Ek Ladki Review

Sonam Kapoor starrer “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” presents a story of same-sex relationship. The film also stars Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in pivotal roles. (Sonam Kapoor/Twitter photo)

Fox Star Studios & Vinod Chopra Films present

Produced by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Directed by: Shelly Chopra Dhar

Written by: Shelly Chopra Dhar & Gazal Dhaliwal

Music: Richak Kohli

Starring: Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Sonam K. Ahuja, Rajkummar Rao, Regina Cassandra, Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kala, Madhumalti Kapoor, Abhishek Duhan, Akshay Oberoi, Kanwaljit Singh, Sara Arjun, Alka Kaushal & others

This is one opportunity squandered as if such chances come so frequently that one can let go of one of them. Here was a chance to deliver a sensitive, hard-hitting movie on same-sex relationship, on people who are born different, on why they want their natural partner to be someone of their own gender.

More important, I dare say, is the way they should be accepted by their parents, families, friends and society. Also, mainstream cinema has rarely tackled this issue earlier, except in a fundamentally funny way in the 2008 “Dostana.” “Kapoor & Sons” did tackle this, but that was about a leading man. However, it was far more sensitively done.

Where Dhar and co-writer Gazal Dhaliwal fail (miserably, I would say) is in how the drama plays out ridiculous fashion, with only a couple of sequences, like Anil Kapoor mixing real and fictional in the climax, making a mild connect.

But, before that, the story. Sweety (Sonam K. Ahuja) lives in Moga in Punjab, and has all along known that she is “different”: she prefers girls to boys. As she reaches adolescence in school (this role is played by Sara Arjun), she becomes lonely and forlorn. Worse is to follow. At a wedding, the grown-up Sweety falls for the London-based sister (Regina Cassandra) of a prospective suitor (Akshay Oberoi), and she thus wants to go there to study Arts, and be close to her, for suddenly life gets a meaning. How the two discover each other is barely touched upon, which is totally unconvincing.

Meanwhile, playwright Sahil Raza (Rajkummar Rao) encounters Sweety in Delhi at their rehearsals – another ludicrous episode, and a ridiculous chain of proceedings follow. This is just a far-fetched way of getting Sahil to know where Sweety stays and decide to shift his activity there. Before that, let us inform you that Sahil is the son of rich parents connected with the film industry (Kanwaljit Singh and Alka Kaushal), who has disdainfully refused economic help from them and tried to do his own thing. What has that to do with the story? Well, there is something in the post-climax.

Sahil’s “associate’ in Moga is a stage caterer and wannabe actor, the loud Chhatro (Juhi Chawla) whose cooking he loves. They shift to Moga and start an acting course there! More implausibilities and illogic follow. Meanwhile, the family is aghast to know that Sahil is a Muslim and seemingly, Sweety and he love each other!

The bottom-line, we are finally told, is that Sweety’s brother (Abhishek Duhan) has all along known her sexual choices and has hidden it from their father Balbir Choudhury (Anil Kapoor), garment businessman who is also a cook by hobby.

Mysteriously, and certainly not for this reason, Sahil is suddenly approved as a suitor and future groom, for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, Sweety has revealed to Sahil her truth, and he decides to be her friend in need. He suggests to the family that they stage a play for a garment company’s occasion, and swiftly writes a drama on the truth. What’s more, he convinces the clan to be their real-life selves in this “new-age” play, with Chatro playing Sweety’s mother and even calls Sweety’s girlfriend from London for the occasion.

How? Never mind, for Sweety certainly never gave him her address as she is surprised to see her there. So what will happen next?

The last thing a serious and sensitive subject needs is a loopy treatment, which is emphatically the case here. The director and her co-writer seem to think that fake emotions and a hare-brained script are okay provided you have such ‘meat’ in the theme. They are not bothered, as long as there are misguided financiers and backers, to make a film that cocks a snook at common sense! In the name of entertainment, puerile humor and plastic emotions can save the day. Sadly, such premises have not saved better films in the past and will certainly not do so now.

A kind of spoiler here, but needed: Why does anyone NOT get in touch with the girlfriend’s family? What are their views? Or do we assume that since she is living in London, it does not matter?

Finally, the last straw on this caricatural camel’s back is its Punjabi overdrive, now completely passé. “Manmarziyan” and “Namaste London” are but two calamities we have seen in recent times that suffered from this extended malaise and collapsed, and the former, at least, was a better-construed film than this one. And we precisely do not understand whether we are supposed to understand that Sikhs and Punjabis are over-orthodox, over-progressive or what. The post-climax also hints that the progressives are in a minority!

The songs, once the Vinod Chopra banner’s pride with “1942 - A Love Story,” “Kareeb,” “Munna Bhai MBBS,” “Parineeta” and “3 Idiots,” are highly disappointing – banal, lifeless and without any luster. While the title-song is massacred beyond redemption, most of the other tracks are predominantly in Punjabi and are also beyond comprehension.

Technically all right, the performances are varied. Frankly, Regina Cassandra, in the few sequences she has, is more effective than Sonam is in the entire film as an irritating, giggly self. Sonam thus lends immense superficiality to her should-have- been-serious character. Juhi Chawla is super-irritating too, despite her character having to be intentionally loud, a shade dense yet shrewd and (of course) golden-hearted. Now that’s a feat indeed!

Anil Kapoor alternates between good acting and hamming and strikes an inconsistent note. Plus, his choice of scripts is becoming increasingly wonky, and we sincerely hope that his next, “Total Dhamaal,” does not have the same lack of caliber as this one, and “Fanney Khan” and “Race 3” before it. Here is a man who has to reinvent fast and realize that physical fitness alone will not ensure public endorsement. The supporting actors are as bad, mediocre or humdrum as the director makes them – Abhishek Duhan also looking like Pratiek on a bad day.

The sole redeeming factor is Rajkummar Rao. With a consistent character graph and an equally consistent and natural performance, Rao lifts the film – or tries to – whenever he is on screen.

Rating: *1/2

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