Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is sensitive but sanitised
The film is a significant but superficial look at same-sex love
- Published 1.02.19, 7:59 PM
- Updated 1.02.19, 8:10 PM
- 2 mins read
For cinema that has either mined homosexuality for laughs or explored it from the angle of sleaze, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a significant, if sanitised, step forward. Inviting considerable chatter ever since the trailer released a few weeks ago and directed by first-timer Shelly Chopra Dhar, the film is a sensitive and tender look at same-sex love that will resonate with anyone who’s been derided for being different, and not only in terms of sexual orientation.
What gives Ek Ladki… much of its sensitivity is that it comes from a place of empathy. Gazal Dhaliwal, co-credited for the film’s story and screenplay, was a man till age 25, and battled societal pressure and prejudice in her perilous journey towards embracing her true identity. Her pen gives the film intimacy and understanding and treats its central theme without drama and mockery.
What works for Ek Ladki… is that it places this unusual story in a familiar Bolly setting. Set in small-town Moga, the typical Punjabi milieu comes with the oft-repeated motifs of sarson ka khet and robust song-and-dance, with generous dollops of “puttar-kudi” and “itthey-utthey”. It’s here that Sweety (Sonam K. Ahuja) has led a cloistered but claustrophobic life, never having the courage to tell her father Balbir (Anil Kapoor) that she’s “different”. A loner since childhood, a grown-up Sweety finds herself on a stickier wicket with her family looking for every opportunity to marry her off. With an elder brother (Abhishek Duhan) in the know about her sexual orientation and who treats it like an “illness”, Sweety finds a confidante in Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao), a struggling playwright who falls in love with her at first, and eventually becomes the friend she never had.
With the first half playing out like any other Bolly family film, Ek Ladki… comes into its own post-interval when Sweety makes her big confession to Sahil. The drama kicks into top gear in Half Two but thankfully never becomes melodramatic.
However, even as it explores a brave theme, Ek Ladki… is not bold enough to delve deeper. The women — south star Regina Cassandra plays Sweety’s partner and impresses with her screen presence — hold hands, hug and pose for selfies, but not a single moment of intimacy is shown, or even hinted at.
Clocking two hours, Ek Ladki… is powered by its performances. Rajkummar Rao is his usual dependable self and makes even the mundane scenes come alive. Juhi Chawla, as an over-the-top Punjabi aunty with acting aspirations, plays against type and brings on the laughs as she channels Upasana Singh’s bua act from Kapil Sharma’s comedy show.
The supporting cast of Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kala and Madhumalti Kapoor is in top form. Emotions still don’t sit easily on Sonam’s face, but the actress has definitely taken a leap in her film choices. Here, she scores more in her character’s moments of silence, but you can’t help but wonder to what heights a better actress would have elevated this material.
But where the daughter falls short, the father comes up trumps. Anil Kapoor is still the most energetic man in the room and he makes Balbir a man you warm up to instantly. Just watch him in those scenes where he breaks into an impromptu jig or watches cookery shows on the sly and practises the recipes in the dead of the night when the rest of the household is sleeping. The film may misfire in parts, but AK-62 is all guns blazing.