Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui Review (SPOILERS): A Love Story About A Very Strong Woman

What a surprisingly good movie! Not perfect, there’s a dodgey bit in the middle that I might fastfoward in future, but the rest of it is very VERY good. Especially Vaani’s performance.

Whole plot in two paragraphs:

Vaani is a trans woman. She is starting her first job as a woman teaching Zumba at a local gym. Her family is wealthy and her father supports her in every way, but she wants something for herself. Besides her father, the rest of her family has cast her off so she lives alone in Chandigarh with the support of her close friend gender non-binary Karishma Singh (I think, I’m having a hard time figuring out the cast list). At her new job, she meets a weight lifter and co-owner of the gym, Ayushmann Khurrana. They like each other, they get to know each other, and then he invites her to a Holi party and they have sex. Immediately, they are passionately in love, talking all night, having sex in the locker room, everything is perfect. Until Ayushmann proposes and Vaani painfully reveals that she was born in a boy’s body. Ayushmann can’t process what she is saying and is furious and storms out. But later at the gym when he tells his friends, he fights them when they use a slur to describe her. And he doesn’t out her to her gym students or to his family who have all met and like her. His family keeps pressuring him to propose, so finally he goes to Vaani and asks for her help to convince the family they have broken up. She refuses to help, because it is his problem. Ayushmann misses her more and more and feels sadder and sadder. He starts researching what it means to be trans, and finally asks the local Hijra to have coffee with him and help him understand, then goes to a doctor for more information. With all of this to think about, he is shocked when his family finds out and insults her and yells at him, finally his sisters out Vaani in front of her class, humiliating her. Ayushmann goes to apologize and learns that Vaani’s father is in the hospital. He follows her to the hospital and supports her as she stands up to her family and demands her right to be there. He begs her to take him back, says he loves her and wants to be with her, and then stands up to his own family when they tell him to leave her. Finally, he wins the big weight lifting competition and brings her down from the stands to celebrate with him, kissing her and acknowledging their relationship in front of his family and friends.

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021) - IMDb

The first half is where this film really shines. We are with Vaani all the way. We feel her excitement mixed with fear as she starts to fall in love. And her excitement mixed with fear just as she goes about her day, being happy when people turn to look at her because she is a beautiful woman, but also a little bit afraid that they might find her “secret”. One of my favorite parts is when the Hijra stops their taxi to beg. Ayushmann casually gives her money, but Vaani looks down and away. We can feel her fear that like will recognize like and she will be outed, mixed with guilt over her privileged position, having surgery and medical help and being able to “pass” without needing to beg on the street. She and Ayushmann fall in love naturally and sweetly, no big hiccups, they like each other, she helps him when he hurts his nose at the gym, he asks her to take a walk with him, they talk about family and life and light things like that. We can feel her conflict, because clearly this man likes her, and she likes him, and it really SHOULDN’T matter that she was born in a male body, but at the same time does she have the right to keep that from him?

The one part that is no good is in the middle. Ayushmann finds out and reacts with anger and disgust. BOOOOOO!!!! I do think that, as someone in a relationship, you are allowed to say “I’m sorry, this is something I just can’t do”. But anger and disgust is NOT ACCEPTABLE. The odd thing is, after that ten minute section, his whole attitude changes so drastically I almost wonder if the angry bit was added in a later re-write. He goes from being angry, to just being sad that they aren’t together any more. And finally to putting in the work he needs to do so that they can be together again. In my edit of the film, I will just fastfoward the stupid ten minutes and go from reveal to “I’m sad we can’t be together and maybe I should figure out how we can be together”.

But the rest of it is SO GOOD. It’s all about Vaani. I love that we are coming in after she has fully transitioned. She had her surgeries 6 years earlier. She even had a previous relationship with a man. This isn’t the usual sort of “coming out” story. This is about how life is just always going to be hard. She is always going to be in danger, she is always going to be a little scared when she is out in the world, and her family is going to change, if at all, very very slowly. And on the other hand, she also is going to be loved and loving and have a new family. Her friend is amazing, right there for her, understanding, defensive, loving, everything you want in a family. And her father loves her unconditionally, as parents should, and is sad that she had to move far away from him and that his wife and other family won’t let her be a part of their life. And yes, he isn’t going to leave his wife and everyone else for the save of his daughter, but he will do everything short of leaving them in order to help her. And that’s settled too, that she and her father will be close forever, and he will pay for her medical procedures, but he has to lie about business trips in order to come visit her.

Just so many small issues the film touches on before moving on. Vaani is this rich well-educated woman, but she is working as a Zumba instructor. The Hijra Ayushmann talks to quotes Shakespeare and says she was an English BA. Being trans drops you economically several degrees down from where you were born, the film doesn’t have to say it, it just shows it. We see Vaani going about her daily life, and it involves taking pills twice a day, going in for electrolysis, going to a therapist, this is life long for her, but also manageable, not traumatic, just regular. And we see her say “thank you” when Ayushmann has sex with her, because her greatest desire is also her greatest fear, sex.

