Sweet, but superficial

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Feb 2019 15:37:08



Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga

By Aasawari Shenolikar,

Bollywood has come of age. A very positive change is that filmmakers are addressing issues that were hitherto considered taboo. In recent times, many movies with the tag of ‘coming of age’ have been presented on the big canvas and the best part is that most of them have been handled with great maturity, sensitivity and subtlety. Whether it’s depicting ‘live-in relationship’ (Salaam Namaste) or talking about ‘homosexuality’ (Fire, My Brother Nikhil), the filmmakers have handled the subject delicately, with kids' gloves. The subject of same sex relationship in our social milieu is a hot, debatable topic and to make a film with this unconventional theme is risky. But hats off to our conscientious filmmakers, for they have been mature enough not to treat the subject as an aberration or an abnormality, and have perceptively dealt with it. 

The latest from Bollywood, to tackle same sex relationship is Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (ELKDTAL). Directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar, this is a very breezy, light hearted film that just skims the issue. It doesn’t delve too deeply into the matter. The deep trauma that the characters go through when it dawns on them that they are different, the shock and anguish the families suffer when they are made aware of this fact are very cursorily depicted in ELKDTAL. And that is why this ‘coming of age’ doesn't leave an impact, and will definitely not be considered a path breaking film on a subject that was a hot topic of discussion in the year when it was being shot.

During most part of the two-hour film, the sensitive issue is relegated to the background. The entire first half is dedicated to Punjabis and the fun they have during the weddings and thereafter. So during the pre wedding, wedding and post wedding naach gaanas, with a lot of daru flowing and dhinchak music where everyone lets their hair down and shakes a leg, it is time for the BA Pass Sweety (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja) from Moga to find herself targeted as the next ‘bride to be.’ But she is clearly reluctant. Her secret is known only to her Veerji and the forever angry brother threatens her time and again that if her secret comes out in the open, it will be a slap on their family’s face. Sweety, in one of her secret outings to Delhi, bumps into Sahil Mirza (Rajkumar Rao), a writer and director of plays. He assumes that she has fallen for him, and he, with his troupe follows her to Moga. It’s a comedy of errors situation and during one such moment Sweety reveals to him that she is not straight. During the next hour, it is about Sahil helping Sweety realise her goal. This he does through the craft known to him - a play, in which the lead role is essayed by Sweety and her lover Kuhu (Regina Cassandra). Of course, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after, including Papaji and Chhatro (Juhi Chawla), a member of Sahil’s troupe.

Since for most part ELKDTAL is a breezy film, there is hardly any scope to weave in scenes that are soul stirring. Sonam’s flashbacks when she talks about loneliness while growing are not sort of insipid. Just as the ‘heavy’ subject is given a very light treatment, so is the case with the many relationships that are treated very superficially. Be it the relationship between siblings or the sacrosanct relationship between a child and the parent - there is no profundity. The warmth is lacking, and likewise the characters are too shallow. Also the narrative doesn’t delve deeply into the fears and frustration that different characters go through when confronted with such a stark truth. So you feel hugely let down on the emotional quotient. Even as there is no obscenity or vulgarity, there is no intensity too. The romance between the two girls is as thanda as can be. But then what can you expect from someone as insipid as Sonam Kapoor.

A talented actor, with just one look, could have set the screen on fire - but then Sonam Kapoor doesn’t fall into that league. Those who have watched My Brother Nikhil will vouch for the power of conviction that Sanjay Suri and Purab Kohli brought on the screen. Just as Juhi brought unconditional warmth and staid strength as a sibling to Sanjay Suri in My Brother Nikhil, in ELKDTAL, she brings in joie-d vivre with her amazing personality. With her apt comic timing and her chirpiness, she helps keep that smile pasted on your face throughout. ‘Mind-shattering’ she definitely is. Rajkumar Rao, another gifted artist, is a treat to watch and steals the show with his brilliant act. The movie totally belonged to him. Anil Kapoor is his usual dependable self. What can he do with a character that requires him to watch cookery shows, cook in the kitchen and be wary of Beeji.

It’s not preachy, it’s entertaining. What it is not is - even when handling such a burning issue, neither is it terrific nor is it is terrifying. Comedy, as Beeji time and again says, it is not. Warm and jovial it is, gratifying it is not! However, for Rajkumar Rao, Juhi Chawla and for the subject, it deserves a thumbs up.

The Hitavada Rating: O O 1/2