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Friday, September 22, 2023

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga: A Beacon of Change for Bollywood & India?

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (ELKDTAL)Initially, there were speculations that this film will be an archetypical Bollywood love story.

However, the trailer conveys how the main character Sweety Chaudhary (Sonam Kapoor) has a ‘secret’.

Her family is looking for a suitable match for her and while there are several good options, she isn’t ready to say yes to any of them.

Bits from the trailer, like showing two women being torn apart by a mob, hint that she has fallen in love with a girl.

This is a mainstream Bollywood film which seems to revolve around LGBTQ+ in a relevant, realistic and mature manner.

Filme Shilmy reflects on some previous on-screen representations of same-sex relationships. 

Subsequently, we further explore why this Vidhu Vinod Chopra production could act as a breath of fresh air for Bollywood and India as a whole.

Bollywood’s Representations of Same-Sex Relationships

In today’s day and age, homosexuality still, to a certain extent, remains a taboo subject.

However, Hindi cinema has not refrained from showcasing same-sex bonds and there are some notable films which do so.

Whilst there is a detailed list of films which do so, we highlight a handful of notable films, with well-known stars, which present this theme. 

Fire (1996)

Fire was one of the first mainstream Bollywood films to explicitly show homosexual relations.

It is one of the bravest endeavours to exhibit homosexual relationships, for which Deepa Mehta also faced a lot of backlash during the time of release.

Starring Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi, the story revolves around how two women, married into the same family, find solace within each other.

Margarita, With a Straw (2014)

In this Shonali Bose film, Kalki Koechlin plays a teenager with cerebral palsy.

She moves to New York City with her mother, a traditional woman, to study at NYU.

There, she meets and falls for a blind Pakistani woman but is also attracted to another man, Jared.

Through this movie, she discovers her bisexuality while balancing her relationship with her mother (played by Revathy).

Kapoor & Sons (2016)

Karan Johar’s family drama Kapoor & Sons is a plethora of emotions with a solid ensemble cast consisting of:

Sidharth Malhotra, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rajat Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Fawad Khan. 

Fawad Khan’s Role is depicted as the sincere and successful eldest son in the family, who later meets Aliaa Bhatt.

Fawad is gay and his mother is the first one to come to know about it.

The movie, without adhering to any stereotypes, portrays the subtle truth of his life.

Why ELKDTAL could be iconic & relevant? 

“From that day, I knew I had to hide my truth… Why does everybody follow a single-tracked mind.”

Whilst these are lines from the Shelly Chopra Dhar directorial, the dialogues reflect the thoughts of every LGBTQ+ member.

Firstly, credits go to writer Gazal Dhaliwal for penning a seemingly effective and sensible storyline.

It is so refreshing to catch the glimpse of a movie which does not stick to the status quo of Bollywood romances.

As such, it is the first time the real father and daughter, Anil and Sonam Kapoor unite on-screen.

However more than this novelty, it is interesting to see whether a father comes to terms with accepting his daughter as a lesbian.

Often in Bollywood, it is the mother who has to deal with acknowledging that their child is gay – as seen in films like Margarita, With A Straw and Kapoor And Sons.

This is perhaps the first mainstream/commercial Hindi film to depict this father-daughter bond.

Furthermore, the trailer gives the impression that Rajkummar Rao is the narrator of this tale and a confidante of Sonam.

Whilst Rao’s role may seem like a secondary one, his perhaps is amongst the crucial characters in the film.

Section 377 Abolishment: Representing the India of today?

The title derives from a popular song in the film 1942: A Love Story – which also stars Anil Kapoor, directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

The movie’s title is quite ironic as 1942 is also a revolutionary love saga and ELKDTAL pushes the envelope. 

Sonam Kapoor is perhaps the best actress to be involved with this project and there are two big reasons for this.

Firstly, she has always and has always extended her support towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Secondly, Kapoor represents the millennial. She is a fashion icon and is a popular face amongst the youth. 

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha has a timely release as it is only recently Section 377, which criminalised sexual acts between people of the same gender, was abolished.

In hindsight, it seems like the film provides hope for a slightly better future for LGBTQ+ people living in India.

The film appears to encourage the acceptance of homosexual people, especially within family and society. 

Consequently, it’s time to ‘Let Love Be’ as the movie releases in cinemas from 1st February.


Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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