Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Juhi Chawla, Regina Cassandra
Shelly Chopra Dhar
Bollywood is trying its best to not be regressive. The phase where everyone from the main leads to their friends needed to wear Manish Malhotra, have gold highlights and pout sixty times in one second is now changing for the better. Arms are opening towards people who are supposedly different, whose needs are different. Many mainstream films and even web series now have that one chubby girl who is treated as a regular pal by the mainstream heroine. She is not seen as a comic relief like TunTun used to be! A queer pal is a must in ‘progressive’ movies and while he is stereotyped into giving his girl pals fashion advice, he is not a joke. These are changes, acceptance that commercial Bollywood cinema is bringing about…. we appreciate that, we applaud that… but the real acceptance comes when the mainstream hero is chubby or as is in the case of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga – homosexual in their orientation.
The plot is simple, Sweety (Sonam Kapoor) is running away from some people, and she happens to drag Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao) into the whole scene. For the unsuspecting Sahil, it is love at first sight. He does what any guy worth his salt would have attempted; he tries to find out everything he can about Sweety. The love that struck him in Delhi, takes him all the way to Moga, Sweety’s home. Sweety comes from a conservative, patriarchal family headed by her dad Balbir Chaudhary (Anil Kapoor).
Slowly and surely, Sahil manages to come close to Sweety, many whirlwinds later, he gathers enough courage to propose to the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, that’s when Sweety tells him about her big secret - Kuhu (Regina Cassandra) but instead of moving away from her, Sahil becomes her confidante. What happens so easily with Sahil doesn’t work so well with Sweety’s orthodox family. How things turn out between the father and daughter, the confessions, the vulnerability, the angst and the pain make Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, a must see for everyone including your telescope-aunty to the moustachioed uncle next door.
Despite the fact that Shelly Chopra Dhar and Gazal Dhaliwal have used everything cliched in the film to make their point, the fact that they are making a point through mainstream cinema, wins them all the applause. Ek Ladki… is not a perfect film, but it has some mighty fine dialogues by Dhaliwal, and actors who mouth these dialogues with the perfect tonality! Anil Kapoor is the one who stands out the most in this film, his character goes through the maximum changes in this film. From being the proud patriarch to being a father who cannot understand what his child is asking of him… to giving love the only way he knows how to… is worth watching. Though, Rajkummar Rao is the better actor on the masthead, despite his performance being pitch perfect as always, he doesn’t manage to take the focus off Anil. Even Juhi Chawla manages some great moments in the film. Chatro and Balbir’s relationship is one of the highlights in the film, and you can completely sense their comfort and chemistry, despite the many years gone by.
All this brings us to Sonam Kapoor (Ahuja) - kudos to her for being wise enough to understand what a film like this can do to her career. Sonam has always been a beautiful but constricted actress. The subject of this film certainly helps in shaking off some of those constraints. She delivers, despite a few missteps. Regina Cassandra (Kuhu) manages to catch your eye through this one, and Bollywood will certainly want more from her!
All in all, Ek Ladki is not the absolute best film that has come out in recent times, but it is a must-see for sure! Take a bow, Shelly dearest!