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‘Chhatriwali’: Comedy loses its way in sex education

Directed by Tejas Deoskar. Starring Rakul Preet Singh, Sumeet Vyas, Satish Kaushik, Rajesh Tailang and Dolly Ahluwalia. Cinematography: Siddharth Vasani. Music: Mangesh Dhakde, Rohan-Rohan, Sumeet Bellary and Durgesh R. Rajbhatt.

Bollywood has found a safe haven on streaming platforms and is hell-bent on exploring themes that were earlier either forbidden or had no takers.

After the huge success of ‘Vicky Donor’, a film about sperm donation, a number of so-called taboo subjects have found their way into mainstream narratives. ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhan’ on erectile dysfunction, ‘Padman’ on menstrual hygiene, and ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ on gender diversities, to name a few.

In the latest, ‘Chhatriwali’, the themes are male contraceptives and safe sex. No harm in dealing with a subject that may not be still discussed openly in families, although everyone seems to be aware of condoms in big and small towns alike.

Set in Karnal, Haryana, the film is about Sanya Dhingra (Rakul), an unemployed chemistry whiz, who is looking for a job and uses her skills to fight an important social taboo by taking sex education classes for young people.
The trouble with such films is that the filmmakers don’t really know whether to make them a comedy or layer them with educational messages. The result obviously is chaos!

Shying away from going the whole hog, the film teeters on morality lessons and makes the female protagonist have her way as she propagates safe sex so that unwanted pregnancies don’t cause health issues among women.

Of course, there are bound to be problems galore, right from her family to her boyfriend, whom she later marries, to her in-laws not liking it if she told them that she works in a factory manufacturing condoms. So she used all tactics possible to ensure that no one gets to know about her job. Now that’s quite a challenge, isn’t it? But Sanya manages it pretty well until the point comes when she has to spill the beans.

Only a few months back, another film, ‘Janhit Mein Jari’, had Nushratt Baruccha playing a similar character. Both films handle almost the same old tiresome issues; men not being comfortable with protected sex, a female sales
executive not revealing her job to her parents and family, who throw a fit when they do get to know what their favorite daughter or bahu is up to, plus of course, innumerable lessons on how these subjects are not to be spoken directly or straightforwardly, and so on.

In a scene where her jethani (Prachee Shah) falls ill as a result of a number of miscarriages, the family dares not utter a word to the chauvinistic husband (Rajesh Tailang) about the mishap. He seems educated but has his way when it comes to fulfilling his sexual desires unguarded. The film does touch upon some relevant and oft-repeated dilemmas confronting married women in most middle-class families.

The film thus becomes a tad boring and repetitive. What keeps your interest alive is its lead, Rakul Preet, who tries to infuse energy and at times sensitivity to her lines. She gets just the support she needs from Vyas, who never lets us down. Both complement each other and make the most of the stereotypical situations with their
earnestness. But as I said earlier, both get restricted because of the predictable script.

The cinematography is passable and there’s nothing to write home about the film’s music.

If you are on a holiday and have nothing better to do, you could watch this less-than-two-hour social/family drama, if you, please!

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