Sunday, January 9, 2022

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui--another social breakthrough for Ayushmann

 If you are not familiar with Ayushmann Khurrana, he is unique for Bollywood.  He finds himself in a variety of socially challenging roles. See below for more on his history.  "Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui"(2020) is like a lot of romance comedies, except the focus is a transgender partner.

 Film was in theatres not only in India, but also in Ontario this past December.  Netflix picked it up very recently as there does seem to be streaming competition for Khurrana's films.

Manu's workout business is declining.  His two partners think they should rent out space to a Zumba instructor which not only would attract women fitness seekers, but also get more men who could ogle the women, especially the instructor.  Maanvi is certainly attractive, well spoken and feminine.  

 The reveal comes early, but after a sexual relationship has been established.  Shock and feelings of betrayal.  He didn't know what a trans girl was and went into a fit.  He wanted her to leave the city as well as the business.  His partners pointed out that they were now making money and everyone was happy, including his two sisters who were constantly trying to get him married off.  Word spread quickly and hit a peak when his sisters created a big fuss at a Zumba class that went viral, feeling their brother had been duped, but later blaming him thinking he knew all along.  The healing process takes time and random events before a happy ending.

His two sisters were the first to know and of course told the rest of the family.  Manu's father had been widowed for over a decade and had told his son to marry Maanvi so he, the father, could marry his secret love.  But now he felt downcast and very upset along with his two daughters.  A live in grandfather was kept uninformed, and of course he learned, but wasn't as upset as the others. 

We met her father early in the movie and he seems a doting dad.  Later he tells her he thinks of her as both son and daughter, but we also learn he visits her behind his wife's back.  His wife and a few other relatives already know about the transgender operation and want to avoid her.

We watch Manu view transgender videos and listen to a psychologist help to gradually make him accept the situation.  As often in such films it takes a family crisis and Maanvi's father has a heart attack which his wife attributes to worrying about their son/daughter.  But in truth Maanviis the one he requests to visit.  Manu shows up and realizes that he had been happy with Maanvi and wanted to make up with her.  Of course it is not quite that easy, but the climax is similar to what you might expect, perhaps allowing for a lingering homophobic culture, but if you like rom-coms you will be satisfied.

If you are not a Bollywood fan you might be annoyed by the Punjabi dancing, but it is not too intrusive and reflects joy at different times in the story.  There is humor as you might imagine, but it is not at the so much at the expense of transgenders.

Transgender issues are starting to get noticed, but it is still something that makes many feel queasy.  As Maanvi says she was always a woman inside and decided to be a woman on the outside.  She declared to her mother who was most upset, that she had been the model for what Maanvi wanted to be. The videos that Manu watches are not just for him, but for the audience to understand a little better.

Abhishek Kapoor was director and helped write the script.  He has a unusual history as an actor.  He starred in several films that were shelved.  He has directed some good films:  "Rock on" (2008) and "Kai Po Che" (2013) which he also adapted the script--check   

Supratik Sen wrote much of the dialogue and script and provided the story.  Earlier films involved with included "Kaminey" (2009), "Kai Po Che" (2013), "Parched" (2015) and "Fitoor" (2016).

Music provided by team of Sachin Sanghvi and Jigar Saraiya.  

Ayushmann Khurrana played Manu and was muscled up and portrayed a bit of machoism.  He has developed a reputation for choosing roles with a social element to them.  For example his first feature he was a sperm donor with "Vicky Donor" (2012).   In "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" (2015) he tries to get out of an arranged marriage with an overweight girl better educated than him.  In "Shrubh Mangal Savdhan: (2017) he had erectile disfunction.  In "Article 15" (2015) he played a military officer fighting caste discrimination.  Check:

 Vaani Kapoor played Maanvi at first as a bubbly Zumba instructor, then a rejected lover.  Her films include "Shuddh Desi Romance" (2013) for which she won several debutante awards and "Befikre" (2016).

Anjan Srivastav played Maanvi's understanding father.  He started with films in 1976 including "Chak De! India" (2007) and "Sanju" (2018)

Social concerns can be approached with seriousness, but also with humor.  You can look at unfamiliar situations and become aware of injustices, but sometimes it is effective to laugh.  This movie demonstrates a little of both.  An earlier movie that opened my understanding a little was "Peranbu" (2019), my top movie of 2020.  Not wishing to spoil an excellent movie I would just like to point out that a transgender is part of the solution to an awkward situation.  Check it out as it is an excellent movie:

Except for the transgender angle I would describe this movie as a typical rom-com.  But that is a strength to help us to adjust to a new reality (for many of us).  Watching others overcome social hangups can be therapeutic.

I have bolded the first listing of movies I have seen, admittedly partly due to vanity, but also to establish familiarity with the film.

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