Chhatriwali (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – An unemployed graduate who is desperate for a job in a small town, ends up taking the job as a condom tester which she hides from everyone around her.

My Take – Joining the ever growing list of taboo themed social dramas, despite continuing cries from the conservative Indian society about the west permeating our culture, is this latest directorial from Tejas Prabhaa Vijay Deoskar, known for his Marathi films like Premsutra (2013) and Bucket List (2018), which aims to highlight the importance of sex education, condom usage and women’s reproductive health.

A concept similar in to vein to the forgettable Aparshakti Khurana starrer Helmet (2019), but closer in presentation to last year’s decent Nushrratt Bharuccha starrer Janhit Mein Jaari (2022), which appealed mildly due to its rustic humor, small town setting and credible performances.

And just like the Jai Basantu Singh directorial, this ZEE5 release also sees its female protagonist finding themselves working for a condom company, despite it being considered sleazy work in their conservative small-towns. With the situations only slightly altered in the second half, this one also sees its lead answering all the sex-related misconceptions to young students.

Resulting in a light-hearted film that one wishes could have been packaged and delivered more creatively and uniquely. Though the film, written by Sanchit Gupta and Priyadarshee Srivastava, is watchable due to its right intent, it struggles under the weight of its predictability and its efforts to fit in public service objectives within its comedy drama clichés. Due to which it is unable to neither convey the hypocrisy of society nor address why sex education shouldn’t be treated as taboo.

But while the film’s writing may lack the required distinctiveness, it scores an excellent lead in Rakul Preet Singh, whose upfront approach and unflinching sincerity keeps one thoroughly engaged. Making us believe that she really supports the cause she’s preaching. The growth in her character is a slow and steady transition, yet Rakul Preet Singh essays every aspect of it superbly.

Set in Karnal, Haryana, the story follows Sanya Dhingra (Rakul Preet Singh), a lower-middle-class graduate in chemistry, who in order to make ends meet accepts the job offer of a quality control manager in a condom factory. Initially embarrassed, Sanya ends up lying to everyone, including her mother (Dolly Ahluwalia) about the role being in an umbrella factor, but becomes comfortable with her unusual choice when Ratan Lamba (Satish Kaushik), the company’s owner, makes her understand the importance of her job.

However, things begin to get complicated for her she falls in love and marries Rishi (Sumeet Vyas), who runs a shop for all Puja needs, without informing him or his family about how she earns a living. Especially fearing Rishi’s older brother Rajan (Rajesh Tailang), a prudish biology teacher of a co-ed school, suggesting his students skip the reproductive system but oblivious to the fact that it is exactly what’s ailing his perennially under-the-weather wife (Prachee Shah Pandya).

But after learning about the difficulties her sister-in-law is experiencing due to unprotected sex, she takes up the challenge to initiate a sex education campaign in the town irrespective of the opposition she faces.

Though the charade is engaging, the plot offers us nothing of shock value. From the situations about Sanya lying about her job to everyone to the awkward situation Rishi encounters while purchasing condoms. It’s all very predictable and mundane, geared towards the Sanya emerging victorious. Similar to films made on this idea, the first half of the film is nicely nurtured before the social commentary issue arises, making the second half a slow burn.

Between Sanya’s superficial revolution and realization of what makes her line of work significant or the eventual disclosure of her deceit while defying her brother-in-law’s obdurate conservative ways, the film sadly doesn’t establish much beyond its noble intent.

Her dramatic attempts to propagate sex education in school amidst dull pubescent curiosity lack purpose and information. This segment of the film is quite frivolous and does nothing to lend gravitas to the story. The questions that the teenagers ask seem quite silly, to be honest.

Even sillier is the way Sanya goes about addressing the grave issue of lack of sex education among youngsters in the villages, towns and even cities of India. Most absurd though is why a local medical shop owner (Rakesh Bedi) is so averse to the idea of selling condoms. The end feels rushed and preachy, just like numerous similar social awareness films end up in Hindi films.

Nevertheless, the gorgeous Rakul Preet Singh ably steers the 116-minute-long film. From a hesitant middle class bride to the blossoming of a warrior who’s ready to sacrifice everything for the cause she believes in, Rakul Preet Singh is suitably convincing and understated as Sanya. It is a meaty role for the fast-rising actress, not to say the fact that getting top billing in a film by a prestigious production house is quite an achievement by any standards. Sumeet Vyas is good as her unassuming husband and delivers as expected. Satish Kaushik is the main light-heartening element of the film and owns the screen whenever he is on it.

Rajesh Tailang keeps up with his stern and stubborn attitude and fits well for his role, proficient actor that he is. His skill as an actor ensures that he lends credence even to the poorly-etched-out character of Bhaiji that he’s been handed here. In other roles, Dolly Ahluwalia, Riva Arora, Prachee Shah Pandya, and Rakesh Bedi are alright in their limited scope. On the whole, ‘Chhatriwali’ is yet another social-issue-driven comedy drama that is a bit dated and a tad simplistic.

Directed –

Starring – Rakul Preet Singh, Sumeet Vyas, Satish Kaushik

Rated – NA

Run Time – 116 minutes

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