NEW Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga Review! In Honor of Sonam and Rajkummar’s Birthday Week, Why Does This Movie Make You Cry?

Yes, a NEW review! For my fellow ELKDTAL megafans! I’ve watched it, I don’t know, at least 6 times since my theatrical viewing. So I’ve got more stuff to say and more stuff I noticed since then. Oh, and this whole review is SPOILERs, so only read if you’ve already seen the movie.

This is a movie made out of love, and about love. It deals with a minority community not from the side of “us” versus “them”, but “we”. Our queer heroine isn’t here to educate her family or prove a point to greater society, she is here to be a person who is part of a family and part of a society and that family and society are supposed to love her and help her with whatever she needs, just as she helps them when they need something. This movie isn’t here to educate us either. It doesn’t bother to give lectures about history or laws or try to prove somehow that queerness is not “unnatural”. It just asks us to love people, all people, because they deserve to be loved. There is nothing to prove, there is no need for a lecture, the truth it proposes is so simple that we know it by heart, through our hearts, not our minds.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (Original Motion Picture ...

Queerness is unique in terms of minority identities because it can manifest itself in any family. You are born upper class, or lower class, a “good” race or a “bad” race, male or female, and then as you mature suddenly this new aspect of yourself appears and you lose your place of birth, you are left to suddenly fall into a different less-than group. You don’t have a choice about staying where you are or falling into the cracks, not really. To chose a proper life is to choose misery and in many cases, death. The funny thing is, your family does have a choice. If they disown you and cut you out of their lives, they get to maintain their proper status. You are the only person who carries that stain, not them. In the very tight family culture of India, there’s the added burden on the queer person that if they take all the misery and darkness into themselves, they can hold that poison away from their family. Their life, sacrificed for the lives of those they love.

A Queer person is already carrying the heavier burden, they are starting from the point of knowing they are the problem and the solution is to kill themselves (metaphorically or literally). When they are a queer woman in Indian society, that message is doubled. You are already not supposed to exist, a burden on your family, your desires (sexual and otherwise) unjustified and unwelcome. The solution to queer social issues is not to say “Queer person, why don’t you carry a heavier load? Why don’t you also take on the job of educating your family, changing society, fighting your battles?”, it is to say “I love you, let me share your load with you.”

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga Review: Sonam Kapoor, Rajkummar ...

And that brings me to this movie. So far as I can tell, only one person involved in this film is Queer. The 4 leads, Juhi and Anil and Sonam and Rajkummar, are all in long term love relationships with someone of the opposite sex. The writer/director Shelly Chopra Dhar is married to a man. The producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra is married to a woman. Only the co-writer Gazal Dhaliwal is Queer, a transgender woman.

I know there is a rumor that Sonam “stole” the role from another actress, that Anil cut a deal to get his part, and so on and so forth. But cut through all that dust swirling around, and you are left with a phalanx of powerful straight people standing up and saying “I will be here for you, I will take on the burden of telling your story so you do not have to do it one more time, I will carry that burden.” Gazal wrote this story, Shelly Chopra Dhar offered to finish it and direct it, Vidhu Vinod Chopra offered to finance it, these 4 major names agreed to star in it and get it in theaters, and they all did it out of love.

This film was not promoted as a “groundbreaking” gay story. Sonam and Anil and all the rest got no virtue credit for being part of it, or even gained name recognition through it. Often it feels like only 10% of the world even remembers this film exists. But it also feels like that 10% is the 10% who matter, the 10% whose story it is telling.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga: Dostana all over again - Rediff ...

This is not a movie for the wider society to “learn” about Queer issues and fight their way to some kind of intellectual understanding. This is a movie for Queer people and their loved ones, and that is all it was ever intended to be. That should also mean it is a movie for everybody. I am not Queer, no one in my immediate family is either. But there is a little girl in my Sunday school class who I am pretty sure will discover she is Queer when she hits puberty, and I love her. My best friend is married to a woman, and I love her. It’s in human nature to love those around us, and if 10% (at least) of those around us are Queer, then all humans should care about these stories because they are the stories of those we love.

This is a love story, but not a love story between two woman, instead it is a love story between one Queer woman and the whole world of people who love her. Our hero Rajkummar falls in love with Sonam at first sight. When he learns she is gay, he still loves her. He loves her enough to worry about her, to want her to be happy, to work towards her happiness. Sonam suggests she should just marry some random man and give up, and Rajkummar is horrified. Because he loves her, and he does not want her to be unhappy. He doesn’t have to read up on queerness online, or have an awakening, he just has to follow his heart and what he feels for Sonam.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga review - lesbian groundbreaker is ...

