Recently, the draconian and regressive Section 377 was put down as ‘unconstitutional’ by the Supreme Court of India, giving hope to millions of those who were attracted to members of their own sex but couldn’t come out publicly. Bollywood has made films on this aspect but they are few and far between. Those who did talk about it upfront like FIRE , ALIGARH , ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES , MY BROTHER NIKHIL , MARGARITA WITH A STRAW  etc. were meant for niche audiences and on the other hand, GIRLFRIEND  was too sleazy for mainstream audiences. DOSTANA  however was a mainstream film but here, the characters pretended to be gays. KAPOOR & SONS  took a serious, no-nonsense approach but it was just a small track in the film. And in DEDH ISHQIYA , it just touched upon the aspect in a very subtle manner. In this regard, EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA is an important flick as it centres around a lesbian character and at the same time, it features prominent actors and backed by a reputed production house. So does EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA make good use of the opportunity and work big time? Or does it fail in its endeavour? Let’s analyse.
EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA is the story of a girl wanting to love but is not allowed to due to societal pressures. Sweety (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja) lives in Moga, Punjab and is the daughter of Balbir Singh Chaudhury (Anil Kapoor), who runs a big garment factory. She completes her graduation and Balbir starts hunting for a suitable groom for her to marry. Sweety’s authoritative brother Babloo (Abhishek Duhan) however realizes that Sweety secretly is in love with someone. When she goes to Delhi to meet the lover, Babloo follows her. Sweety realizes and she runs away. She lands up in a drama auditorium where she bumps into play director Sahil Raza (Rajkummar Rao). Sweety ends up seeing the play rehearsal and remarks that the play lacks soul, as if the writer-director has never fallen in love. Sahil falls for her at that very instant. Babloo however lands up at the theatre and Sahil helps her in running away from him. So smitten is Sahil by Sweety that he lands up in Moga. He pretends to conduct an acting workshop there and he’s helped in his ‘mission’ by the lovable Chatro (Juhi Chawla). Babloo meanwhile tells Balbir and Beeji (Madhumalti Kapoor) that Sweety loves Sahil, a Muslim boy. Balbir is shocked and decides to immediately find a suitable match for Sweety. Meanwhile, Sahil finds out from the house help in Chaudhury’s Kothi, Chaubey (Brijendra Kala), that Sweety’s family knows about him and that Sahil is here for his ‘girlfriend’ Sweety. Sahil’s joy knows no bounds as he presumes that even Sweety likes him. On Beeji’s grand birthday bash, Sahil meets Sweety in private and professes his love. This is when Sweety admits to him that she doesn’t love him and that her love interest is a girl. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Director Shelly Chopra Dhar sensitively handles the subject of homosexuality. However, the conflicts don’t seem that extreme for some reason. Ideally, the confrontation between Sweety (Sonam) and her family should have been more extreme and that’s when it would have made a smashing impact. Also, the finale seems a bit too simplistic.
EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA has a somewhat awkward beginning as the celebrations in the song ‘Gud Naal Ishq Mitha’ seem a bit superficial. The story picks up as Sweety and Sahil meet in the auditorium and later in the sequence inside the metro train. The manner in which Sahil decides to leave the play rehearsal in the middle and embark to Moga to find Sweety is quite difficult to digest. And this aspect continues throughout the film. A few scenes here and there thankfully entertain like Balbir secretly going to the kitchen and Balbir-Sahil’s first meeting. The intermission point could have been more impactful but nevertheless, it works to an extent. Post-interval, Sweety’s flashback is worth watching and a lot of unanswered questions get solved. Again, Sahil’s decision to stay back in Moga to help Sweety feels a bit far-fetched. The climax could have gone quite wrong, a la AAJA NACHLE  but thankfully, it doesn’t. At the same time, it doesn’t induce a feeling of goose bumps, which it ideally should have.
Sonam K Ahuja gives a fine performance but doesn’t impress much. She could have done a lot with such a brilliant part but she lets the opportunity go. Her performance is not a failure but at the same time, not as memorable either. The film centres on her but it’s the other actors who carry the film. Anil Kapoor steals the show with his performance and leaves a tremendous mark as the patriarch caged by society and its expectations. He is bound to put a smile in scenes where he is passionately cooking in the kitchen and when he gets charmed by Juhi. In the finale, it’s his performance that lifts the film. Rajkummar Rao has a bit of a supporting part and is great as always. In fact, he’s so good that one wishes that he had a longer role. But he’s letdown by the characterization. Juhi Chawla is very adorable. Surprisingly, she tries too hard to be funny in the beginning portions but once she lands up in Moga, she is something else. Her Google map scene will surely be appreciated! Abhishek Duhan plays the negative part well. Madhumalti Kapoor is sweet. Brijendra Kala is quite good and raises laughs in the scene where he’s chased by Rajkummar. Seema Pahwa (Billo) gives a lovely and hilarious performance. Sara Arjun (young Sweety) is satisfactory. Akshay Oberoi (Raza) is wasted. Kanwaljit Singh (Sahil’s father) and Alka Kaushal (Sahil’s mother) are sweet. And finally, Regina Cassandra (Kuhu) is quite an important part of the film and impresses with her confident act. Though one wishes her character was given more screen time.
Rochak Kohli’s music is subtle and touching but not of chartbuster variety. ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’ is played at crucial junctures. ‘Gud Naal Ishq Mitha’ doesn’t make the desired impact. ‘Chitthiye’ is touching. ‘House Party Song’ and ‘Good Morning’ are groovy but aren’t memorable. Sanjay Wandrekar and Atul Raninga’s background score is good.
On the whole, EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA makes an important commentary on same-sex relationships in India and is embellished with some fine performances. But the narrative is very convenient to make any emotional impact. At the box office, its appeal will be restricted to niche urban multiplex audiences.
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