Since India decriminalized homosexuality last September, it left many in anticipation of what Bollywood rom-coms would now look like. Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga was a satisfactory response to this anticipation. Although, the film begins with a traditional boy meets girl narrative. For Sahil (Rajkummar Rao) it is love at first sight and he is now hell-bent on tracking Sweety (Sonam K Ahuja) down and professing his love for her.
One of the strengths of the film is it tackles its plot delicately. The film is set in Moga, a small city in Punjab, where the audience is introduced to a close knit, fun loving family. Despite the family’s close bond, Sweety struggles within herself to conceal her identity once she realises she is attracted to women. While the family plots her marriage, Sweety remains meek and barely rejects her family’s ideas. Until she is reunited with Sahil, in whom she confides about her truth.
This love story is about acceptance and consideration, Sahil convinces Sweety that she should reveal the truth to her family. Sweety, however, lacks the courage to do so as her brother, Babloo, (played by Abhishek Duhan) has known everything all along and has berated her throughout. So much so, Babloo is well aware of Sweety’s relationship with Kuhu (Regina Cassandra) and in order to prevent Sweety from coming out, he tells the family that she wants to marry a Muslim man. So as to conceal his homophobia using Islamophobia, which is a more acceptable form of discrimination. ELKDTAL not only sheds light on homophobia but, also, intelligently puts forward other persisting issues in the Indian society.
ELKDTAL as India’s first lesbian love story is more concerned with the audiences learning to accept not only Sweety’s gayness but of many others like Sweety, who live in a constant state of conflict.
The movie may be relatable to audiences beyond India as homosexuality is still not as widely acceptable as it should be. Many countries still see homosexuality as a criminal offense and many cultures still dismiss it as an abnormality. ELKDTAL gives the queer audience room to breathe and feel content within themselves. But more importantly, it tries to teach the audience to become more acceptable of homosexuality.
The movie is now available on Netflix with subtitles in English and other languages as well.