Director: Shelly Chopra Dhar
Duration: Two hours
Besotted by a girl’s simplicity, theatre director Sahil Mirza follows her into her household, where he finds out that the Chaudhary household is not just unaware of their own daughter’s sexual orientation but also extremely worried about finding a suitable boy for her to get her married. But when she opens up about it, relationships begin to crumble, with Mirza trying hard to keep everything together.
Movies depicting same-sex relationships have been tried and tested in Bollywood a lot of times before, but none had the courage to bring to light a subject that is still considered taboo in India. Some movie makers presented it in jest, while others made a fine mess out of it with their depiction of sexuality. ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ (ELKDTAL), directed by first-timer Shelly Chopra Dhar, is a hatke movie that actually manages to portray the feelings and emotions of a homosexual woman in all fairness, along with her family’s slow acceptance to her ‘differentness’.
The film starts in the small town of Moga, Punjab, with a dapper-looking playwright, Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao), putting together a play, the story of which has deeply affected his life. We then get to see that Sahil once got totally smitten by a random small-town girl named Sweety (Sonam K Ahuja), who always wished she became a dulhan, not realizing that her dreams would rather take a little extra time to materialize in real life.
The movie then takes time to establish its characters including beeji (Madhumalti Kapoor), papaji Balbir Chaudhary (Anil Kapoor), veerji (Abhishek Duhan) and a nosy domestic help, who have nothing more to worry about except find a suitable match for Sweety. Suitors from far and wide do come asking for Sweety’s hand in marriage, but when Sahil turns up, all hell breaks loose.
Sweety does not love men; in fact, she is secretly drawn towards women in general and to Kuhu (Regina Cassandra) in particular. When the Chaudharys find Sahil at their doorstep, the mistaken family members realize it is now time to shun religious differences and settle for a Muslim boy instead for their girl. But things take a turn for the worse when they get to know that the girl, in fact, is not straight. “Zaruri hai, main munde se hi pyaar karungi?” is what she says and “Mujhe tujhse yeh ummeed nahin thi,” is what her father comes up with in reply.
The film then tries to establish the fact that being ‘different’ in today’s world is not a crime and that accepting the orientation of your loved ones is what you have to eventually come around to when situations arise. ‘ELKDTAL’ is a simple film that deals with the subject in a very subtle way, without going overboard with it. But it has its own drawbacks too.
Although the movie manages to pack a punch with its entertaining approach to the subject of same-sex relationships and depicting a person’s coming out of the closet in a fun way, it does not do complete justice to the melodrama that follows it. It gets preachy in the process and a tad too boring at one point of time. The writing by Gazal Dhaliwal only picks up pace after the first half is finished. Post-interval, the movie deals with a sensitive portrayal of the protagonist’s inner turmoil, which could otherwise have been shown from the start itself.
Anil Kapoor and his real-life daughter Sonam K Ahuja share the same screen for the first time and it is a treat to watch the father-daughter duo perform together. Though Anil Kapoor is in his element like always, Sonam seems to lack sheen. She is not convincing as a woman trapped in her suppressed emotions, trying desperately hard to open up in front of her own family members. What she needed was a little more spark in her performance. Madhumalti Kapoor as the Chaudhary matriarch, who is torn between her widowed son’s way of life and her granddaughter’s marriage, is refreshing. Abhishek Duhan as the bratty brother is believable. Juhi Chawla, who plays a middle-aged, single caterer, providing for the theatre troupe, is a breath of fresh air in a movie that not just entertains but also tugs at your heartstrings at regular intervals. Rajkummar Rao, as usual, is top-notch.
‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ is a believable take on homosexuality, without going to extreme levels, delicately putting across its point as well as entertaining the audience with a subject that needs more and more acceptance. All said and done, the film, with an ensemble cast, is definitely worth a watch, but only once.