A Lesbian Love Story In Mainstream Bollywood? Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga Has Our Vote

One can already sense, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga will be important for starting a discourse around sexuality in the middle-class Indian living room

Mainstream Bollywood has turned over a new leaf today. With the trailer of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga dropping, we’ve finally been given a mainstream Bollywood film whose leading lady is not a heterosexual woman pining over a man. In spite of the film’s kid-glove treatment of its lesbian protagonist, one can already sense how Shelly Chopra Dhar’s film will be significant towards starting a discourse around sexuality in the middle-class Indian living room.

It’s one thing for a Nandita Das in Fire or a Kalki Koechlin in Margarita With A Straw to play a lesbian protagonist, and quite another for a Sonam Kapoor to venture into such a role. The scale is different, the sensibilities of the audience watching the film is quite different too. And that’s why it’s only admirable that Sonam Kapoor has taken on a role, in a film so firmly rooted in the sarson-ke-khet-interpretation of Bollywood’s Punjab. And yet, it is important to acknowledge how Sonam’s character is a sum of all the choices made by the likes of Nandita Das, Kalki Koechlin, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose and Fawad Khan.

What could possibly go wrong in a film like this? It could be a serious problem if the makers treated it merely as a faux ‘issues’ film, that’s trying to stand out in the crowd of standard rom-coms. It’s bad enough that the makers chose to call the film an ‘unusual love story’, that possibly preaches there’s nothing ‘unusual’ about a love story between two women. The duo of Anil Kapoor-Rajkummar Rao only recently starred in Fanne Khan, that took the issue of fat-shaming and external beauty, and tried to make them ‘entertaining’ for consumption.

Will this film be more of the same? We can’t know for sure. But one sincerely hopes that in its pursuit of the mainstream audiences’ approval, the film hasn’t diluted its central conflict and alienated its protagonist. Named after that immortal RD Burman song (also starring Anil Kapoor in a film produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra), one can hope for this film to have at least a fraction of the integrity.

Here’s the trailer of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga:

P.S – What a joy to see Rajkummar Rao do the lover-boy routine with all his sincerity! Also, what a joy to see Anil Kapoor flirt with his 90s co-star Juhi Chawla after all these years. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga releases on Feb 1, 2019.