Sunday ReRun: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga! Grand Finale to Juhi Week

I really hope a lot of you are watching this on Netflix! It is such a happy good feeling family movie, I feel like the world will be a better place if more people watch it.

You know how I write fanfics every week? And it is all about writing the wholesome family films I used to love from the 90s and 2000s with the cast I love from back then and today? This is it! This is the movie I would have written! It even stars Juhi and Rajkummar, just like I always cast my films! So if you like that kind of old-fashioned plodding but happy with a lot of songs and stars and emotion kind of film, this is the one for you!

Image result for ek ladki ko dekha poster

That isn’t to say it is a great movie, or a groundbreaking subtle interesting one. It’s very Rajshri in terms of film style. The camera doesn’t move a lot, characters tend to say exactly what they feel, and after a lot of tears, everyone has a super happy ending. Don’t go into it looking for that new age kind of digital filmmaking, with the natural lighting and constant edits, and cool camera angles, and all of that. Or for the new age scripts, that make you try to figure out what people are feeling instead of them just facing the camera and saying exactly what they are feeling.

If you are a fancy film person who likes arty unclear plots and slanty angles and nasty characters, you will not like this movie. But then, you also won’t like this blog! Just this morning, we were all discussing how very much we did not like Bombay Talkie. This movie is the anti-Bombay Talkie. Everyone is super super nice and you will love every character and want what is best for them. And you will never be confused or be challenged to fill in the gaps in the plot, or any of that hard stuff. It’s all pleasant and simple and happy.

And Anil Kapoor. It is also all about Anil Kapoor. The plot revolves around Sonam. And Rajkumar is our entry character. But Anil Kapoor is everything. He is the one with the biggest emotional journey, and it is his emotional journey that changes everything. Not to mention that he is also the most purely “good” character in the film. Not boring good, not noble and speechy like most fathers, but truly truly good. He loves his kids, he loves his mother, he loves his town, he is happy making everyone else happy. He is the perfect man, buried away in a small town in the Punjab, and this movie is about him slowly growing to an even higher level of perfection. I think I can safely say that every woman alive will watch this movie and come out wanting Anil to be either her father or her lover. Or, possibly, a very confused combination of both depending on the scene.

Anil is by far the best character, but no character in this film is underserved. Rajkummar has a backstory and a minor conflict of his own, Juhi does too, they aren’t just there as window-dressing around the main plot. In that way, this is a film that is written better than a lot of those more arty ones, because it manages to fit in many many stories. Or maybe that is just another way it is a throwback, giving us all these nice plots with their own nice resolutions.

So, to sum up, Watch It!!!! If you are reading DCIB, you will like it. If you are not a DCIBer, you may not. It’s kind of corny and sentimental and predictable and has a truly unrealistic happy ending.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS

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.

17 thoughts on “Sunday ReRun: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga! Grand Finale to Juhi Week

  1. I read a lot of lukewarm reviews of this film but when I saw it for myself I loved it. It’s wrapped in a happy, funny family story but underneath it all it’s quietly subversive. I’m thinking in particular about the play when half the audience walks out (the filmmakers anticipating social reaction to the film), and the old man staring quietly at the play and you know he’s seeing his own life reflected there, and finally the little girl who is also transfixed and is a little Sonam starting her own journey. Also, Rajkummar as a true ally, someone who was disappointed in love but instead of being a selfish ass about it helped the woman he loved to achieve her own happiness. Just freakin’ love this movie.

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    • I love that it is telling this important timely message, wrapped up in sweet goodness. No one is really “bad”, everyone is trying their best, we just have to understand each other. And be selfless, think about the people we love, whether it is Sonam finally standing up not for herself but for Regina and the other little girls, or Rajkummar standing up for Sonam, or Anil being inspired to fight the world for his little girl.

      On Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 11:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I also freaking love this movie. Everything about it from Rajkummar to Anil to Sonam to Juhi. Not only is it beautifully crafted with b stories that draw you in but this is the movie India needs to see. That Indians in the diaspora need to see. I have lived a version of this story with some distinct differences but much of it is directly relatable to my own life. I wish I could make everyone see this – I agree Margaret, it would help make the world a better place. I may send it to my folks but they’ll probably have an anxiety attack recognizing themselves and their crappy behavior from around 1988-2003. It was a different time for sure…

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    • Such a beautiful movie! I can’t believe reviewers dismissed it. You don’t have to be dark or serious to tell an important story.

      On Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 3:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It happens so much and it’s really frustrating to me. I’m really stuck in this interesting loop where I keep trying to understand the way that reviewers see things and critic see things and the US audience and the overseas audience and Indian…

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          • OK, I’m going to make you take a deeper dive with me here. I get your overall idea, critics are critical, but what ARE they looking for? Is it masala movies only, is it action? Is it romance that brings them back to the 90s? Is it high production value dance scenes? Because when Indian movies are made more like American movies (Jab Harry Met Sejal, Fan, they’re not happy with that either.)

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          • How about this? Indian critics want Indian movies to not be Indian movies, to instead be Hollywood movies. And part of that is, no matter what the rest of the film is like, if a movie has a big name mainstream star they will consider it too “Indian”. In other words, if JHMS had been made with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra and otherwise been unchanged, it would have gotten good reviews. Where it makes my brain hurt is that attitude of “the star defines the film as mainstream or not” is a very Indian based theory. But they aren’t acknowledging that, they are pretending it is western style “there must be an internal logic, it must be ‘realistic’, love is dead” criticism, while still having the underlying unspoken assumption that a Shahrukh film MUST be mainstream, and therefore JHMS is bad for not being mainstream, but also they hate mainstream films.

            Or we could solve all of this by just letting me yell at Rahul Desai for 8 hours in an interrogation room until I break his brain.

            On Sun, Nov 17, 2019 at 4:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • The star defines the film as mainstream is true because the market prospects of the film differs widely based on the star-in India. An SRK film(with Anushka & Imtiaz Ali) and a Nawazudin film(with Sanya Malhotra)has entirely different set of market potentials. The producers know it,the actors know it.Now the way you market the movie, also gives the idea of what kind of a movie it is. Nivin Pauly’s Muthoon is expected to be a niche artsy movie which may not do well with common audience. But everyone knows that despite it having known stars and getting glowing reviews from critics. The producers are generating revenue by other means.That’s smart marketing. If you market the movie as regular, commerical Bollywood movie set in exotic locations,songs,costumes etc, regular audience will expect to be entertained,not dig out deep meanings of the characters’ torment and muse about it. And I am telling again and again- the critics reviews(especially English ones) are read by a small section. The larger section of audience don’t even bother with critics. So critics reviews really have not much sway over the movie’s boxoffice outcome.
            Also Rahul Desai and most critics out there praised War and few other commerical movies. So I won’t say that they hate masala movies.Just that discerning eyes demand more and you can’t pass off anything in the name of Indian movie & star- at least not in the critics’ reviews.

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      • In fact I think it’s a better way to tell a story that has meaning to it. It’s more accessible to people when you don’t give it dark and serious overtones or undertones. More digestible, so I would’ve thought that it would’ve been helpful, but perhaps it touched some hearts of parents or children who are struggling with excepting themselves and each other for exactly who they are.

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