Promoted with the hashtag #LetLoveBe , Debutant director Shelly Chopra Dhar’s EK LADKI KO DEKHA…had got sufficient indications about its theme on same sex love and resonated with the social change that 377a attempted to bring in and the craving of the LGBTQ community for societal acceptance. It also got potential to be a gamechanger in the mainstream paradigm with this sensitive topic. But any promising idea on paper does not neccessarily translate into engaging films. Sadly, ELKDTAL fits into this category.
Written by Ghazal Dhariwal, who also revealed her transwoman orientation , and inspired from the PG Wodehouse story ‘Damsel in Distress’ , the film explores the lesbian love against the backdrop of a boisterous Punjabi family – Bollywood’s most convenient and unabashed trope to convey merriment with beer and bater.And no point for guessing the Damsel here – its Sweety Chaudhry (Sonam Kapoor), the coy and permanently sullen girl whose repressed sexuality doesn’t finds its wings until she meets her love, Kuhu( Regina Cassandra,cameo) in a wedding. The other Chaudhrys in the house include the father, Balbir( Anil Kapoor) , a garment businessman with a strong culinary inclination, Bijji( the extremely lovable Madhumati Kapoor) and Babloo- Sweetie’s bullying bro and a symbol of toxic masculinity ( Abhishek Duhan).
The film follows a comedy of errors trajectory when a struggling playwright, Sahil Mirza( Rajkummar Rao) meets Sweetie and is instantly smitten by her ,subsequently leading her family members to believe that they are in love. The plot, reduntantly, conceals Sweetie’s orientation and the twist in the tale doesn’t throw any surprises. The blemish here is the poor writing and the clear lack of imagination and audacity to fleshen up such a complex topic in hand.Which is a shame, given the writers leaning to seek the vicarious thrill.
Its evident that the makers shied away to excavate the layers of this taboo-ed subject, ELKDTAL is fashioned as a family entertainer with facile drama and intermittently peppered with humor.You get a feeling of redemption when some parts of those work – especially the track involving Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla, who still manage to forge a crackling chemistry, which is starkly abysmal in the dynamics between Sonam and Regina Cassandra.Chopra’s work lacks the gravity and intensity that was depicted in FIRE,20 years back !
Rajkummar Rao provides most of the meat to this skeletal fare and it feels sorry to see such a fine actor saddled with an inert script.
The film also hosts a strong supporting ensemble , comprising Seema Pahwa and Brijendra Kala , both underutilized in their respective space. Madhumati Kapoor seems to have a rocking time.Juhi Chawla’s Punjabi accent appears forced,but she aces the comic portions.
ELKDTAL could have been an important and landmark film that Post-377 India needed, but the film’s frivolous approach doesn’t fly with its noble aspirations.
I go with 2 out of 5.