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Entertainment Review: Chhatriwali

It’s not quite clear why filmmakers suddenly think audiences need to be lectured on condom use—Chhatriwali is the third film in recent times to take up the subject, after Helmet and Janhit Mein Jaari. (Chhatri and helmet are slang for condom).

It is inevitable that the tone of the film, directed by Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar, would get hectoring, while it makes its case for sex education in schools and excoriates the men who let their wives suffer due to their old-fashioned attitudes.

The film is set in Karnal, for no other reason but to mention the name of the Kalpana Chawla a few times; the Haryana town is famous for the astronaut and wrestling champs. Chemistry graduate Sanya Dhingra (Rakul Preet Singh) struggles to get a job in the conservative town, and is forced to work as a quality control manager in a condom factory run by Ratan Lamba (Satish Kaushik).

She hopes to quit in a year, but before that she falls in love and gets married to Rishi Kalra (Sumeet Vyas), who runs a shop selling pooja material. His brother Rajan (Rajesh Tailang) is the controlling man of the house, whose wife (Prachee Shah Pandya) is sickly ostensibly due to repeated abortions, miscarriage and use of emergency contraceptive pills. She does not have the nerve to tell her husband to use protection, and strangely, a biology teacher is so clueless about health issues. The parents are silent, shadowy people, just hovering in the background.

Sanya pretends that she works in an umbrella factory, too uncomfortable to tell the truth to her husband who does not want to use protection, which he believes is only meant for lovers not married couples. These people must belong to a different era, condoms are now openly advertised, displayed in shops and sold. Nobody could be that ignorant!

When Sanya learns of her sister-in-law’s suffering through her teenage daughter, she immediately flies into activist mode, trying to get the neighbourhood women to get their husbands to use condoms, and insisting to the school principal that he teach the kids about reproductive systems and sexual health. Surprisingly the medical store owner objects the most to the sale of condoms, that he calls ashleel. Of course, all it needs is a stern talking to for everyone to fall in line and agree with Sanya.

The humourless plot is too contrived. Does Karnal have just one medical shop and one school? There are enough men working in the condom factory, why is it only difficult to get a manager? And if it is so problematic to manufacture condoms, why does Lamba have the factory, instead of some other business.

Rakul Preet Singh is passable, in the lead role, though she must get over the habit of using that wide-eyed Barbie expression and look cute.

Never mind how it is put across, the message of Chhatriwali is important—that women have to take charge of their own health and men must comply with their wishes. But if small town folk are so backward, then this line up of ‘educational’ films is not going to change their minds; and if they are progressing, then the conveyor belt of sermonizing films can be halted.

Chhatriwali 

Directed by Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar

Cast: Rakul Preet Singh, Sumeet Vyas, Rajesh Tailang and other

On Zee5

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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