Sonam’s brother has known she is gay almost her whole life, he was there in school when she struggled and had crushes and was excluded. And because he loves her, he wishes it weren’t true, he wishes she could be safe from all the people that might hurt her. In another film, we would see the angry evil brother attacking her and that is it. But in this movie, we see them as little children and the way he tried to protect and cherish her back then. We see him in the present so happy at the thought of her marriage, ready to accept any man she might love, ready to spoil any children she might have. Her queerness didn’t make him hate her, it just made him love her more, and be ready to do whatever it took to defend her from herself. It made him hold her closer, not push her farther away. It was a wrong reaction, he did wrong things, but he did them out of love. Everyone in this movie does things out of love.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga actor Abhishek Duhan: I was at the ...

The real love story here, the center of it all, is the love story between father and daughter. It is a bit pat and simple to see Anil change his mind and come around completely to acceptance within hours of Sonam coming out to him. But what else could he do? He loves her too much to not come around. And this story, I think, is a lot more common than we might expect. Not that someone comes to a full perfect exactly articulated acceptance within hours, but that someone who has spent their whole life saying “homosexuality is a sin”, will see that “sin” in someone they love and do a complete reversal with shocking speed.

Anil’s sudden shift at the end to acceptance and love and defense was foreshadowed through out the film. Right at the beginning, we saw Anil burst into the wedding celebrations and seek out Sonam. We saw him casually talking with other wedding guests about a groom that might be “good enough” for Sonam. In her childhood flashbacks, we see her sitting cuddled on his lap while her brother sits on the floor, we see him coming up with a special nickname for her, we see him sharing the secret of his cooking with her, Sonam has been the love of Anil’s life her whole life. He is already an “unconventional” father, just a bit, because he is lead by love. While other fathers might ignore their daughter in preference for their son, or avoid parenting duties as “unmanly”, while other fathers might look at a groom search in terms of selling their daughter instead of their daughter picking from all the men of the world, while other fathers would bulk at their daughter marrying for love outside of their religion, Anil does none of that. He has been lead by his heart as a parent straight through. Accepting Sonam’s queerness is the most dramatic moment of his parenting, but not out of line with everything he has done up until now.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga Box Office Collection Day 5: Sonam ...

In a meta way, that is what this film is arguing about queer love stories. Yes, having a love story between two young women is new. But what is not new is the story of a family coming around to a love they initially disapproved of, what is not new is the story of a child trying to kill their love in order to please their parents, what is not new is Hindi movies leading from the heart to convince us to look past our prejudices.

This is a new story, but it is also as old as the human heart. Children fearing to hurt or disappoint their parents, parents fighting to defend their children, young people falling in love, it has always been there and will always be there. Just as there have always been stories sent out into the world to reach the particular hearts that need to hear them, and no others.

Maybe that is why people cry? Not everyone, not even for me, but for the queer woman I know this movie can make you cry and cry. I think perhaps it is the shock and relief of feeling so much love coming straight to you. All of these people made this movie, just to say “you are loved, you belong, we love you”. When you have been starved for that message for so long, when it feels like your culture has turned aside and ignored your very existence, feeling it come towards you, and only you, will make you cry. Because you are seen, finally seen. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha to Aisa Laga.

11 thoughts on “NEW Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga Review! In Honor of Sonam and Rajkummar’s Birthday Week, Why Does This Movie Make You Cry?

  1. That last paragraph really got me in the feels 🥺. Beautifully written. This film didn’t make me cry either but I know it means a lot to many queer desis.

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  2. Yea this film hits differently than those usual white boy coming out stories that are more in the media, not that they aren’t important, but they don’t speak to me on the same level as this movie did when I first watched it I started crying from the first song onwards.

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    • And of course those white boy coming out stories get more attention, because the hero is only just slightly different from everyone in power. A reviewer is going to like a movie that is about another white boy who just happens to be gay, more than a movie about a woman who happens to be gay.

      On Sat, Jun 13, 2020 at 4:55 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Even book wise there are so many self-published (maybe physical, but mostly e-book or Kindle) wise much better in finding LGBTQ stories that seem to appeal to me.

        Like ‘Gift of Spring’ by Shira Glassman with Historical fantasy romance with a trans heroine, Jewish hero, and set in Bavaria and then there’s ‘A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams’ by Dax Murray that is an LGBTQ and polyamerous (rare to find a story that isn’t all negative about it) story that is a retelling of Swan Lake.

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  3. It also hits differently than finally getting a nice little rom-com between two women. That is something I can feel starved for while the market is flooded with straight rom-coms, and that I immensely appreciate as a result.

    But ELKDTAL isn’t primarily that, that much we have established. Margaret, you probably have a point about it showing the love of the community for our heroine – more so than the classic Hindi films about forbidden love, in fact. But maybe that’s appropriate, too. After all, this is about identity, too, not just about the one person she happened to fall for.

