Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga Could Be the Love Story Bollywood Has Been Waiting For
Directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is slated to release on February 1.
Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in a still from their forthcoming film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. (Image: Instagram)
Bollywood has been dabbling with the theme of same-sex love for a while now but instead of weaving sensitive and relatable stories around the issue, it has largely mocked it, making films that are either ridiculously garish or erotic.
Of course there are audacious examples like Fire, Margarita with a Straw and Angry Indian Goddesses. But such films are too few and far between, and despite their piercing honesty, they aren’t the ones that India’s 1.3 billion people throng the theatres to watch. The ones they do watch, either use homosexuality for comic relief (Kal Ho Naa Ho, Dostana) or are too scared to explore the theme fully or directly (Dedh Ishqiya, Fashion, Heroine).
Though the Supreme Court has scrapped Indian Penal Code’s draconian Section 377, decriminalising same-sex love, but hate crimes and discrimination against homosexuals are still rampant. Indians may be more aware now but they still sneer, bully, call names, make jokes and ostracise. Even today, the deeper you penetrate into the country’s heartland, the worse gets the mental, emotional, physical and sexual violence targeted at people of varying sexual orientation.
At a time like this when India is struggling to translate its apex court’s landmark judgement in its people’s psyche, everyday actions and behaviour, a mainstream Bollywood film celebrating lesbian love can go a long way in sending the message across—that awareness in itself can’t achieve much if not coupled with empathy and the willingness to accommodate.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is therefore seminal in several ways. For one, it is the first time stars as popular as Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Sonam Kapoor and Juhi Chawla, and a producer as big as Vidhu Vinod Chopra are backing a film on a subject like this. The fight for LGBTQ rights could not have got a bigger or more mainstream stage.
Two, the film does not exoticise homosexuality. Its people are not NRIs living in London or Los Angeles. They are not even Mumbaikars or Dilliwalas. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is set in Punjab’s Moga. With this movie, the makers intend to tell small-town India a story of one of their own, thereby heightening its relatability and demystifying the taboo that homosexuality is a ‘big city fad’.
Three, despite dealing with a sensitive issue, the film is aware of the audience it wants to reach out to and hence does not make the mistake of looking too artsy or cerebral. It has all the trappings of a masala entertainer—A-list stars, a big banner, rejigged versions of popular songs and a love story. Cautious of not wanting to repel cine-goers who are too quick to label and reject everything, leave alone films, the makers have not used any tags or boxes to define the film.
Though the trailers make it apparent that the film celebrates romantic love between two women, none of its cast or crew are saying it out loud before the film’s release. Because it isn’t just about right timing and intent. Right packaging is as important.
Four, the story is not uninformed. It hasn’t been written by someone who doesn’t know. The film’s screenwriter is Ghazal Dhaliwal, a transwoman. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is the product of her lifelong angst, her suffocation of living in a world where not confirming is not an option.
Five, because we’ve known Raj-Simran and Rahul-Anjali and spent money on their poor rip-offs for too long now. We sure can do with fresher love stories, especially the ones that challenge our notions of what should and shouldn’t be.
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