Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga Review (SPOILERS): Anil Kapoor is the Perfect Man, and the Perfect Father

I really liked this movie. And you should watch it without SPOILERS, if you can (Kirre Ranin! This means YOU!), read this other review instead. But if you really really can’t see it and want to know what happens, you can read this. Honestly, it’s such a slow happy family movie, it’s more about the experience than the details, I can’t “spoil” it

Whole Plot in Two Paragraphs:

We open with a wedding flashback, mostly just a song number with lots of happy Anil and all that. And then we go to Rajkummar, a struggling scriptwriter in Delhi rehearsing a new play. His father is a big deal in the movie industry, but he won’t take help from his parents. And then Sonam sneaks into his theater to hide from her brother. Rajkummar helps her escape, even gets into a fight with her brother on the train. And then finds out her address from the police station after they are arrested and goes (with Juhi Chawla, middle-aged aspiring actress and caterer who offers to let him stay with her and her aunt) to Sonam’s small town to track her down. Rajkummar sneaks into her house, accidentally giving his love note to Anil thinking he is a servant because he is cooking (his secret passion). Anil decides that Rajkummar must be Sonam’s secret lover she was sneaking to Delhi to meet. Rajkummar hears them talking about her being in love with “The Muslim boy” and thinks it is him and is thrilled. But then he finally gets a chance to speak to Sonam alone, and Sonam bursts out that she doesn’t love him, or any boy, she loves a girl. INTERVAL

Post-interval, Rajkummar prepares to leave town, but Sonam asks to meet him one more time. He meets her, and she tells her story. She fell in love with her best friend when she was 14, and everyone at school laughed at her. She retreated more and more into herself, resigned herself to never being loved. And then at a wedding, she met Regina Cassandra and they fell in love. Her brother caught them together, but she still spent a year sneaking off to Delhi to meet her. Now she is trying to get a Visa to get to London where she and Regina can be together. Rajkummar promises to try to help, and then there is a surprise twist when Anil Kapoor (who fell in love with Juhi at first sight and it helped him to think about things in a new way) invites Rajkummar to dinner and proposes a marriage, he just wants his daughter to be happy, even if it means marrying a Muslim boy. Rajkummar has an idea, he agrees to the engagement and uses his leverage as the new potential son-in-law to suggest that Anil Kapoor put on a show to advertise the new fashion line at his clothe factory. Rajkummar writes up Sonam’s love story, and even invites Regina from Delhi to play herself. He sells it to Anil as a “comedy” and they prepare it. The night of the show, Sonam’s brother returns from a work trip and reveals everything. Anil is stunned, and Sonam finally stands up for herself, says that she is normal and Anil is wrong for not accepting her. Anil goes home and reads her sad diaries and remembers how much he loves her, meanwhile the play goes on with constant walk-outs and angry shouts from the audience. Finally Anil storms in, and sees his daughter on stage and understands how much she is hurting. He defends her and declares no one can hurt his daughter. Happy Ending. Rajkummar gains the approval of his parents, and then decides to take his play on the road, to the little towns. Sonam wishes him well and says good-bye. Anil Kapoor and Juhi are going to open a restaurant together. EVERYTHING HAPPY

You see what I mean about it being a very old-fashioned movie? Anil falls for Juhi at first sight, Rajkummar does the same with Sonam, and Sonam and Regina with each other. First love is true love, and it is also sweet and romantic love. Sonam and Regina hold hands and hug and write each other love letters. And one very sincere live play is enough to change minds and change the world.

But, isn’t that what we come to the movies for? To see a nice man from the Punjab love his daughter so much that he is able to turn his whole world upside-down and accept her for who she is? To see two woman find each other and fall in love? To see Juhi Chawla play a cheerful divorced middle-aged woman pursuing her dreams and a new love with complete confidence? To see Rajkummar play a nice guy who wants to go the extra mile to help Sonam just because he cares about her? To see a world that might be a fantasy but, by showing the fantasy, we might be bringing it a little more to reality?

That’s the explicit message of the film at the end. Sonam’s character declares she wants to do this play, no matter what, for those little kids in the audience who feel all alone and wrong. And then she tells Rajkummar to take it to all the small towns and make everyone see it. This is not a film for the urban multiplex audience that already knows these stories (that movie is Kapoor & Sons). This is a film for the small towns, the folks who just like the happy family love stories and songs and all. And it gives that side of a same-sex love story. If you can make a happy sincere film about a heterosexual love story, why not make the same kind of film about a same-sex one?

