Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga movie cast: Anil Kapoor, Sonam K Ahuja, Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Duhan, Juhi Chawla, Brijendra Kala, Regina Cassandra, Seema Pahwa, Kanwaljeet
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga movie director: Shelly Chopra
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga movie rating: One and a half stars
This film couldn’t have had a better title.
It is the ‘mukhda’ of a song made madly popular 25 years ago when a boy (‘ek ladka’) saw a girl (‘ek ladki’) and burst into song. That film was called 1942: A Love Story, and that ‘ladka’, all grown up now, plays the grizzled father (Kapoor) in this film, to his real-life daughter (Ahuja), a lovely connection that only the movies can make happen.
More importantly, it can’t get more delightfully subversive, for a movie which promises to upend the ‘ladka-ladki’ binary that Bollywood has coasted on for decades. Here ‘ek ladki’s heart beats for another ‘ladki’. The problem is that there’s more subversion in the one-line title than in the entire film, because having stated its purpose, it doesn’t quite know just how to broach it and expand on it, and spends far too much stuttering time in getting to the point.
Sweety lives in Moga, Punjab, with a genial ‘papaji’ who runs a garments factory, a ‘veerji’ (Duhan) who is a full-on Punjabi ‘puttar’, all bluster and tough love, and an affectionate grandma, who is intent on getting hold of a suitable boy for her ‘sundar susheel’ grand-daughter.
Up pops the personable Sahil Mirza (Rao) but Sweety, immersed in her dreams of her real love, won’t bite. And the film gets stuck in clunky, ham-handed passages during which we get lectures on the ‘unsuitability’ of Muslims, the large-heartedness of small-town Punjabis which also includes their small-mindedness when it comes to sexual orientation.
By the time Sweety and Kuhu (Cassandra) get together in the same frame as the two ‘lovers’ who have strong feelings for each other but who just happen to be female, ‘ki kariye’, almost the entire film is over. Why so scared? Why not have more between the two young women, for which we’ve waited for? Why so much wringing of hands, so much talk of ‘not normal’ and wanting to be ‘like the others’?
The thing between the two is reduced to fleeting scenes with a couple of kindling glances, and coy hugs. These are dispensed with, with alacrity, and the movie moves into the safe jocular zone of flirtation between Papaji Kapoor, and the perky Chatroji ( Chawla) who is essentially playing the role of the hero’s best friend.
What we also get is a permission-bearing paternalistic speech from the man of the house: another version of ‘jaa jee le apni zindagi’, except that Simran belonged to 1995. What it comes down to is this: yes, we want to make a progressive film, but we have to show our women getting freed up only after getting male approval-and-help.
The ensemble is solid, but neither Ahuja, who has been upping her game in her last few films, nor the usually dependable Rao, have the desired impact: at least he’s always trying something; I didn’t buy her at all. The two who stand out are Duhan as the brattish brother, and Cassandra, who shows spark. The rest get swept under the flaccid writing. What this film needed was more sharpness, more acuity, more honesty. It could then justifiably have been called ‘2019: A Love Story’.