Chhatriwali comes right on time. The sale of condoms to minors has been banned in Karnataka following the discovery of condoms in school bags during a surprise check. The ban shows exactly what is wrong with society’s perceptions regarding sex in a nation that has managed to achieve the dubious distinction of having the highest number of human beings in the world. Starring Rakul Preet Singh, Sumeet Vyas, Satish Kaushik and Rajesh Tailang in key roles, the movie deals with the sensitive subject of using condoms without being preachy.
Director Tejas Prabhaa Vijay Deoskar’s latest movie is set in Karnal, Haryana, not a place known for being gender sensitive. It also happens to be the state infamous for selective abortions.
Rakul Preet plays Sanya Dhingra, who is a Chemistry teacher looking out for a better job. As fate would have it, the lucrative job she is offered happens to be that of a quality control head at a firm that manufactures condoms. She falls in love with Rishi, played by popular comedian Sumeet Vyas and gets married without anyone knowing about her real job.
The factory is run by Ratan Lamba, played by Satish Kaushik, who allays Sanya’s initial reluctance by calling her job a ‘nek kaam’. However, the rest of society, including her own family members, does not see her job quite positively. Her brother-in-law, who is a Biology teacher, is shown doing what most such teachers do in real life – skipping the chapter on reproduction due to odd notions of shame and the inability to view reproductive health objectively.
The story written and screenplay written by Sanchit Gupta and Priyadarshee Srivastava tries hard to drive home the message about the importance of using condoms. Dolly Ahluwalia, Rakesh Bedi and Prachee Shah forms the rest of the cast. There are no clear antagonists while the movie bravely tries to take on misogyny, taboos and patriarchal notions of ownership of women’s bodies.
However, the narrative could have chosen a clearer route, one that is firm about its convictions. As Sanya says at the end of the movie: ‘Mera kaam galat nahin hai, aapka nazariya galat hai’ (my work is not wrong, your perspective is). The message does get diluted in forced humour and unnecessary sexual innuendoes.
Despite Nushhratt Bharuccha-starrer, ‘Jan Hit Mein Jaari’ having dealt with the same subject a few months ago, it is quite evident that large sections of Indian society are still ignorant about vital aspects such as reproductive health and safe sex practices. The movie ends with a glaring fact: “Condom usage in India remains extremely low at 5.6%”. Women have to face strong opposition from husbands and partners with regard to the use of condoms, putting their own health at risk.
The good news is that, hopefully, movies like Chhatriwali will open discussions and conversations around such taboos.