I love how this song reminds us that same sex love images were always part of films, we just pretended they didn’t “count” because it was during a mehndi party

And since it is a happy sincere film, the focus is not on troubled 30-somethings coming out, or even on troubled college kids, but on children. The childhood flashback sequence is tremendously effective. And in case you think it isn’t needed, I was seeing this movie with two lovely desi women, about ten years older than me, cosmopolitan and American and super liberal. And their reaction to the flashback showing how Sonam fell in love and dreamed of marrying a woman even when she was just 14, was “but, are there women who really only love women?” Yes! There are! Sometimes you can’t just suck it up and get married and have babies and keep yourself to yourself. Sometimes you know from childhood that you aren’t like the other girls, that you are in love with girls. Just like boys know they like boys. It works both ways, except girls are better at (or are forced to be better at) hiding it.

This movie has two equal aims, two lessons it wants to teach, and both are said explicitly within the film. There is the goal of reaching those kids and telling them there is nothing wrong with them and they aren’t alone. And there is another lesson too, Juhi tells Anil that after marrying the man her family picked, giving up her dreams, and raising her kids, she divorced him and pursued her own dream of being an actress. She says the problem is that parents are trying to live their own life through their kids. Parents should live their lives and do what makes them happy, and let the kids do the same. Anil and Juhi’s late in life romance, it’s not disconnected from Sonam’s forbidden love. Anil deserves his own life, after all these years of raising his kids and running the factory. And taking that life for himself means that Sonam doesn’t “owe” him anything, isn’t the sole reason for any happiness in his life. Kids deserve to go after their own happiness and maybe the easiest way to let them go is if you go after your own happiness too.

It’s a family movie. It’s about loving your kids and loving your family and just wanting to live together and be happy. Sonam is willing to marry a man, any man, just to make them happy. Anil is immediately instinctively ready to stand by her and protect her from harm, no matter why it comes. Rajkummar, he wants to make his parents proud. And gets strength when his mother tells him she is proud, already, just because he is trying even if he is failing. Even Sonam’s brother, the closest thing this movie has to a “villain”, just worries about her. We see in flashback that, when they were little kids, he was her protector. He is trying to protect her now, just doesn’t understand correctly how to do it. That is the loveliest way to handle a coming out story, not about a family falling apart but a family coming together.

And Anil is the hero of it. He’s a single father, which is never addressed. Presumably his wife died, maybe she left, however it happened, he ended up being all the parent Sonam had and all she needed. He isn’t the authoritarian kind of father, he is one who holds her in his lap while they watch TV when she is little, who turns off her light and takes her book away when she falls asleep reading, who takes the time to try to learn Urdu from his phone in order to properly propose marriage to the boy he thinks she likes. And he is a different kind of romantic lead too. He falls for Juhi at first sight (with any other actress, it would not be believable that the funny bossy caterer is also so beautiful to be love at first sight worthy, but it’s Juhi, so absolutely makes sense!), and he is delighted to learn she divorced her husband, and intrigued to learn that she wants her kids to marry whoever they want, and even likes that she dreams of being an actress. And he is a different kind of man. He loves to cook, it is his passion. But his mother doesn’t let him in the kitchen, because it is women’s work, and so instead he cheerfully goes to his factory everyday and tries to kill his dreams inside of him. The film doesn’t underline this, because it doesn’t have to. It’s right there for us to see, gender roles hurt everyone. This nice nice man isn’t allowed to be as happy as he could be just because what he likes to do is a “girl” thing to do.

And while Anil suffers by being judged for his soft side, his mother takes over Sonam’s brother and teaches him to kill his soft side. The little boy who used to share sweets with Sonam grows up to be a little boy who beats up the gay kid “for his own good” and eventually threatens Sonam and chases her and tries as hard as he can to stop her from being who she is. Hero and villain, both created by the same forces, but one bent and grew flexible, and the other hardened.

Rajkummar is another kind of hero too. He starts out the same as other heroes we have seen. Sensitive writer type, falls in love at first sight, makes a crazy impulsive choice to follow her and offer his heart. But once he learns the truth, he is something different. He helps Sonam not because he is in love with her, but because he is a decent person and sees that she is in a terrible position. There is no moment of “what do you mean, you are in love with a girl?”, he just accepts the premise. And accepts that of course the two of them should be together, hopefully with the blessing of her family. He is a decent person, that’s all. A decent person doesn’t need a big reason or a big convincing to do the right thing, he just does it.

But he is no Fred Astaire!!!! Not a total non-sequitor, about half an hour into this movie I went “Hey!!!! This is Damsel in Distress!!!!” And then I am SO PROUD because in the end credits (along with Red Chillies Color, woot woot!), they mentioned PG Wodehouse and D in D!

I own I think 4 versions of this song. And Fred really does sing it best. Gershwin wrote really well for his voice.

