Director: Shelly Chopra
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Sonam K Ahuja, Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Duhan, Juhi Chawla, Brijendra Kala, Regina Cassandra, Seema Pahwa, Kanwaljeet
The movie has finally hit the screens and looks like the audience was waiting for the father-daughter duo Anil Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor to share the screen space. The audience has given positive review for the movie in spite of its sensitive content. Some people found the first half of the movie a bit confusing but the second half is surely good enough to keep you glued to your seats. Anil Kapoor is full of energy like always. Its a delight to watch Juhi Chawla on screen after a long time. Sonam and Rajkumar have performed well.
Times Of India
The film starts off with the traditional boy-meets-girl setup, where Sahil finds himself carried away by emotion. A random, but pretty girl, Sweety, grabs his hand and pulls him into a chase. And the boy, as you’d expect, falls in love and sets off on a path to track the girl down and profess his undying love. Most of the film’s first half is spent in setting up this rather old-fashioned portrayal of courtship. The girl’s loveable, but conservative Punjabi family is also pooled into the story as the usual Beeji (Madhumalti Kapoor), Veerji (Abhishek Duhan) and Papaji, Balbir (Anil Kapoor) bring in the quintessential family drama. The film spends a little too much time setting up the deliberate, but misleading track that is in essence, building up to Sweety’s ultimate confession. Once she does come-out and reveal that the romance between the boy and girl won’t materialise, the film too, changes gears.
The bulk of the entertainment comes through the performances by Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Rajkummar Rao. Sonam K Ahuja plays the central role and while she does manage to bring in the required vulnerability to her character, she doesn’t always convince you of Sweety’s emotional conflict. But, some staggering performances by Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao add a veritable punch to the proceedings. The adorable romantic comedy between Kapoor and Chawla is a sure-shot winner, too. Supporting performances by Madhumalti Kapoor, Abhishek Duhan, Regina, Seema Pahwa and Brijendra Kala are all top notch.
The first mainstream Hindi film that, somewhat tremulously, broaches the theme of same-sex love, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is easy to relate to and grasp despite, or may be owing to, its essentially sanitised veneer. It sails to uncharted parts and travels miles, but it does so without rocking the boat too violently. In the end, it is a sensitive, tender and humour-laced melodrama that hinges as much on the relationship between a lonely, misunderstood small-town Punjab girl and her doting father as on the heroine’s sexual orientation, which drives her into a difficult-to-break shell.
The story is simple enough and is told in a manner that could be faulted for being overly chaste – the same-sex lovers embrace a few times but they do not as much as plant a kiss on each other’s cheeks, let alone lips – but the film achieves something far bigger than a Bollywood crowd-pleaser can. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a significant film because of its provenance (it comes from Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s production stable) and also because of the support of Bollywood actors who’ve dared. The warmth and wry wit that the film is couched in makes it that much better.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha… goads the audience to think differently without trying to deviate from its primary purpose, which is to deliver entertainment. It does the latter well enough and yet does not overly dilute its off-kilter vision. No mean feat that.
Directed by debutant Shelley Chopra Dhar and co-written by her and Gazal Dhaliwal, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is an admirably progressive drama that intentionally binds itself within mainstream convention. It looks like yet another Punjab-based comedy about big weddings and eligible girls, but the trappings have been kept in place to comfort an easily offended audience while selling them on the big idea of accepting a same-sex relationship.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekhi Toh Aisa Laga concedes the unlikelihood of entertainment to change bigoted minds. When Sweety performs in Sahil’s play, we see disgusted and intolerant audiences get up and leave. Yet I was struck by the image of an old man, sobbing as he leans on the empty bench in front of him, reserved for VIPs who have left. There will be plenty who leave their seats unconvinced, but this film will make some wonder — many of whom may never have considered it. This could have been a bolder and more explicit film, but sometimes cinema should work like a street play. Sometimes we need to preach beyond the choir.
Take 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.
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.
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’.
This film couldn’t have had a better title. It is the ‘mukhda’ of a song made madly popular more than 25 years ago when a boy (‘ek ladka’) saw a girl (‘ek ladki’) and burst into song. That film was called 1942: A Love Story, and that ‘ladka’, all grown up now, plays the grizzled father (Kapoor) in this film, to his real-life daughter (Ahuja), a lovely connection that only the movies can make happen.
By the time Sweety and Kuhu (Cassandra) get together in the same frame as the two ‘lovers’ who have strong feelings for each other but who just happen to be female, ‘ki kariye’, almost the entire film is over. Why so scared? Why not have more between the two young women, for which we’ve waited for? Why so much wringing of hands, so much talk of ‘not normal’ and wanting to be ‘like the others’?
The thing between the two is reduced to fleeting scenes with a couple of kindling glances, and coy hugs. These are dispensed with, with alacrity, and the movie moves into the safe jocular zone of flirtation between Papaji Kapoor, and the perky Chatroji ( Chawla) who is essentially playing the role of the hero’s best friend.
The ensemble is solid, but neither Ahuja, who has been upping her game in her last few films, nor the usually dependable Rao, have the desired impact: at least he’s always trying something; I didn’t buy her at all. The two who stand out are Duhan as the brattish brother, and Cassandra, who shows spark. The rest get swept under the flaccid writing. What this film needed was more sharpness, more acuity, more honesty. It could then justifiably have been called ‘2019: A Love Story’.