Bollywood. Lesbians. Elaborate stage productions. Bit of a spoiler there, but I can’t imagine viewers who seek out this film are overly committed to a heteronormative love story. If you are…eh, watch The Notebook again I guess?
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I Felt When I Saw That Girl)
A playwright pursues a young woman with a secret: she is in love with another woman.
Sweety’s family is a lively bunch, as evidenced by their joyful celebrations at a wedding all attend. In contrast, Sweety herself is rather quiet and reserved, shying away from the spotlight. Now that she has graduated from university, there seems to be only one expectation for her: find a husband and settle down. When a potential suitor at the wedding expresses interest with the help of his wingman sister, Sweety perks up–so why is she still in the small Punjabi town of Moga one year later when he has moved to London?
Practically under house arrest because of her brother Babloo’s disapproval, Sweety is determined to escape to London. She is eager to attend art school…but also plans to start a life there with her lover. Fate takes an unexpected turn when Sweety hides from her brother in the audience of a theatrical rehearsal. Catching the attention of the playwright Sahil, Sweety bluntly tells him the play is terrible; it’s clear the writer has never been in love.
Unfortunately, Babloo chooses this moment to interrupt, even getting into a fistfight with Sahil on a train car. Booked at the police station, Sahil uses the opportunity to gather some details–like where the siblings live.
Sweety lives with her family in a beautiful house. Her father owns a garment factory, making him one of the wealthiest people in Moga–though his real passion is cooking. Angry with Sweety’s reckless actions that may bring shame to the family, Babloo tells his father that Sweety is dating a Muslim man in secret. The truth is there is no Muslim man; in fact, there is no man at all, but a woman. Even this comparably minor revelation causes upheaval in the household, and her father forbids the match.
This makes for some chaotic mistaken identity scenarios when Sahil arrives in town with aspiring actress Chatro to teach acting classes, clearly a front for spending time with Sweety. Believing the man in the kitchen to be the family’s cook, Sahil asks Sweety’s father Babil to deliver a letter to her.
After finally receiving Sahil’s messages, Sweety joins his acting class along with her grandmother. Both Sahil and Chatro are invited to the family’s house party. Balbir is instantly smitten when he meets Chatro, who runs a catering business and cooks divinely.
Meanwhile, Sahil gets drunk as family members push a host of suitors towards Sweety. Fed up when Sahil declares he’d like to marry her, Sweety reveals the truth at last–she won’t marry any man because she’s in love with a woman. Sahil very rudely laughs out loud…but don’t worry, he’ll stop being an asshole pretty quickly. The next day, Sweety meets Sahil and explains in detail the bullying and self-loathing she experienced as a child. Now a lovely and supportive bestie, Sahil is determined to help her.
Meanwhile, Balbir’s modern girlfriend opens up his mind with new ideas; perhaps Sweety marrying a Muslim man wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. Balbir gives his blessing for Sweety and Sahil’s marriage, which is now the last thing either party wants. However, Sweety is tired of disappointing her family and agrees to go along with it. But don’t worry–there are schemes.
As the most self-indulgent playwright ever, Sahil convinces Balbir to sponsor a play that will also promote the company’s new fashions. The play will teach the audience to accept love in all its forms, rather unsubtly starring Sweety and her girlfriend Kuhu, the woman from the earlier wedding.
Everything seems to be going to plan–that is, until Babloo recognizes Kuhu and reveals Sweety’s shocking secret. The family will never be the same; can they learn to love and accept each other as they are?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m an inherently biased reviewer as I am always on board for a lesbian romance film. However, I’ll start with some critiques: this isn’t necessarily as fun as I expected, the pacing is quite uneven (the first half is pretty boring, honestly), and the dance numbers don’t stack up when compared with some other Bollywood offerings. It’s also really difficult to watch Sweety very passively accept terrible things for most of the film; GIRL, stand up for yourself! And OF COURSE we never get a kiss between our two leads, whereas I’m positive a hetero couple would’ve gotten more onscreen action.
I do enjoy the minor characters and members of Sweety’s family (except Babloo) who feel real with all of their quirks. I’m officially obsessed with Anil Kapoor (Kartar in last week’s pick), who is apparently Sweety’s father IRL??!?!
While the message isn’t subtle and feels a bit after-school special at times, this film’s strength is its heart. The film is firmly rooted in its beliefs and uses them to share an activist message about the acceptance of LGBTQ people. Sahil is such a good friend and I love that he becomes such a wonderful ally. The relationship between Sweety and her father is so lovely in the end (spoiler?), and I adore the way compassion and acceptance drive his actions. I DARE you to tell me you didn’t at least tear up in the last few scenes.
The people have spoken, Bollywood: give us more lesbian romance!