Tag Archives: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

Movie Review: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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With Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (“How I Felt When I Saw That Girl“, ELKDTAL henceforth), debutant filmmaker Shelly Chopra Dhar set out to change how India thinks about LGBTQ people, both in terms of social acceptance and as an untapped well of cinematic storytelling possibilities. Her film is caring, thoughtful exploration of how a conservative family deals with a gay family member.

Sonam Kapoor Ahuja uses her star-power for good to play Sweety Chaudhary, a closeted lesbian from the Punjabi town of Moga. While on a trip to New Delhi, she ducks into a theater during play rehearsals to hide from a man we later learn is her brother, Babloo (Abhishek Duhan). Intrigued by Sweety’s good looks and her insightful critique of the awful play, its floundering writer, Sahil (Rajkummar Rao), helps her escape to a train station.

Sahil finds out where Sweety lives and heads to Moga under the pretext of running an acting workshop. There, a series of misunderstandings convince Sweety’s father Balbir (Anil Kapoor), her grandmother Gifty (Madhumalti Kapoor), and Sahil himself that Sweety is secretly in love with him.

Sweety explains to Sahil that she’s in love with a woman named Kuhu (Regina Cassandra). Babloo knows this and disapproves of his sister’s feelings, which is why he followed her to New Delhi and why she’d hidden from him in Sahil’s theater. Bereft of ideas for how to live a life true to herself, Sweety lets Sahil use his storytelling skills in a daring plan to win over her family and the town of Moga.

Director Shelly Chopra Dhar set herself the daunting task of making a movie that anyone could enjoy, but that would also open the minds of a particular segment of the audience. In an interview with The Telegraph, Chopra Dhar explains that her target audience was not progressive urbanites already accepting of LGBTQ people, but “people who’re genuinely not there”: those in smaller cities and towns in India who may have little personal exposure to gay people. So as not to risk scaring those people away, there is no same-sex kissing in ELKDTAL, only some affectionate hugging and hand-holding between Sweety and Kuhu — a choice consistent with the chaste way many mainstream Hindi films still depict straight romance.

Chopra Dhar also says in the interview that she had to consider ELKDTAL‘s setting when trying to reach her intended audience. Small-town folks might feel disconnected from an urban story, and a village setting could make the film seem too artsy and not commercial enough (which is why she made Balbir a rich factory owner). Although she wanted the serious message of acceptance to come through, she needed to relate to her audience in an uplifting way: “It’s not a dark and dingy film either. Why can’t it be a nice, bright film and be natural?”

ELKDTAL feels breezy and familiar, and its dramatic elements are balanced by two comic subplots. One involves the Chaudhary family staff — played by Seema Bhargava and Brijendra Kala, who is adorable in the film — betting on who Sweety will finally marry. Another features Juhi Chawla as Chatro, a goofy caterer with acting ambitions who catches Balbir’s eye. The tonal shifts between the comedy and drama elements aren’t seamless, but they never take the film off track.

In many ways, ELKDTAL‘s story is less about Sweety’s journey than how people react when she opens up to them. As the audience’s onscreen avatar, Sahil meets Sweety and decides she’s someone who deserves friendship and help, reinforcing the story’s message of judging someone by the content of their character. Sweety’s father, Balbir, already loves her, but he doesn’t see her for who she really is — in part because Sweety felt compelled to hide the truth from him. Balbir’s challenge is to accept what is, to him, a new facet of his daughter’s life, but also to see the way his own expectations for her made her life harder and less happy. It forces the audience to question whether we’ve let our own loved ones down by expecting them to be someone they’re not.

The downside to this narrative focus is that Sweety is acted upon more than she drives the action, but Kapoor Ahuja is fully engaged in every scene, her reactions always showing us how Sweety feels even when her character isn’t the center of attention. Same goes for Rao and Kapoor, whose love for his real-life daughter (Kapoor Ahuja) spills over into Balbir’s affection for Sweety. While ELKDTAL‘s laudable social goals are the perfect reason to start the movie, the film’s delightful performances make you want to see it through to the end.


Streaming Video News: April 5, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of Rajinikanth’s January release Petta, as well as the 2018 Hindi horror flick Lupt. Also new in the last few days is the 2019 drama Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, which made over $1 million in North America but only lasted four weeks in theaters. It’s a great opportunity for those of us who missed out to finally catch up.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with almost four dozen Indian films added in the last four days. Five 2019 releases were added — Chambal (Kannada), Crazy Crazy Feeling (Telugu), Spot (Tamil), Thadam (Tamil), and Vinara Sodara Veera Kumara (Telugu) — along with a second season of the series Laakhon Mein Ek, now available in Tamil and Telugu in addition to the original Hindi (just choose your desired season in the drop-down menu). Also new on Prime is the 2016 Bollywood romance Mirzya, which is visually stunning and has great music (and is also on Netflix).

