteration in gender relations between the characters and the adoption of Uzbek values by Diana. When Diana and Sardor first meet at the bowling alley, she beats him in bowling but refuses to take his car as a prize. Her Toyota SUV is twice as big as Sardor’s car. She is an example of emancipated woman who attends university, wears high heels, dances to a hip-hop song “Show Me the Money” by Petey Pablo, argues with her parents and marries Sardor against their will. Sardor also does not follow the rules of his own culture either: he breaks off the arranged marriage with another Uzbek girl and marries Diana despite his own mother’s protest. However, after the wedding he acts like a traditional Uzbek husband: he does not help his wife around the house and insists on them having a child as soon as possible.

kelinchakThe second half of the film explores the Uzbek familial traditions and shows Diana’s gradual adjustment to the role of an Uzbek daughter-in-law when she moves in with Sardor’s family. The narrative follows the young woman while she is cleaning, cooking, doing groceries, baking Uzbek bread—lepeshki—in a tandoor clay oven, and taking care of her parents-in-law. She also undergoes visual metamorphoses: she dresses up in traditional Uzbek dresses and pants, wears a kerchief on her head all the time, and talks in a soft voice. The only thing which still points at Diana’s modern upbringing is her constant use of the internet when she needs to consult about Uzbek traditions or recipes for lepeshki or Ubek soup naryn. In Super Kelinchak, Yakubov attempts to familiarize his viewers with many ancient Uzbek national traditions, such as gift exchange at the wedding ceremony, the way in which food is served at the dinner table, and a traditional price negotiation at the bazaar. Nevertheless, the culture that Yakubov depicts in his film is already affected by modernity: many characters drive foreign cars, use cell phones, and Diana participates in a television show to find the best daughters-in-law.

The story of Diana and her mother-in-law also addresses a question of the gender relations in contemporary Uzbekistan which, despite of modernized life style, still is very conservative and patriarchal. Most female characters are shown in a domestic setting fulfilling their “traditional” duties as nurturers and caregivers, while men spend their time playing bowling, and relaxing. Young women are learning from more experienced women how to be the perfect wives and how to be patient and respectful of older people. By the end of the film, Diana transforms into an obedient Uzbek wife whose primary responsibility consists in getting pregnant, and ensuring the stability of a traditional social structure. Following Hollywood scenarios, Super Kelinchak has a happy end with Sardor and his father peacefully discussing business issues while Diana and her mother-in-law fighting for a broom in order to sweep the yard.

Olga Klimova
University of Pittsburgh

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Super Kelinchak, Uzbekistan, 2008
Color, 119 minutes
Director: Bakhrom Yakubov, Tamara Moiseeva
Screenplay: Evgeniia Palekhova, Bakhrom Iakubov
Camera: Umid Malikov, Zafar Imonzhonov
Music: Ubaidullo Karimov
Sound: Anvar Faiaz, Kamaliddin Rakhimov
Editing: Nargiza Salom
Cast: Diana Iagofarova, Saida Rametova, Adiz Radzhabov, Murad Radzhabov, Nazim Tulakhodzhaev, Elizaveta Karali, Sanzhar Shodiev, Gul'chekhra Nosirova, Dil'noza Makhmudova
Production: Futurist Film Studio

Bakhrom Yakubov: Super Daughter-in-Law (Super Kelinchak, 2008)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2010

Updated: 05 Oct 10