“Zaroori hai kya mujhe ek munde se hi pyar ho? Main ek ladki se pyaar karti hoon.” This line by Sweety Chaudhary (Sonam Kapoor) while coming out as a lesbian, in a conservative society, best sums up the plot of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, which deals with same sex love in a nuanced and sensitive manner.
A chirpy and delightful young child, Sweety grows up to be a reserved and introvert teen as she discovers her own sexuality and comes to terms with the societal stigma attached to being 'different.' Her attraction to her best friend and classmate Gurvinder becomes a subject of ridicule in her school and this keeps her from professing her love to the girl. Her feelings are never reciprocated as Gurvinder dismisses them and ignores her completely.
As an adult too, Sweety is unable to come out of the closet and declare her love for Kohu (Regina Cassandra). The two share discreet moments of love and fun, away from the prying eyes of her family, especially an aggressive, macho elder brother (Abhishek Duhan) who considers her 'condition,' an 'illness' that must be gotten rid of, lest it brings dishonour and shame to the family.
The Chaudharys are a rich business family residing in the highly patriarchal society of Moga in Punjab, with Balbir Chaudhary (Anil Kapoor) helming the business. The family's unwavering belief in the institution of marriage and the inability to fathom anything that is even remotely different from the accepted social norms, leads Sweety to consider two options as the last resort—suicide or eloping with Kohu to London.
Even as Sweety finds herself trapped in her own emotions, Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao), son of an noted film director who struggles as a playwright at a theatre in Delhi, falls in love with her at the first sight. He decides to pursue her and shifts base to Moga. The story takes a turn after he finds out that she is in love with a girl. While he initially bursts out laughing at the prospect of 'girlfriend-girlfriend' as opposed to 'girlfriend-boyfriend', he makes it his mission to get the two out of the closet. This forms the second half of the film.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga deals with a sensitive subject, but is let down by a sordid screenplay and dull dialogues. Anil Kapoor exudes on-screen charisma, but Sonam has the same insipid expression throughout.
Madhumalti Kapoor as the matriarch, who has a hard time getting her widower-son Balbir away from his passion for cooking, is every bit the beeji who is an overpowering presence in a typical Punjabi family. Seema Pahwa, the woman in-charge of the Chaudhary family kitchen and Brijendra Kala, the nosy handyman, keep the audience glued when scenes get too stretchy and run-of-the-mill. One can't help but wish that the father-daughter chemistry was more evolved and striking, given that in Shelly Chopra Dhar's directorial debut, Sonam Kapoor marks her very first collaboration with her father Anil Kapoor.
To understand how the notion of homosexuality is handled in a mainstream Bollywood movie, one may give it a watch, especially as this is the first such mainstream attempt after Dostana in 2008. But as Sahil Mirza in the film says, “watch this one with your dil and not dimaag please."
Director: Shelly Chopra
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Duhan, Juhi Chawla, Brijendra Kala, Regina Cassandra, Seema Pahwa, Kanwaljeet