My wonderful father-in-law Ron died this week, so I’m taking several days off to be with family. I’ll return next week after his memorial. — Kathy

Bollywood Box Office: February 22-24, 2019

Total Dhamaal made nearly $1 million in its opening weekend in North America. From February 22-24, 2019, the comedy sequel earned $989,387 from 202 theaters ($4,898 average), according to Box Office Mojo.

That was just enough to steal the crown from Gully Boy, which earned $976,466 from 269 theaters ($3,630 average, and eleven more theaters than last weekend). After eleven days, Gully Boy has earned an impressive $4,216,437.

Uri: The Surgical Strike also crossed the $4 million mark thanks to the $73,360 from 38 theaters ($1,931 average) in nabbed in its seventh weekend. It’s North American total stands at $4,098,102.

Manikarnika closed out its fifth weekend with $9,066 from thirteen theaters ($697 average; $1,382,558 total), while Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga earned $1,557 from three theaters ($519 average; $1,172,088 total) in its fourth weekend, per Bollywood Hungama.

The first two months of 2019 have been terrific for Bollywood movies in North America. All of the titles above have made over $1 million here (assuming that Total Dhamaal made more than $11,000 on Monday), with two having earned more than $4 million. Besides these titles, the two biographical political dramas that released here — The Accidental Prime Minister and Thackeray — both earned over $100,000. (25% of Hindi films released here last year failed to hit that benchmark.) The only flop has been the horror movie Amavas, which only played in seven theaters. This year is off to a heckuva start!

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Opening February 22: Total Dhamaal

The latest release in the Dhamaal franchise — Total Dhamaal — hits Chicago area theaters February 22, 2019. Series regulars Riteish Deshmukh, Arshad Warsi, and Javed Jaffrey are joined by Madhuri Dixit Nene, Anil Kapoor, and Ajay Devgn in this adventure comedy.

Total Dhamaal opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Arclight Chicago in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, Arclight Glenview in Glenview, Buffalo Grove Theater in Buffalo Grove, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 6 min.

After a stellar opening weekend, Gully Boy carries over at the River East 21, MovieMax, Niles 12, South Barrington 24, Rosemont 18, Cantera 17, Naperville 16, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Uri: The Surgical Strike keeps going strong at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18. Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi carries over at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24, which also holds over Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend (all titles have English subtitles):

*The first film in the NTR series — NTR: Kathanayakudu — is available on Amazon Prime.

Bollywood Box Office: February 15-17, 2019

I’ve missed a few North American box office reports in recent weeks due to some family health problems, so let’s catch up on the big stories:

Gully Boy just had a monster opening weekend, bringing in $1,833,035 from 255 theaters ($7,188 average) from February 15-17, 2019, according to Bollywood Hungama. Including opening day returns from February 14 makes its total officially $2,129,483, but Monday’s Presidents Day holiday in the United States surely pushed that past the $2.5 million mark.

What the heck is going on with Uri: The Surgical Strike? It just finished its sixth weekend in North America with earnings of $169,506 from 51 theaters ($3,324 average), per Box Office Mojo. Wanna know how many 2018 releases earned more than $100K in their sixth weekend? Zero. Uri‘s continued popularity is remarkable. It closed out the weekend with total earnings of $3,958,534, but it’s past $4 million now thanks to Monday’s holiday.

On the flip side, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga fell off FAST. With Uri still making good money for exhibitors, Ek Ladki dropped 150 theaters going into its third weekend in order to make room for Gully Boy. As a consequence, Ek Ladki earned just $50,000 from 43 theaters ($1,163 average) over the weekend. With total earnings of $1,172,088 (including Presidents Day), it looks like Ek Ladki will struggle to hit $1.2 million here.

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi trailed just behind, with $30,625 from 24 theaters ($1,276 average) in its fourth weekend. It has total earnings of $1,358,850 thus far.

Simmba stuck around in one theater, adding $72 to its $5.1 million total.

And while I know Amavas played in at least one US theater over the weekend, I don’t have any earnings numbers for it. Suffice it to say, the numbers would certainly be worse that the horror film’s opening weekend last weekend: $606 from seven theaters ($87 average). Truly terrifying.

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

In Theaters: February 8, 2019

One new Hindi film opens in Chicago area theaters on February 8, 2019, and it’s up against stiff competition from early Bollywood releases. Nargis Fakhri stars in the horror movie Amavas, from Alone director Bhushan Patel.

Amavas opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 14 min.

Last weekend’s big hit — Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga — holds over at MovieMax, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi gets a third week at MovieMax, Rosemont 18, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17.

Uri: The Surgical Strike carries over for a fifth week at the River East 21, MovieMax, Rosemont 18, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend: