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Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Is The Best Statement On Acceptance You Will See This Year

Subhash K . Jha

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Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga: Movie Review

Starring: Anil Kapoor, Sonam K Ahuja, Juhi Chawla,Rajkummar Rao

Directed by: Shelley Chopra Dhar

Rating: ****(4 stars)

 At the  end  of this tender  and  supple saga  of  segregation and  acceptance I was  surprised to see an end-credit line that  declared the  film to be inspired  by a P G Wodehouse  novel.

Finally it all makes sense. The chaos  of  diverse  viewpoints coalescing  in  what looks  like a  manufactured finale,   but is actually just the  opposite. The  resonance  of  the drama that we call life  is  to be heard throughout this charming  brew  of  light and dark.While on  the surface  the  narrative remains splendidly sunny, with  the Punjabi town of Mogra coming alive to the sounds   of  R D Burman’s  immortal tune Ek ladki ko dekha  …and  you  know the  rest….under the hustle  and bustle of provincial  preoccupations ,under the  bubble and  banter(with Juhi Chawla  overdoing her  ‘Dolly  Bindra’ act)  the  film secretes a somber truth about gender biases and  sexual preferences.

Normal is  what  we crave  to be.  But what, pray tell,  is  ‘normal’? For  the film’s  quiet  and lovely  protagonist Sweety normal  is  to  love another  person of her own gender. But  how can she share this  secret with her well-adjusted  warm and hospitable father Balbir,  played with  motivational genuineness  by Anil Kapoor.Needless to say, the father-daughter sequences  ring  a hundred and ten percent  true. How could they not when  the two players  are  not playing?

Debutante director  Shelly Chopra Dhar effectively conveys the  mutual  love between Kapoor and  Ahuja  and yet when we realize how little Kapoor’s Balbinder  knows  his daughter we   never  hold that against him.

I mean,  have  you seen Anil Kapoor’s  smile? Sonam plays  the sexually disorientedsmalltown girl with the effective blend  of bewilderment and resignation. She  never gives way to  exhibitionist grief.  I  wish the script gave her more space to  mourn, to celebrate her solitude. Rather,  Sweety, that’s our sexually ambivalent heroine, is constantly crowded with attention. It’s almost like the  Gods have  somehow conspired to make  sure she never wallows in  her  dark secret.

 It all comes  apart by mid-point and then  together again when a  play is staged by the affable Sahil Mirza(Rajkummar Rao, investing that  extra something  into his  character  to make it special) where  Sweety’s secret gets a  public platform.Rao’s Sahil is a catalyst we all needed in our lives when we are stuck for  a solution. He is a very charming Mr Fix-it who won’t let his father’s affluence  corrupt  him.

Anil Kapoor’s “acceptance” speech had  me in tears. When his character  opens its arms  to his daughter’s  homosexuality he  also acknowledges  his own  suffocation at not being able to do what he liked best in life. Cook.

The film cooks  up a small storm in  a large teacup.To put  the  theme of   social acceptance of  homosexuality  on a smalltown  stage  is  a stroke of genius. All the societal and gender prejudices are addressed  in a  light effervescent manner  where nobody gets offended, at least not  in  the audience down here from where I  was watching the  tender tale unfold in  a  silken rustle  of a beautifully  threaded quilt being pushed aside as the early-morning  sun beams  into the  room through the slit in the curtains.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a timely  post-377  wake-up call  for mainstream  Indian cinema to look beyond  the stereotypical  relationships into the abyss where  many sorts of unexplored  relationships  languish. This is  not  a “mind-shattering” experience(a  term  Juhi Chawal’s loud over-the-top Punjabi character  loves  to throw around). But it it’s  heartwarming  story  filled with  a music sunshine and  compassion. Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and Sonam K Ahuja are splendidly  joined at  the  hip by a script that  bleeds empathy but never  pleads  for sympathy. 

Brave and  beautiful this film should embolden  other bolder explorations  of  alternate sexuality in our cine,a  . This one does seem a little chaste  , the closest  the  same-sex lovers  come to physical  intimacy  is  a clinical embrace .  But  hell,  it is nonetheless  a big leap ahead  for  our cinema as  far as matters  beyond  the heart are concerned.

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