Friday, April 24, 2020


India is considered a socially conservative country.  With a very diverse population they have learned (except for some riots) to be more tolerant.  In many nations it is the artistc community that leads the way on progressive issues and Bollywood is stepping up to the plate (or maybe I should say wicket).

There have been a few serious movies about homosexuality, such as "My Brother...Nikhil" (2005) but a little humor often softens the hatred and anxiety more effectively.          
"Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga" (2019) received a relatively low rating, partly, I think because of the subject matter, but the subject matter made it more interesting.  If you were unsuspecting they take awhile to alert you to the main theme, that of a lesbian couple trying to join together despite family interference.  We are sidetracked a little with a possible suitor, an unsuccessful playwright who gets dragged into the heroine's struggle.  We learn that he fails at trying to create fictional romances, but does have talent for what he really believes in.  Eventually the two lesbian lovers are accepted by her family and we assume they continue in their relationship.

"Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan" (2020) is pretty open from the beginning that the two gay friends are lovers.  The one has a father who is very upset about the relationship, but at the time is enmeshed in some wedding problems involving a niece.  Some of the younger people are supportive of the relationship.  An arrangement has been made for a bride for one of the two gay men and surprisingly she was pleased to learn of his sexual preference as she wanted to marry a man of a different caste not approved of by her parents.  She suggested the marriage would be a fake and the two could live with their preferred partners.  After lots of feuding and misunderstandings everyone comes to accept the relationship.

A key to understanding such films is with the background of the film makers.

The title "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga" I understand translates to "How I felt when I first saw her."  It relates to the notion that normally when a boy first sees the girl that he loves, his body reacts in a unique way.  For most of us in real or reel life this is understandable and normal.  But some people and not all that uncommon feel the same way when they see someone of their own sex that they love.

P.G. Wodehouse is credited with inspiring the movie.  Only vaguely familiar with him, but my guess is that the mechanism in the story of a play within a play has something to do with it.  To change people's minds about other people it is often suggested you should walk in their shoes.  In this movie a play is presented to demonstrate how "normal" feelings can be different, but "normal" for them.  In the movie a play is presented that at first seems like a traditional romance, but before too long the focus changes and many in the audience feel uncomfortable and some start to leave in disgust.  Others remain, some may even identify with some of the emotions presented and others seem open, perhaps recognizing behavior of someone they know.  In reality it doesn't usually convert a lot of people immediately, but it does open up minds.

Shelly Chopra Dhar was the director and co-writer in her first film.  She was associated with a very popular tv talk show, "The Kapil Sharma Show" that hosted many Bollywood celebrities, including from both films.

Gazal Dhaliwal was a co-writer, responsible for developing the story and dialogue.  She wrote dialogue for "Lipstick Under my Burkha." (2016) that dealt with gender inequality.  In "Qarib Qarib Singille" (2017) with Irrfan Khan and Parvathy Thiruvothu, a Malayalam actress.  I  mention Parvathy because she was the female lead in my second favorite movie of last year  "Uyare" was about a woman wanting to be an airline pilot and had a concern about men throwing acid on women for revenge.  Check it out, it is a better movie than either of the two hi-lited in this post:

Anil Kapoor played a wealthy widower father, upset when he realizes his daughter loves another woman.  The climax of the movie comes when he accepts his daughter's choice.  Anil has over 100 films to his credit including some Americans might be familiar with: "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and  "24" (2010).  He has also been a producer including "Gandhi, My Father." (2007).  According to the director he was the most enthused about the film.

Sonam Kapoor, Anil's real daughter plays the lesbian daughter and has been accused of not being a good actress, but to my mind she does a credible job and was a  big hit with "Neerja" (2016) about the stewardess who thwarted an airplane terrorist act.

Rajkummar Rao is a very busy actor  in demand and a big award winner.  He plays the unsuccessful playwright who finally achieves success when he writes a play he really feels.  Some of his successful films are: "Queen" (2013), "Kai Po Che" (2013), "Newton" (2017) and "Bareilly Ki Barfi" (2017 with Ayushmann Khurrana).

Juhi Chawla was a key reason why I watched "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga" despite its low rating.  She used to be a very big star twenty years ago and I would say has aged well.  She was a leading lady for the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, but afterwards she veered off comedy roles (not entirely) such as "My brother...Nikhil" (2005) in which she played the sister that supported her brother who developed AIDS.  Later as a producer, she was involved with "I Am" that included a segment on a gay victim.  In this movie she plays a comedic character, but one who helps support Sonam playing the lesbian daughter. 

The director/writer Hitesh  Kewalya  of "Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan" had earlier written and won awards for  "Shubh Mangal Saavdhan" (2017) about a man with erectile dysfunction.  Before that he had written for a tv series and short movies. 
Ayushmann Khurrana, the big name star, has a history of movies with social themes.  In this movie he plays the gay man trying to win over the father of his lover.   His first feature was "Vicky Donor" (2012) that was mostly humorous, but dealt with infertility in a moving manner.  Recently that movie was remade in Tamil with less humor and was effective.  which also links to more Ayushmann movie blog posts.  Ayushmann gravitated to movies with social concerns such as  "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" (2015) about a romance with an overweight leading lady and "Badhaai Ho" (2018) about sex with "elderly" parents and "Article 15" (2019) which was deadly serious about caste discrimination.

"Jitendra Kumar played the gay with the father.  He had leading roles in a number of successful tv series.

Gajiraj Rao, played the disapproving father.   He played Ayushmann's father in "Badhaai Ho" who got the mother (played  by Neena Gupta who also played his wife in "Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan"pregnant in their late 40's for which they both won awards..  He also played in the very highly rated "Talvar" (2015).

For many years, Bollywood male leads would never kiss on the mouth (called liplock) the leading ladies.  That has broken down and is very common and some movies are very suggestive.  For "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Ko Aisa Laga" the two female lovers hugged a lot, but never actually kissed on the lips.  In Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan" the two men had prolonged kisses that shocked onlookers. 

I would agree that neither film exhibited the highest professional standards, but were enjoyable.  Humor will probably have a more positive effect as viewers learn gays and lesbians are not a whole lot different than the rest of us.

Movies have been bolded that I have actually seen to indicate an appreciation of the talents involved.

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