Dear Sonam Kapoor and team,
Before anything else, thank you.
Growing up in the 2000s, with a steady diet of 90s- 00s Bollywood flicks and Star TV love stories, a lot of us developed a penchant for the desi touch in all the arts.
Just last year, I issued a very public demand on Facebook, asking Indian filmmakers to skip the arthouse angle and make a queer, larger-than-life, Dharma Productions-scale love story between two Indian women. We’ve seen it happen for gay men in the mainstream (albeit insipidly) in Bombay Talkies, and there’s even some tasteful representation in the shape of Kapoor and Sons.
But to see our Veera bring that energy for the L (maybe even B) of the LGBTQ+ in the trailer is heartening. It’s also had almost all queer desi girls in splits, weeping and then applauding through the tears.
Before the launch of the trailer of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, our search for a woman-loves-woman movie made for brown women, would take us to remote corners of the internet which just didn’t match up the the Bollywood zing we so craved.
If like me, others also bought into the implausible fairytale romances and if they too, begrudgingly sailed off to mustard fields with a certain Raj, Rahul or Aman, but later discovered they actually wanted Simran, Anjali or Naina instead, this is a victory.
All of us gay, filmy women in India are heaving a collective, cathartic sigh of relief. This may just be our respite from the predominantly misogynistic, heteronormative narrative that our Bollywood love stories (in a breach of faith) have so far fed us. Just like Sweety in the trailer, we’ve been screaming, “Sabka dimaag ek hi direction mein kyun chalta hai?”
Ek Ladki ko Dekha toh Aisa Laga is a big break for the LGBTQ+ community in general; here’s a movie that’s treating a gay relationship in India with the gravitas it demands, while trying not to take itself too seriously. It doesn’t seem to be trivialising the self-inflicted censorship and the secrets borne by queer women. It also attempts to tackle the position of “playing along” with an externally imposed heterosexuality even though it creates so much dissonance and tension within.
Sweety agrees to see all the men that her father tries to set her up with, she listens and nods readily but her expressions give away her disenchantment with the idea of marrying these men. The smile that appears on her face as the woman who’s quite possibly her girlfriend, takes her away from Raza, another potential suitor, reveals her relief.
Whilst wrestling with these tricky elements, Ek Ladki ko Dekha toh Aisa Laga doesn’t seem to be losing its lightness. The trailer has glimpses of mustard fields, parandiyan, wide angle shots, close-ups, the development of a parallel “personal partnership” between Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla and most importantly it has the structure of a quintessential filmy love story complete with the Amrish Puri type of “syaapa.”
The film is also important because it is not only making gay women visible in a society where such an identity is lost on most, but is also actively trying to make space for them in a culture that is blatantly homophobic, where “the lesbians” are paraded as fetishised tools for toxic comedy shamelessly; just watch the first 15 minutes of the ultra-flop movie Befikre.
Going by the trailer, Ek Ladki ko Dekha toh Aisa Laga is packed with great potential and even greater promises. The main conflict in my mind as a viewer after watching the trailer is whether the paucity of screen time and dialogues for the women on whose relationship the story is centred, is reflective of the whole film, or is simply a marketing strategy to keep the audience speculating.
Here’s to hoping that Rajkumar Rao’s character doesn’t become a male saviour-adjacent in the narrative of two ‘non-normative’ women; that the voices of the men in the movie don’t wash out the women’s. Otherwise it will be edging too close to tokenism in this climate of vigorous activism.
Overall, the trailer has me hooked and reeled in. One particular bit towards its end is one to savour and mull over – Sweety’s girlfriend is reaching back for her hand while running playfully and she grabs hold of it as the music to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga plays in the background. It made me think to myself, “Thank god, my DDLJ moment is here, and it’s queer.”
Damini Yadav is a 19- year- old psychology major, film fanatic, somewhat poet and writer and overall a typical DU kid.
Featured image: Twitter