'Chhatriwali' Review: Lackluster Film Despite Earnest And Crucial Messaging

'Chhatriwali' Review: Lackluster Film Despite Earnest And Crucial Messaging

Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar's 'Chhatriwali' stars Rakul Preet Singh and Sumeet vyas in lead roles.

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'Chhatriwali' Review: Lackluster Film Despite Earnest And Crucial Messaging

Directed by Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar, Chhatriwali is, at its core, a story centering female autonomy. At a time when Bollywood is merely waking up to well-rounded female-led narratives, it's quite refreshing to see a Zee5 Original with a poignant message, challenging patriarchal beliefs around safe-sex practices.

Rakul Preet Singh plays Saniya, a young, assertive woman who works as the quality control head at a condom factory.

Satish Kaushik plays the head of Cando Condoms, which means two things for the audience: he'll deliver a strong performance but it will be sprinkled with unfunny puns about condoms and his signature dialogue, "Young generation ki yeh hi baat mujhe pasand hain".

Rakul Preet Singh and Satish Kaushik in a still from Chhatriwali.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)


Initially ashamed of her job, Saniya lies to everyone, saying that she works at the umbrella factory (If it wasn't already obvious from the name, everyone in the film actually refers to condoms as "chhatri").

The shame and stigma around her job is so insurmountable that she continues to lie to Rishi, Sumit Vyas' dorky character, who she falls in love with and gets married to.

Saniya plans on leaving her job as soon as her contract is over but an alarming situation with her sister-in-law teaches her the importance of safe sex, urging her to continue working at the factory.

The plot has a beginning, middle and end with Saniya's motivations mostly fleshed out well. But the film feels lackluster, hardly doing justice to its premise. A half-baked script leads to shoddily written dialogues, that are plain unfunny at times.

For a film dealing with hefty issues like the adverse effects of unprotected sex on women's health, it tries too hard to be comedic. Lochan Kanvinde's sound design doesn't do a lot in enhancing the film and the music, too, is unmemorable.

Sumit Vyas in a still from Chhatriwali.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

For a slice-of-life film like this, it's difficult to point out a full-blown villain. But what I perhaps liked the most about Chhatriwali is how its antagonistic characters are modelled after the Indian patriarchy and its worst attributes.

Whether it's Rishi's strict, conservative, elder brother (a compelling performance by Rajesh Tailang) or the volatile shopkeeper, triggered and upset by men buying and using condoms for the sake of their wives - the film is clear in its messaging that the audience neither has to root for the sexist men on screen nor have they been provided with any form of a redemption arc.

Rajesh Tailang in a still from Chhatriwali.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)


The pacing of the film is quite well-maintained, with Shruti Bora's editing seamlessly holding it all together. When Saniya's "secret" is revealed, she faces every degree of misogyny and ostracization.

But she does not back down, taking agency and walking out of her husband's home - determined that she'll not give up on her mission to educate the town about the urgency of safe sex.

The film manages to do a good job identifying the core issue: lack of awareness and safe sex education at a formative level.

After failing to convince the town's school principal that examinations should at least include one mandatory question about the reproductive system, she takes matters in her own hands.

She sets up a makeshift classroom and promises teenagers that she will answer all their questions regarding sex, anatomies and contraceptives. Despite further hurdles, her determination shines through - until the entire town sees a chain reaction of open, accessible conversations around condom usage, devoid of shame.

Rakul Preet Singh in a still from Chhatriwali.

(Photo Courtesy: Zee5)

Chhatriwali ends with a glaring fact, "Condom usage in India remains extremely low at 5.6%". The film's repeated underlining of women's struggles at the face of their husbands' refusal to use condoms is an honest look at how the patriarchy regularly fails women.

The film's strongest link, however, appears when the credits begin to roll. A montage of actual female workers at condom factories - smiling wide and talking about how their profession is not a matter of shame for them.

Even though an earnest attempt was made, amidst the tired tropes, forced attempts at humor and cringe-worthy sexual innuendos, this authenticity is what feels lost in Chhatriwali.

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