It’s kind of funny, because they took the central clever twist from the original film/movie, and untwisted it, and then twisted it up again a different way. See, in D in D, the heroine goes to the London to meet her secret lover. She is helped by Fred Astaire (it’s something else in the novel, but he’s Fred Astaire to me). Fred falls in love and follows her to the country. Her family mistakes him for her secret lover, he thinks she really loves him, then learns the truth but is still willing to help her, eventually she comes to love him instead of the secret lover. And in a running gag, the servants have a lottery to see who she will end up with, and the “Mr. X” card keeps passing from the bootboy to the snarky butler and each of them in turn either helping or sabotaging Fred. That’s what made me really recognize this plot, when the servants in Sonam’s house started up the bet with “Mr. X” as one of the options. But the funny thing is, in this movie the heroine remains in love with her secret lover, the hero is really just there to help her. Only there is a different twist related to who the secret lover was.

Anyway, you should watch the original movie! Not for the heroine, Joan Fontaine is a terrible actress. But Burns and Allen are the comic relief, and there is a great Madrigal bit, plus Gershwin soundtrack. Which is just one hit song after another. But fastforward the Joan Fontaine bits.

This is fun Burns and Allen in a musical, We’re Not Dressing is just a weird Burns and Allen musical.

You can try to read the novel too, but it’s not peak Wodehouse. Really, for novels, you are better off reading Uncle Fred in Springtime. Or French Leave, the Most Romantic Wodehouse. At least, that’s my feeling.

Image result for french leave wodehouse
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16 thoughts on “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga Review (SPOILERS): Anil Kapoor is the Perfect Man, and the Perfect Father

  1. Haven’t had the chance to watch the film yet, just the songs and loved them. Read this review despite the spoiler warning and don’t regret it!
    What a lovely review of an obviously lovely film, and I guess this is exactly the film I hoped it to be. Positive and accessible for just everybody, and I so appretiate that childhood flashback. Also the setting among simple people and not just having the next variation of the rich-kids-travelling-through-Europe-and-doing-crazy-things-that-would-have-earned-them-a-slap-at-home…
    Looks as if they did everything right. – Can’t wait!

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    • Yes! I love movies among simple people, and in this case it also has a nice message, that not just the fancy westernized crowd are gay, it’s a universal experience, it happens everywhere.

      On Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 1:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. `
    It’s pretty amazing (and wonderful) that you can describe an Indian movie about a same-sex love story as, “A Good Old-Fashioned Family Film.”

    Just a couple years ago, who would’a thought . . .

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    • I don’t know if the audience will be able to accept it as easily, but just the fact that the filmmakers thought it would work is enough.

      On Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 2:19 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I really enjoyed it this movie! Yeah it’s simplistic in its messaging…but that’s exactly what the makers intended to reach the audience. I really hope this movie reaches the people who need to see it…the LGBTQ folks in small town India and their families. Though, it doesn’t seem like the movie is doing very well….oh well even if it helps one gay teenager gain some hope…the movie has done its job!

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    • Exactly, I feel like the sequence at the end showing that half the audience walked out and yet the play kept going was saying “yeah, we know this movie is going to probably flop, but we really don’t care, that’s not the point”.

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  4. Pingback: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga – A Light-Hearted, Fun Take On An Important Issue Which Needed A Better Heroine – Tales'n'Tunes

  5. It was a pleasant watch, but terribly predictable. Everybody new Regina was the love interest, that there would be a play mirroring the real story of Sonam and Regina, and Rajkumar would help her. The second trailer gave away pretty much everything.
    Sonam was so bad, especially when her family finds out and she breaks down. And how wonderful was Regina in her few scenes. Imagine someone like Tapsee playing Sweety! How great would that turn out.

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    • Yeah, I felt pretty casual about warning people off from the SPOILERS review, because really the movie unfolds exactly as you think it will. There isn’t much to “Spoil”.

      The scene that struck me as Sonam’s worst, was the right before the interval moment when she has her big speech to Rajkummar and then says she is in love with a girl.

      But this is such a tricky film. We can’t know what all went into making sure it released. It’s possible that it only came out because Sonam and her family agreed to be involved in this odd unprofitable film. It’s possible they did it for no money or for a special kind of production deal. There could be reasons that Sonam was “right” for the film that go far beyond her acting in it.

      On Sun, Feb 3, 2019 at 6:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. My opinion? Among the worst movies I have seen in modern times. Of course I generally avoid really bad movies, so it’s only the worst among the ones that I’ve seen. If the motto for good filmmaking is “show, don’t tell”, then this movie is “show, then tell, then lecture some more”. Nothing is nonverbal here, and every line might as well be breaking the fourth wall, because even though the characters look like they are talking to each other, each line is directed at the audience.

