Tamil TV audience’s quintessential Chithi makes a comeback after 19 years

Chithi 2, a reboot of Chithi stars Raadhika Sarathkumar in the titular role

'Chithi-2' which premiered on Monday on Sun TV, is another tale that paints a positive picture of the traditionally demonised image of a stepmother

On January 27 at around 9 pm, the drawing room of several homes echoed with the word ‘chithi’ yet again, after almost two decades. It was the premiere of Chithi 2, the reboot of one of the most popular serials in the history of Indian television.

Starring actor producer Raadhika Sarathkumar, who is reprising the title role in her production, the second part promises to be another woman-centric saga.

Chithi (meaning stepmother in Tamil), which was first aired between December, 1999 and November 2001 became an instant hit with the audience. The second part which premiered on Monday on Sun TV, is another tale that paints a positive picture of the traditionally demonised image of a stepmother —a loving person and more than a mother figure. Raadhika plays Saradha, the younger sister of Padma (Rupini), who steps into her sister’s shoes, after she abandons her two sons and husband to reunite with her ex flame.

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The story opens in the present day with Shanmugam (Ponvannan) standing outside the temple of his family deity. He is an aging and content man, reminiscing his life 22 years ago when he had visited the deity with his family, just like today. Riding a bullock cart along the lush green paddy fields, he had joined his parents and sister at the temple festival. That day his life had come crashing down when he learned that wife had eloped, leaving their two sons shouting in agony as they watched her row across the river with her lover. The young boys tried following her in a broken boat and were about to drown when they were saved by their chithi (Saradha). A distraught Shanmugam initially refuses when he is asked to marry his sister-in-law, but comes around on Saradha’s insistence. Saradha willingly steps into her sister’s shoes to care for her children. Shanmugam is always grateful to her for the sacrifice she makes, but hopes one day her sons will acknowledge her as their amma (mother).

Twenty-two years later, Saradha has erased any possible yearning for their mother in the boys, who are now strapping young men, and object of envy for some in the family. And she is content being the chithi and not the amma.

Retaining the original title track ‘Kanninmani Kanninmani’ and the name of the lead character, Chithi 2 has been packaged with all the quintessential ingredients that the Tamil audience loves – a village setting, family gatherings at temples and the story of sacrifice and unconditional love of a mother.

The legacy

The first run of the serial chronicled the travails of Saradha, a woman who is constantly at loggerheads with society, her rivals and sometimes her family, even as she selflessly lives for her loved ones. Set in Srirangam and Chennai, Chithi captured the struggle of Saradha, who like the river, as narrated in the title song ‘Kanninmani Kannimani’, crosses many hurdles and in the end prevails – as a mother, a woman and a businesswoman. Aired at a time, when there were no concept of mega serials or long running episodes, Chithi stormed into the drawing rooms just before the turn of the millennium.

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It marked the entry of Raadhika into small screen also as a producer with Radaan Media Works. Chithi established Raadhika as a reigning queen of television and her successive productions continued to occupy the 9.30 pm prime time slot for over 18 years.

The popularity of Chithi can be gauged from the runs it has had in other regional languages and in Hindi. The serial was dubbed as Pinni in Telugu and Punchi in Sinhalese. There have been a string of remakes – Chikkamma in Kannada, Choti Maa Ek Anokha Bandhan in Hindi and Parvathi in Malayalam.

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