Ms Representation: The vulnerable, yet strong woman
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week the author talks about Chi La Sow and its realistic female lead
Telugu cinema has an interesting romcom space but with Chi La Sow, we are entering a drama-romance-comedy era, a drom-com if you will, a combination that has interesting effects. Anjali (Ruhani Sharma) and Arjun’s (Sushanth) meet-cute is set up by Arjun’s mother (Anu Haasan, who is effortlessly breezy on screen) and the problem is that Arjun has no interest in getting married just yet. Anjali is bound by her circumstances and is unable to put her foot down at home like so many young women who are talked into marriage by their parents for whatever reason. It’s the usual romcom pattern so you know that they’re going to end up together but how is always the question; what means the director uses to reach this ending.
Director Rahul Ravindran flips the problem on its head at the beginning of the film. Arjun is being pressured into getting married and we don’t see why Anjali is being pressured to marry yet. And this Arjun, unlike the other Arjun (Reddy), is gentle and has way higher emotional intelligence.
Anjali is the head of her family and is at the heart of this film. And her role is exactly why a lot of women continue to love romcoms. She’s relatable in her understanding of how demeaning the arranged marriage process is to women, as well as vulnerable, and agrees to this whole charade all the same. Of course, we would have loved it if she just said no to marriage and agreed to date Sushanth for a while, but the truth is, there are more women like Anjali out there than there are women who can stand up to the pressures of a system so oppressive. And they too need to find a place in our story-scape. That Anjali’s mother also has a character arc (watching Rohini in this role shows us how terribly we miss her in good cinema) as a woman battling bipolar disorder adds to the heft of the film.
The fact that Anjali is the financial backbone of her family, has a mind of her own, is aware of her flaws as well as charisma, is more than capable of defending herself, has an ego, make her worthy of admiration. And given the way commercial Telugu cinema writes women, to write a woman like this needs not only a lot of conviction but also a certain obvious awareness and the will to look beyond clichés. A certain sensitivity. One is glad that young directors are investing in female protagonists the way Rahul Ravindran is. He’s one to watch.