    Four of us went together to see this. Two loved the movie, and two of us disliked it. The two who loved it just loved the social message aspect, feeling empathetic toward and hopeful for their closeted friends. So for then I feel that any movie that addressed this topic would have been a good film. And the two of us that hated it did so for the filmmaking and storytelling aspect. So our dislike of the movie has nothing to do with its message, and instead is all about its delivery. My disliking friend summed it up by saying “the dialogues sound like they were written by a fifth grader”.

    If the movie had a wacky background score, then this would have worked well as a parody or spoof of a family film, since spoofs are where you see such explanatory dialogue usually. Once I settled into that interpretation,I was able to enjoy the movie.

    Juhi was pitch perfect. She’s a throwback to the comediennes of Hollywood’s golden era, both in looks, comedy, and in acting taken.

    Anil was overacting in his emotional scenes, kicking me out of the movie.

    Sonam was really really bad, her crying looks like a teenager fake-crying on stage in the school play. So amateurish.

    There was no physical chemistry or tension between the girl couple. I find this problematic, both in terms of believing the film, and in terms of the outcome of the social message. Lemme see if I can explain this. In a country where the genders are kept separate, if a movie shows a boy and a girl merely standing next to each other or facing each other, then that is a sufficient for suggesting a romantic affair. For the same reason, that concept completely does not work when two girls merely stand next to each other or look at each other… they just look like platonic female bffs. So when I watch the film, I wonder if the women are just confused, or going through a phase, because they don’t appear to be in love or in lust. Note that I don’t need to see them kissing or holding hands, just wanna experience some fire or tension between them, maybe just in the way they look at each other. But worse yet is the possible interpretation in the small towns and villages that is the intended audience, assuming the movie actually reaches them emotionally. Since the couple appears indistinguishable from bffs, will they now be worried or suspicious whenever their teenager daughters have female bffs? Will they feel concerned enough to limit their daughters access to other girls, just as they do other boys now?

    The movie feels like a wish fulfillment exercise for cosmopolitan types patting themselves on the back for making a movie that will change the masses… which is actually ignored by the masses. It’s akin to the LA/NY/SF Pride parades, which have been overtaken by corporations and heterosexual individuals marching in the parade to celebrate their own acceptance or tolerance of homosexuality, with nary a homosexual in sight. Meanwhile the homosexuals flock to the Oakland and Long Beach Pride parades to actually celebrate their own gay pride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting! I didn’t find it well-made either, in the way you describe, poor acting and blunt statements and so on. But for me, I still have hope that this style may help it to reach the general public better. We will see how it does.

      Interesting point about the female BFFs. That hadn’t occurred to me. I was thinking of it in terms of making the film itself make sense, we had to believe that Sonam was so in love she was willing to die for it, and that just didn’t come through. They didn’t have to do more than hug or hold hands, but there could have been more spark between them.

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  7. Just saw it with my mom and we both loved it! Sure there might be some problems, but I didn’t mind or see them and the audience didn’t either. Personally I don’t think Sonam was bad, it’s just that her character has taken so much emotional and verbal abuse that when it bursts out its not as passionate as one expects. It broken because inside she is so scared, but she has to say it. Then her confidence has grown when she speaks to Anil about it from her side, but she is still broken after it because it took a lot of courage for her to even say those things. I mean the crying right after is just her letting all of the pent up tears flow.

    As for the chemistry between Regina and Sonam, I think they were so cute and like a real couple. Sonam has confidence issues so even for her to be so comfortable around her spoke a lot. Again I put it to being so scared and afraid of everything or any hint of her true sexuality coming out that she restrained herself more while Regina comforted her the best she could. One is simply more of an extrovert while Sonam is an introvert. That’s my thoughts on it at least.

    And of course Anil, Rajkummar and Juhi were perfect! I loved them!

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    • I am so glad you liked it!

      I still think Sonam could have done a better job in the role, but I will keep your thoughts in mind the next time I watch it (I am DEFINITELY bringing more people to see it in theaters). I agree that her character was supposed to be tense and repressed and introverted, versus Regina’s much more open character. I enjoyed the way they showed her blossoming in Delhi, setting aside the lack of sexual chemistry between her and Regina, there was a real sense of Sonam smiling and being happier with Regina than anyone else.

      I still want more chemistry between them, but I definitely didn’t want anything more than hugs and hand holds, like we saw. I liked the idea of it as a sweet cute romance, not a passionate sexy romance. It’s Sonam’s first experience of love (who knows about Regina), and she is a shy good girl, love letters and hugs seems about right.

      And yes, Anil Juhi and Rajkummar were all perfection!!!!

      On Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 2:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. Pingback: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga – Happy Tears – The Little Corner

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