One of the things I liked best is that she frequently referred to herself as a “trans girl”. That’s a very clear word choice. She could say “transsexual”, or “Hijra”. But instead she chooses a phrase which says “I am a girl, just in a different way”. And that’s why I am okay with Vaani being cast. Yes, it would have been better if a trans woman was cast in the role. But let’s assume they asked and couldn’t find anyone. I am far FAR happier to have a woman in the part than a man. Because it is a woman’s part, the character is a woman. That’s the whole point of the film, she is a woman end of sentence. Especially because this isn’t a transition story, this is a post-transition story. She had the operations, she takes the hormones, she is a woman in every sense besides being born with a vagina and uterus. Why not cast a woman to play the role?

Akshay Kumar's 'Laxmii' gives transgenders a place in society
We’ve had Vijay Sethupathi and Akshay Kumar both recently play transgender, I find that more inaccurate than casting Vaani in this film.

Anyway, what I am saying is you should all watch this movie. Yes, the middle ten minutes are bad, and the ending is maybe too happy and perfect (his whole family comes around? Really?), but the rest of it is excellent. And Vaani’s character and performance are just outstanding.

17 thoughts on “Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui Review (SPOILERS): A Love Story About A Very Strong Woman

  1. I really liked this movie, minus the transphobia from the sisters and the breakup with Ayushmann. It was so nice that it was so non-preachy from Ayushmann’s end and that he had to be the one to be lectured to. I loved that for once the patriarch of the family was the one giving all the support for Maanvi, while her mother was the one who was hesitant. A refreshing change from the stereotypical hard patriarchs we usually see in these kinds of movies. Made me cry at certain points, because my bar was very low, and yet it surpassed it by just being compassionate and making it clear that Maanvi was the protagonist. Vaani was so good in this! Befikre levels of acting, once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mean, having Vaani be the protagonist, and being so sensitive about it, should be a low bar but really isn’t. I can’t think of another movie from any industry that manages it.

      On Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 10:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. All I’ve seen is the preview that Netflix forces me to watch while I search for the movie I want to see – but that preview has a lot of body oggling. So knowing that she is playing a trans girl, but is not trans, and that the cameral oggles her body, the body of a female without assistance – it just seems like the plot would be so much more meanful if she was actually trans. The audience has to have a lot of suspension of disbelief to swallow that she is trans, because they know she isn’t. BUT if it was a beautiful trans girl in the part, then that suspension of disbelief would be thrown in the trash and it would be something that could, could, could – accomplish its goals?

    Anyway, finding out that Vaani is playing a trans girl makes me really uncomfortable.

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    • I shouldn’t have even brought up the casting! Sorry it was a distraction. It really feels natural in the role. And since they wanted someone with the best possible post-transition appearance, that’s a really limited number of options in India. And maybe none of them wanted the part. Next best choice for me is casting a talented actress to play it.

      And they also hit hard the message that this is a woman, and always was a woman. So, in that large sense, why not cast a woman to play her?

      On Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 3:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Before you brought up the casting in your writing my head was spinning with “WHY DIDN’T THEY CAST A TRANS WOMAN?”, and I had to force myself to focus and read the whole review. So the fact that you mentioned it was a relief. I worry that the message “this is a woman, and always was a woman” is negated when you cast a woman. But I haven’t seen the movie. I have liked, but never loved an Ayushmann movie. Often I’ll like everyone in the movie but him, but not always.

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        • Luckily, Ayushmann isn’t the lead in this movie, it’s Vaani. I was bracing myself for another big speeches and Learning about Issues role from him, and then she was the one who got all the big speeches and he just stood there like a dumbo listening.

          On Thu, Jan 13, 2022 at 3:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          Liked by 1 person

  3. I read some trans comments on it, their criticisms are focused on the fact that it is a trans movie for cis people which they think shows in details of Maanvi’s life and the way her experiences are portrayed. Which is right on the money, I thought. Also the casting, which, sure.

    I think as a trans movie for cis people, it is very good, but it is sad that so many trans people felt so excluded by it. Let’s face it, like with the gay movies, the bar is on the floor, so this is much better than everything else but eh.

    I’m not the audience (obviously) so as a movie I found it pretty boring, I hope it does some good.

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    • Link to the trans commentary if you find any real good stuff, please!

      The last two trans movies I saw from India are Peranbu, which was SUPER dark but also very good with how the Hijra character is handled. And cast an actual trans woman in the role. And then the other one was Super Deluxe in which a male actor played the role and the more I thought about it, the more I HATED it.

      And now, you should watch those other two movies and tell me what yout hink! Especially you should have on Super Deluxe with me because no one else seems to hate it like me.

      On Thu, Jan 13, 2022 at 12:49 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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