    Anyways, my feels indeed get hit the hardest when I think about the meta aspects of it. Would it be the same if these were known queer actors? Or if they were less famous? I’m not sure. The thing is, to me ELKDTAL seems almost the perfect movie for coming out to your loved ones. And part of that are the trailers that are almost able to let you go into the first half unspoiled, part of that is its almost obscurity. But part of that is also the queer person in question being able to sell it as a nice family movie with Anil and Juhi and Sonam and Rajkummar. And I feel like all of that was on purpose. And it means all those people put their effort into a film that was never going to be, never meant to be, a blockbuster. That is just – it’s not a good professional decision, so I just have to read it as a personal commitment. And getting that personal commitment from someone who doesn’t stand to personally gain anything from it: Yes, that is indeed touching, humbling even.

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    • It’s about falling in love, and also finding acceptance and someone “like me”. So much of Sonam’s character was pure loneliness, thinking she was the only person who had ever had these feelings. Regina for her was both her first requited love, and the first gay woman she had met. The film chose to focus more on that second part of Sonam’s journey than the first, I think. And that loneliness and fear for Sonam, that was something her community could (and should) have helped with. If she had been able to talk to her father the first time she fell in love with her friend in middle-school, or gotten romantic advice from her big brother, she would have been a happier person.

      Making it a love story almost feels like the message would have been “if only she hadn’t met this person and fallen in love, it all would have been fine”. But this movie is saying “it wasn’t fine even before that, she was sad and lonely since childhood”. Love story-shmove story, that sadness was already there.

      Which is another way you are right, it’s a coming out movie! It’s not a date movie, not something cute to watch and feel romantic, it’s a movie that says “whether I am in love or not, this is what I need from my family”.

      On Sat, Jun 13, 2020 at 10:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • So can I guess that you personally are most touched by the way Sonam tries to take the pain onto herself and keep it away from her family? That IS a really important message.

        I’m just lucky enough to have never experienced something like that, so I can’t really relate on an emotional level. I managed to be in denial until those around me were ready to accept me. And then my dad went on to give this awesome talk to his Rotary Club of rich old white men about how I was planning this amazingly traditional wedding and how it should be allowed to be legally called a wedding, too. You’re right: When I remember that, it’s pretty much the same kind of touching love from your loved ones as ELKDTAL conveys.

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        • I think I am most touched by Sonam as a sad little girl. She’s just so sad! And so little!!!! She shouldn’t have to deal with all that! Which I guess is partly her taking all that pain into herself.

          Awwwww, your Dad!!!!! That’s great. And I am glad you got to have the wedding you wanted, no matter what it was called.

          On Sun, Jun 14, 2020 at 4:20 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I felt really overwhelmed with your views and opinions, and the way you have expressed your feelings about LGBTQ+ community. And I’m thank you for that.
    But related this movie! Umm it’s just a commercial movie which they thought and bring just after the SC decriminalize Sec 377. I’m not saying that story was not good. But I’m totally disagreeing the way they portrayed it. Plus this was not the first indian LGBT movie about a lesbian relationship. And other thing please stop stereotype how Indian brothers or fathers behave!
    And the main problem was the lead, I just wished they had shoot with some other actors. You are mentioning that only 10℅ ppl know abt this movie, so fault is not only with the sloppy story line but with cast too( Sonam and his Father).
    If you want to watch some good LGBT stuff of Bollywood then go watch this latest Sheer Qorma (not yet released in India), Evening Shadow, Aligarh, Fire (classic movie) and many more.
    Thank You.

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    • Thank you for your comment! I am glad you enjoyed the review.

      Section 377 was struck down just 4 months before this movie released. It was in production long before then. There was a changing opinion on the ground which affected the Section 377 decision and the creation of this movie, I am sure, but there is no straight line one to the other.

      It is the first mainstream Hindi Lesbian film. Fire was produced overseas and barely granted an Indian release, it was not mainstream nor was it Indian made.

      I am not sure how the cast could have made the film better known, there are some very big names involved, if the goal was name recognition I can’t think of a better cast short of bringing in someone like the three Khans.

      I reread my post carefully, and in my description of Anil Kapoor I do mention how his behavior is not the same as other fathers. But there is nothing in this post about Indian brothers, just our heroine’s particular brother and what he does. I am pretty comfortable with the minimal generalizations I made and do not think they are stereotypes.

      What is remarkable about this movie is that, unlike the others you mention, it is mainstream. That’s what makes it risky and unusual. It was not sent to film festivals overseas, it was not slanted to appeal to the Indian intellectual, it took the risk that the mainstream audience could relate to this story.

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