Janhit Mein Jaari (2022), starring Nushrratt Bharuccha shared almost the same theme and storyline as Chhatriwali. There too, a strong female lead is forced through family circumstances to work in a condom factory. After marriage, she tries to hide where she works, then circumstances force her to rebel outright and start educating people about condom use. While Janhit was set in Chanderi, MP, the present film is set in Karnal Haryana. In both films, the heroine has to fight a patriarchal mindset to convince people about the benefits of condoms and safe sex. The difference is that while in the earlier film, the protagonist is in the sales and marketing department, here she’s shown to be the head of quality control.
The film busts the myth about condom usage, which remains woefully low in India. It makes a case for creating awareness about the product, pointing out that men, especially in small town and rural India, are still hesitant to go to the neighborhood chemist and ask for it by name. The most common euphemism is chhatri, hence the name, Chhatriwali. Another thing it points out is that men, even educated men, feel condom usage is unnecessary after marriage as birth control is a woman’s burden. Rajesh Talang, for instance, plays a biology teacher in the film but feels ashamed teaching reproductive biology to a mixed class of male and female students and asks a female colleague to teach it separately to girls. He doesn’t use a condom and that has led to his wife aborting twice. The most regressive thing in the movie – put in there perhaps to forcefully bring home the point – is the scene where Rakesh Bedi, playing a chemist, rallies people against condom usage, calling it obscene and vulgar. Now, this is perhaps a bit extreme, but it does reiterate the fact that the smirks and knowing smiles of chemists do drive the customers away.
We see Dolly Ahluwalia as being a teen patti obsessed mother but her role seems to be cut short. Prachee Shah Paandya plays Rajesh Tailang’s long suffering wife who revolts at the end. Through her, the director points out that women should learn to speak out more and not be silent martyrs to their situations. Sumeet Vyas plays the mousy younger brother too much in awe of his elder brother to say anything. He too is shown developing a spine later in the film. Mention must also be made of Satish Kaushik, who plays the large-hearted owner of the condom factory and becomes the heroine’s mentor, teaching her the importance of standing up for what’s right and advises her to take pride in her work.
The plot offers us nothing of shock value. It’s all very predictable and mundane, geared towards Rakul’s character emerging superior. She plays her role with panache and clearly believes in the cause she’s espousing. From a hesitant middle class bahu, we see her blossoming into a warrior who is ready to sacrifice everything for the cause she believes in. It’s a slow and steady transition and Rakul Preet Singh essays every aspect of it confidently.
Trailer : Chhatriwali
Archika Khurana, January 20, 2023, 3:31 AM IST
Chhatriwali story: Sanya is embarrassed by her unusual job description as the quality control manager for a condom company. Will she ever be comfortable with her work and even educate others on the importance of having safe sex?
Chhatriwali review: After Aparshakti Khurana’s Helmet (2019), Nushrratt Bharuccha’s Janhit Mein Jaari (2022), Chhatriwali is the latest addition to these social dramas that uses humor to deliver a perspective message about the taboo subjects like “contraceptives” and “safe sex”. In this story set in Karnal (Haryana), chemistry teacher Sanya (Rakul Preet Singh) is transformed into a local crusader to destigmatise sex education. To make ends meet, Sanya takes up the job as the quality control head in a condom factory. Initially shy and embarrassed, she becomes comfortable with her unusual choice when Mr Lamba (Satish Kaushik), the company’s owner, makes her understand the importance of this job.
Things take a turn when Sanya falls in love with Rishi (Sumeet Vyas), and they marry without knowing how she earns a living. Instead, she lies to her mother (Dolly Ahluwalia) and in-laws by claiming to work for an umbrella company. The charade is predictable but entertaining right from the beginning. Directed by Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar and co-written by Sanchit Gupta and Priyadarshee Srivastava, Chhatriwali is more of a mash-up of the movies Helmet and Janhit Mein Jaari. Many scenes and situations are cliched, from Sanya lying about her job to everyone to the awkward situation Rishi encounters while purchasing condoms. 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.
The film draws a dubious parallel between using condoms and preventing abortion. Sanya discovers her inner activist and criticizes the use of condoms over birth control pills with the catchphrase “mujhse karna hai pyaar, toh condom ko karo sweekar,” sparking a debate among women who find it difficult to speak up. Rakul Preet Singh ably steers this 117-minute-long film. Dolly Ahluwalia has little to do as Sanya’s mother. Sumeet Vyas is excellent as Rishi, a man who loves his wife unconditionally but believes “condoms are for lovers, not for the married couples.” Rajesh Tailang, as Bhaiji, a biology teacher who believes sex education is unnecessary for students, and Prachee Shah Paandya, as his wife, play their roles convincingly. Satish Kaushik is funny as Mr Lamba, but his garish wig is not.
While Sunidhi Chauhan’s Special Edition Kudi is upbeat, the other songs in the movie do not compel you to hit the reply button. Overall, it’s a light-hearted film that is predictable and could have been packaged and delivered more creatively and uniquely. Despite this, Chhatriwali is watchable with the right intent.