this story to the smallest of towns. Let the Sweetys in every village and every town know that they are normal. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is an attempt at ‘normalising’ everyone who is ‘not normal’. It is for the ones who are shunned, who are never accepted into the fold of ‘mainstream’ society. The love stories that are not spoken about. The Lihaafs that are persecuted and the Goblin Markets that men don’t want.
In the testosterone-powered Punjab where masculinity is indicated by the ‘mard’ of the house going into the kitchen only to ‘change cylinders’, director Shelly Chopra Dhar sets her little love story. Sweety Chaudhary, the heiress of Balbir Chaudhary’s garment-factory empire is an introvert. She is at the centre of this tale. She is in love with a ‘Muslim guy’ and fate places a ‘Muslim guy’ bang in her path. Sahil Mirza fits into description of this Mr X that the caretakers of the Chaudhary Mansion place their bets on. Will Balbir let his daughter marry a Muslim guy?
“Why do your minds always run in the same direction? What if I don’t have a boyfriend? What if I am in love with a girl?”
The ‘siyappa’ in this love story is not the guy. It is a girl.
Director Shelly Chopra Dhar brings the sensitivity of a woman to the story of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, in every frame and every detail, screams out loud that the story is, like Sahil’s play, straight out of the writers’ lives. Writer Gazal Dhaliwal lends her own touch to this story of ‘the other’. The ostracisation, the alienation, the loneliness of the queer is brought to the fore sensibly and sensitively in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. With a story like this, like Bollywood has earlier shown us, it is very easy to cross over to the crass. But Shelly and Gazal excel at walking the tightrope here and don’t slip. That is the beauty of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.
The film wins from solid performances by Anil Kapoor as the patriarch who loves watching cookery shows and had dreams of becoming ‘India’s best chef’. He himself is battling a mother who keeps him – the father of two grownups – in his place (which is not the kitchen). Sonam fits into the role of the girl who no one understands, who seeks solace in the pages of her diary. Rajkummar Rao is a star in the role of Sahil. He powers the film forward with his energy and wit. Regina Cassandra is cast perfectly as Kuhu. Juhi Chawla is back with a bang; the actor with a degree from the Amrinder School of Acting and Emotions.
But the real heroes of the film are Shelly Chopra Dhar, the director, and writer Gazal Dhaliwal who shares the credit with the director. It is their treatment of the story that makes Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga a compelling watch.
The film has its moments of weakness. There are scenes that seem superfluous. You feel restless at times, wondering when something will ‘happen’. But the film needs you to surrender to the story. Because at the end of your wait lies a rewarding experience.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga sets out to smash our ideas of right and wrong. Director Shelly Chopra Dhar puts her heart and soul in this love story. In the post-377 India, this is exactly what a Bollywood needed. It shows the mirror to our commercial films, which are always about the normal love stories. The stories that are always about a Raj falling in love with a Simran and never a Sweety falling for a Kuhu.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a precious film. It is an important film for the times we live in. It will not be a blockbuster. But it might just make you change the way you look at love. If you choose to let your ‘dil’ take precedence over your ‘dimaag’.
Sonam Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, along with writer Gazal Dhaliwal and director Shelly Chopra Dhar, deliver a brilliant lesbian love story that Bollywood should be proud of, says our review.
4 out of 5 stars for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.