This is not a review, this is a love letter to a film I have now watched twice in two days. If I could rate Sonam Kapoor’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga as a cardholding lesbian, I’d give it 4.5/5.
Let me explain why. Firstly, because the film is a sign that there can be such a thing as ‘lesbian drama’, even in Bollywood.
The film’s solidarity is not hinged on just one secret about who Sweety (Sonam Kapoor) loves, but how love brings out the best potential in you— including Balbir Choudhary’s (Anil Kapoor) ‘hidden’ talent for cooking. The spectrum of fear in the film ranges from homophobia, internal homophobia to Islamophobia.
Lesbian drama is not just a dysfunction, potentially, it is a tour de force that will challenge patriarchy. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga shows how understanding the film’s lesbian character Sweety gives the other heterosexual characters the clarity to fight patriarchy. It’s as if Sweety’s ‘coming out’ to her father, gives the latter the courage to follow his dream of cooking. It also leads to Balbir and Chattro (played by Juhi Chawla) getting into a ‘partnership’.
“In the film, same sex love moves away from the epicentre of queer discourse which usually happens in Delhi and is set in the old world of a small town of Moga (how delightful!).”
In the film, same sex love moves away from the epicentre of queer discourse which usually happens in Delhi and is set in the old world of a small town of Moga (how delightful!).
Where else will non normative love become transgressive? Who else will love empower?
Away from clever discourse of Delhi and other metro cities, the film’s softness reminds you of a time when we called it “same sex love”. Even if well intentioned queer discourses have intervened meaningfully in our ideas of sex and gender, have we forgotten what it means to love radically and fiercely when we are so caught up in the cleverness of labelling ourselves right through political correctness? Well then, if not political correctness then poetic licence in films like this brings back heart for a community that could do with some hope.
“The film might touch a chord in all of us, but it’s especially raw for the small-town lesbian.”
The film might touch a chord in all of us, but it’s especially raw for the small-town lesbian. At one point, Sweety (played by Sonam Kapoor) said she had just two options before her: run away or die. Growing up in Siliguri, a small hill town in West Bengal I remember being shamed and teased in school― bullied even. The film shows Sonam’s character Sweety being mocked, shunned by her classmates and her friend, a boy, being beaten up for being too ‘effeminate’.
This film fuses head and heart, though it puts heart before logic at times. If you thought softness isn’t political—you have to watch this film. This film touches the softest parts in you—and celebrates love. Unlike other Punjabi, possibly fearful directors from Bollywood who only halfway dip their toes into same sex love through parody, wit and sarcasm, the makers of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga are here to warm the cockles of your heart.
It is no secret that the straight world’s hypocrisy of contrasts depends on how they have a public and private life while, for them, the queer world of same sex love has public, public and secret lives. If it is not sexuality, there is always some secret that is meant ‘outed’, as the film shows. The film underlines the ridiculousness of resorting to patriarchal ways of making meaning of a situation. When nearing the interval, Sweety shouts, “sabka dimaag ek hi direction mein kyu chalta hain (why do people’s minds run in one direction” you really feel her frustration.
The script of this film is the real protagonist, edited in a way that every scene sticks with the glue of emotion. Even the scenes where the onlookers and minor characters bet playfully is done with so much sweetness that it can only be a win-win. There is a luminosity and lightness in this film that is missing in portraying lesbians even in world cinema.
“Lesbian films are usually about dark intimacies and squashed desires without happy endings.”
Lesbian films are usually about dark intimacies and squashed desires without happy endings. But intimacies can be playful, light and hopeful, as this film shows. The movie never for once misses its mark and gets derailed into a moral high ground of preaching or proving a point. Yes I could have asked for more—more romance in the Hauz Khas ruins of Delhi between Sweety and Kuhu (fingers crossed for a sequel), but this will do for the time being.
The climax of the film is clever. It revolves around Rajkummar Rao’s character Sahil staging a play in Moga about two women in love. As the play in the film progresses, members of the audience are shown leaving in anger and disgust. A play within a play is, therefore, a classic way of showing self-awareness. The audience of the play in the movie in Moga anticipates the audience reaction to the film in big cities already
A scene in the climax shows Sweety, emotionally wounded from being rejected, trapped in a glass box (in a play within the film) and calling out desperately to her father to ‘free’ her. That scene made me shudder and touched a raw nerve in me. I wish my mother watches this film and gives me a call. Did I say lesbians love drama already?
“I wish my mother watches this film and gives me a call. Did I say lesbians love drama already?”
As a gender fluid person who fit herself into Bollywood’s songs and stereotypes as and when she pleased, I don’t know which part of my intersectional identity feels the most vindicated by this hug of a film. It’s as if, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga touched multiple aspects of my personality and existence — queer small-town Bollywood buff, ’90s fan, survivor of bullying, member of an often-Islamophonic family, wannabe chef, diary keeper, a someone tired of being badgered to get married. It’s as if every piece of me sighed ‘been there’ throughout the film.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga represents how love should be. Be it Balbir’s love for cooking, Kuhu’s love for Sweety, Sahil’s love for his art, his mother’s love for him, Chhatro’s love for acting and the matriarch Beeji’s love for her family — the film paints a staggering panorama of how love should look like. And how, when allowed to take over, love makes the most understanding, empathetic human beings.