'Chi La Sow'’s female protagonist is cut from a tough cloth

Rahul Ravindran’s ‘Chi La Sow’ is a rare Telugu film that brings in the much-required gender discourse

Updated - August 07, 2018 12:19 pm IST

Published - August 06, 2018 03:06 pm IST

 Sushanth and Ruhani Sharma in the film

Sushanth and Ruhani Sharma in the film

In the second half of Chi La Sow , the female protagonist Anjali (essayed wonderfully by debutante Ruhani Sharma) asks her grandmother what she felt when her grandfather passed away. The question comes at a point when, in the wake of a sudden turn of events that bring the entire family to a hospital at night, Anjali finds herself leaning, despite her outward unwillingness, on the comforting presence of Arjun (Sushanth). The girl has been handling a chunk of the family responsibilities. She’s the sole breadwinner and her priority is the welfare of her sister, grandmother and above all her mother who battles with bipolar conditions.

The conversation between her and the grandmother reminds one of a few other recent films where, at a crucial moment, an elderly family member shares an anecdote or a relationship lesson. In a subtle, reassuring way, the conversations help iron out niggling issues that crop up in a younger couple. In Rahul Ravindran’s directorial debut Chi La Sow , this tool helps Anjali’s character voice her innermost thoughts — she doesn’t want to ‘get used to’ relying on anyone, particularly a man, to be let down later.

Anjali is a standout female protagonist we don’t see often in Telugu cinema. There have been a few other good characters in the recent past, but Anjali is cut from a tougher cloth. Losing her father while in early teens and getting no monetary help from her uncle, she fends for herself. The little back-story details how she’s juggled multiple responsibilities.

 Rahul Ravindran

Rahul Ravindran

Her refusal to lean on anyone stems from this early void. The exchanges between her and Arjun towards the end brought back a faint memory of another on-screen tough female character, essayed by Tabu in Rajiv Menon’s Kandukondain Kandukondain ( Priyuralu Pilichindi in Telugu). In this melting point of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Tamil literature, the older daughter is the family’s breadwinner who has also had issues with the many ‘pelli choopulu’ that precede arranged marriages. With Tabu’s character, Sowmya, it boils down to a horoscope issue while Anjali of Chi La Sow encounters the arrogance of men who look for heroine-like brides. At one point she asks if women are washing machines (or products) to be bought for their features. At a deeper level, Anjali’s mother’s vulnerable emotional condition becomes a hindrance. Rohini as the mother doesn’t miss a beat while playing the troubled character.

Like Anjali, Sowmya (Tabu) of Kandukondain ... too tries to walk away, disappointed that Manohar (Ajith) contradicts a few of her points of views and approach to life. Anjali and Sowmya are women of steel battling situations without staking their self-respect. In that respect, Chi La Sow is subconsciously a hat tip to the era of K Balachander films where characters hailing from similar situations were essayed by Sujatha and later Suhasini.

There’s hardly a gender discourse in Telugu cinema that even a little bit of gravitas seems welcome. Chi La Sow’s Anjali is a welcome part in many ways. She’s contrasted by the fun-loving Arjun who lives the comfortable life. The film is not without hiccups; there are segments where one feels it rides on a thin story that spans over one night.

But, moving away from the regular rom-com, it allows room for the mother-daughter bond while presenting a measured dose of gender discourse.

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