As the curtains open, Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao) standing on the stage tells his audience, "Hamara jo natak hai na, Dimag se nahi..Dil se dekhiyega." Shelly Chopra Dhar's directorial debut 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga' is a film that needs to be felt rather than seen. Mostly importantly, it emphasizes how you do not fall with love with the gender; instead you fall in love with the person.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga begins with some naach-gaana at a wedding where we are introduced to Sweety Chaudhary (Sonam Kapoor), the daughter of the richest man in Mogha, Punjab. Her father Balwinder (Anil Kapoor) who is even called the 'Mukesh Ambani of Punjab', owns a garment factory though he always aspired to a chef.
The gender constraints are deeply set in the lives of the Chaudharys where Balwinder's mother Beeji believes that men only enter the kitchen to change gas cylinders while girls need to be married off once they reach a suitable age to start her life as a woman.
While everyone is eager to keep Sweety hitched, the girl seems disinterested and harbours a secret which is known only to her brother. A year passes by and the scene shifts to Delhi.
When Sweety takes refuge in a theatre hall to escape from her brother who has been spying on her, it's 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga' moment for a playwright named Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao) when he bumps into her. The two engage in a conversation about true love and Sweety tells him, "True love ke raaste mein, koi na koi siyaapa hota hi hota hai, Agar na ho, toh love story mein feel kaisi aayegi?"
Deeply affected by her words, Sahil lands up in Mogha with caterer-cum-aspiring actress Chatro (Juhi Chawla) to pursue his romantic interest, only to be caught unaware by Sweety's secret confession. The rest of the plot revolves around how everyone deals with their inner conflict to accept love in its true form.
Shelly Chopra and Gazal Dhaliwal bring you the 'most unexpected romance of this season' which deals with a theme that is still spoken in hush-hush tones in the fear of rejection and embarrassment. While over the years we have seen films making a mockery of LGBT community, Shelly's progressive story-telling comes across a fresh whiff of air and a ray of hope.
On the flip side, the film takes its own sweet time to establish its characters. While Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga takes up a relevant topic in an entertaining way, preachiness does seep in few places and the over-dramatic tone might put you off.
It's commendable of a mainstream leading lady like Sonam Kapoor to take up the role of a girl whose sexual orientation drives her into a shell and how she battles her inner conflict to accept who she is. The actress delivers an earnest performance though there was a scope of improvement for her in a scene for two.
Anil Kapoor shines like a bright star throughout the film and leaves you teary-eyed in the scene where he reads Sonam's diary and his outburst in the climax.
Speaking about Rajkummar Rao, is there any role out there which this man cannot enact without finesse? As Sahil Mirza, he brings in his own sense of humour but at the same time, he gets you all choked with emotions in the poignant scenes. If Anil Kapoor is the heart of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Rajkummar is the backbone of this 120 minute narrative.
Juhi Chawla is the 'tadka, hing and lasun' whose effervescene and 'mind-shattering' chemistry with Anil Kapoor keeps you hooked and leaves you asking for more. Regina Cassendra leaves a lasting impression even in her limited screen-time. Seema Pahwa and Brijendra Kala are impressive.
The title track 'Ek Ladki' and 'Chitthiye' linger for long. Himan Dhamija and Rangarajan Rambadran's cinematography works well with the narrative and Ashish Suryavanshi's editing is sharp.
Love is too beautiful to be hidden in the closet and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga beautifully blends this message in a family entertainer. I am going wih 3.5 stars.