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For the longest time, Hindi cinema portrayed homosexuality very irresponsibly. Gay men were shown flicking their hands while conversing with other people and lusting after men all the time. In the last few years, however, things have changed for the better. Alternate sexuality and same-sex love has been portrayed rather sensitively in films like ‘Dedh Ishqiya’, ‘Aligarh’ and ‘Kapoor And Sons’, among others. ‘Kapoor And Sons’, a film backed by one of the leading production houses in the country, was dressed as a fun and frothy family drama and it was interesting how several issues, including the reluctance in Indian families towards accepting homosexuality, were addressed in a subtle and effective way in the film. Just like ‘Kapoor And Sons’, ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ is top-lined by a cast comprising of mainstream actors and bankrolled by a major production house. However, unlike the Karan Johar production, the trailer of this film made it clear what the film is trying to talk about.

Balbir Singh Choudhary (Anil Kapoor) is one of the wealthiest men in Punjab and runs a company that manufactures and sells apparels. Balbir lives with his son Babloo (Abhishek Duhan), daughter Sweety (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja) and mother (Madhumati Kapoor).  They are a close-knit family and lead a very happy life together. One day, all hell breaks loose as Babloo breaks the news of Sweety having an affair with a Muslim man named Sahil Raza (Rajkummar Rao). While Sahil has feelings for Sweety, she does not like him. She, in fact, never had feelings for a man. Sahil is a little taken aback when he discovers this but decides to help Sweety in reuniting with the love of her life.

If you replace the two protagonists with a heterosexual man and a woman, the story would seem similar to the kind you have seen in several other Hindi films. Barring a few surprising turns, the film trudges along a smooth albeit predictable path. Having said that, there is so much to appreciate in this film that aims to deliver an important message in an entertaining manner. We often categorise certain subjects or issues as those belonging to the urban world.  It is interesting to witness the story of a young woman, hailing from a small town, declaring her love for a woman. As far as the largely predictable plotline is concerned, maybe the makers wanted to take the audience through a familiar route while talking about an issue which might make a large section of the country a little uncomfortable. Just like the people in film who come to watch the play, the makers were well aware of the sensibilities of the audience they were catering to. The film seeks to put across the point everybody should have the choice of leading the kind of life they want to lead. Balbir is shown as a person who dreamt of becoming a chef but till date, he is barred from entering the kitchen by his mother who believes that it is not befitting of men to work in the kitchen.

Sonam Kapoor Ahuja delivers a sincere performance as Sweety. The actress is known to speak about pertinent issues off camera and by doing this film, she proves that she is somebody who walks the talk. The writers could have further worked on adding more layers to her character though. Anil Kapoor portrays the viciousness of a man who likes to enjoy his life to the fullest and the worriedness of a father equally well. Rajkummar Rao brings out the earnestness and the goodness in Sahil wonderfully to the fore. Abhishek Duhan is very good as the Sweety’s loving but close-minded brother. Regina Cassandra, a popular name down South, makes a confident debut in Hindi films. Brijendra Kala evokes humour in several scenes. Madumati Kapoor and Seema Pahwa pitch in with effective performances.

Shelly Chopra Dhar makes a very confident debut as a director. Kudos to her for choosing to tell such an important story in her first outing. The screenplay, co-written by her and Ghazal Dhaliwal, does not boast of much novelty but keeps you engaged. While the first half drags at places, the second half is extremely entertaining and evocative. The songs (Rochak Kohli) are pleasant and nicely woven into the narrative. The editing (Ashish Suryavanshi) is quite crisp and plays an important part in a film like this where certain information is meant to be concealed from the viewers till a particular point in the film.

‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ discuss a topic which continues to be taboo in the Indian society. The makers smartly deliver the message while packaging the film as a conventional family drama. There is a lot that could have been done here but an A-list actress portraying the role of a woman with alternate sexuality in a film produced by a big production house signals a change and one should be happy about it.