The year was 1994 – Javed Akhtar pens down some of the most romantic lyrics of his life while R. D. Burman scores the last music of his life. From appropriate casting to acting, music to cinematography, direction to editing – every single thing about that movie was beyond excellence. It went on to win hearts and accolades. “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga” became the most popular song from the album. Naren hums it for Rajjo and there is truth, dare, innocence, & confession of fearless love. 1942- A Love Story dealt with a sweet love story in the backdrop of a caged country.
Cut to 2019, a movie named Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga release. And it talks lovingly about love in a free country. But the irony is – the society and thoughts of its subjects are still caged!
That country is free now and with many known and unknown struggles, it has gathered some courage to decriminalize Article 377 barely 6 months ago. The topic of homosexuality on the Indian screen is not new. In the past also we have seen some portrayals but Bollywood played safe in this case. Except for some Onir’s movies like My Brother Nikhil or I Am or Shab, we have only found a caricaturish presentation of this topic.
So, when this movie named Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga was announced along with the star cast, I thought that it would be “just another regular love story” that Bollywood has been serving since ages. But the trailer pin-pointed the “USP” of the movie which is obviously “the most unexpected romance of the year”. In my mind, I was ready that the Punjab which Yash Chopra & his allies have explored with so many iconic romantic movies where the hero and heroines were running at the mustard field would be dealt differently here. Not Raj & Simran, but Sweety & Kuhu would sing & dance in a true Bollywood manner.
In that aspect, I was not disappointed at all. Just for the fact that a massy-commercial movie with homosexuality as a theme is backed by one of the most respected production houses of Mumbai. I would rate it 5/5. It took 21 long years for Bollywood to make a movie on a lesbian relationship. I am gladder of the fact that no one is threatening the director & actor or burning their effigies on the street or labeling them as “anti-culture”. What Deepa Mehta, Shabana Azmi, & Nandita Das went through in 1998 won’t be repeated again I suppose!
Story-Spoilers-Flaws-Strength-& Beyond Review
- The main character of this story is Sweetie, played by Sonam Kapoor. While she was 14 she understood that she is different than the rest. She is cornered in her school and befriended by another boy who is also different like her. Her brother also studies in the same school. But the strange fact is amidst the buzz in the school, her brother doesn’t get to know the truth of Sweetie at all.
- Sonam also befriends her diary where she rips off her heart out. This character Sweetie is depressed but shows that she is shy because she knows she won’t fit in this society. Therefore, to show her loneliness, pain, frustration, & indecisiveness, Sweetie has been given dark circles (good make-up). She wears very un-Sonam kinda of clothes. This research has been done perfectly. But I would have been happier if Sonam would have dug deep into the flesh of Sweetie to portray her pain meticulously.
- Sweetie finds her love in a “tam-jham wala shaadi” and this is when her brother discovers that she is homosexual. And this is where I cannot call it a brave attempt. Two girls hugging each other is a very very normal sight after all! The director & writer could have tried something like “the exchange of emails, messages, or letters” at least!
- Sweetie’s brother, Babloo, played by Abhishek Duhan is the male chauvinist who shouts on her and calls her sexual preference a “bimaari”. This actor is in a great form and he looked very convincing in his part.
- Babloo now tells his father that Sweetie is having an affair with a Muslim guy to save her from her own truth. Balbir Chaudhry, played by the amazing Anil Kapoor is a staunch Hindu who won’t give her daughter to a Muslim boy. (Remember my intro paras – free country & caged thoughts!)
- So, the “damsel in distress” (one of the inspirations of this movie) Sweetie is told not to step out of the house (just like the guys of the old Bollywood). In her little escapade to Delhi, she meets Sahil Mirza, played brilliantly by the “poster boy of the middle-of-the-road Bollywood movies”, Rajkumar Rao. He is a failed playwright who falls in love with Sweetie and follows her to Moga, Punjab only to find out that Sweetie is a lesbian.
- Rajkumar Rao is like the “crunchy French fries” who can never go wrong. I want to give 1 whole star for that scene where his reaction is captured when he gets to know that Sweetie is lesbian. He laughs, he is in awe, he has teary eyes, he is flabbergasted, he is clapping, & he is heartbroken – man, all those layers in one man and that too in few fractions of seconds! He is in a terrific form!
- The atom bomb of this movie for me was Juhi Chawla. She still has her great comic timing. And her on-screen rapport with Anil Kapoor are some of the highest highs of this movie. Her performance is “mind-shattering”.
- When Anil Kapoor – the man of the house, the powerful rich businessman of Moga, & the proud father whose duty is to take care of his child reads Sweetie’s diaries & understands that he failed as a caregiver – Anil Kapoor was beyond brilliance! He is the rare 90’s actor who has survived all test of time & still has so much to offer us.
- In one way, this movie is about the acceptance of the word “LOVE” which exists in everyone’s territory in a different meaning. The other way round, this movie is also about finding an identity by being truthful to the self. It is also about parenting. The character of Juhi Chawla, Chhatro ji plays the subtext of a moral teacher to our society who says “Indian Parents apne bachcho ki zindagi mein ghuse rehte hai”. The character of Balbir Chaudhuri wanted to become “India’s best chef.” But even after 50 years of his life, he is scolded by his mom for entering and experimenting in the kitchen. Why? Because, in this world, especially, in our country, there still exists a clear cut demarcation between the world of a guy and a girl.
- One of the greatest regrets is that Seema Pahwa & Brijendra Kala are wasted here. I mean, actors of such brilliance should be given some space!
- Regina Cassandra has a perky screen presence. But she is not given much screen time, so there is nothing much to write much about her.
- In the end, Sweetie says to Sahil that there are many Sweeties scattered in thousands of villages, small towns, and cities, and we have to reach out to them. Just for daring to work on such a theme, people should watch it and understand that LOVE is LOVE, beyond all religion, caste, & so-called normalcy!
P.S. – Ok chalo, I understand that for keeping the “most unexpected romance of the year” a secret – you have used a male vocalist to sing “ELKDTAL” in a “Punjabified” R.D. Burman version. But while using it in the movie, wouldn’t it have been just perfect if a female vocalist was used? I mean I am not expecting a “Just Another Love Story”, “Nagar Kirtan”, or “Fire” kinda literally daring movie from you. But dear Bollywood, you have to show this much courage.
So, it’s a generous 3/5 for me. Share your views too!