Anil Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor talk about Bollywood's first mainstream lesbian love story
As father-daughter duo brings to the screen Bollywood's first mainstream lesbian love story, Sonam and Anil Kapoor talk about what love and acceptance means and what change they hope the film brings
When we first meet Anil and Sonam Kapoor last Sunday at Mehboob Studios, and asked them pointed, direct questions about their coming-out-of-the-closet movie, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, they suggest we watch the movie first. "We want the audience to go through their own journey as they see it, and not talk too much about the premise beforehand," Sonam tells us, while apologising, sending us back without an interview. In retrospect, watching the film proves to be a good idea.
A still from the film, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
Sonam plays Sweety, a girl from Moga, a small town in Punjab. Dad Anil Kapoor plays a garment manufacturer. Other members of the house include a conservative grandmother, hot-headed brother, a friendly cook and a man Friday. But Sweety has a secret: she is lesbian, and has fallen in love with a woman she meets at a wedding. What we liked most about the movie was that along with Sweety's track, which is about being accepted as an openly gay girl in a small town, where the LGBTQi concept is still alien, it has parallel stories that are about the same issue: being accepted for who you are.
Anil's character has an age-old desire to be a chef, and Rajkumar Rao plays an out-of-luck writer, who wants to step out of the shadow of his famous Bollywood producer father. "At the core of it, it's [the film] about acceptance, and love. But it's also about different manifestations of love - father and daughter, and friendship. It's about how love and acceptance have to go hand in hand. You can't love someone for what you want them to be, you have to love someone for who they are," says Sonam, as we sit with her and Anil on the afternoon of the Friday release. Kapoor Sr says, "It's about not stereotyping, or judging someone. Bachha toh mera bachha hi hai na. As a parent, don't think what people will say - at the end of it, if she is happy, I am happy. Most parents just need a nudge." At this point Sonam adds, "This movie is a nudge for all those parents."
We tell her it could be the best movie she has done till date, and ask if she ever thought she was brave as a mainstream actor for deciding to play a homosexual lead? "But if an actor like me, who you say has some kind of influence, doesn't do it, how will we ever make this issue mainstream? I don't consider it brave. For me, it was about thinking like this. Art - be it a painting or book or a movie - always reflects society, but sometimes, a piece of art comes along that could change the way people think. Even if it makes a difference to one life - if one child finds acceptance, what an impact that would be!"
The movie, devoid of any sermons or explicit scenes, does what very few LGBTQi movies may manage - it makes the issue at hand, the only thing you focus on. "Indians are not culturally okay with physicality, so we wanted to make this love story palatable. If it was a love story between a boy and girl, we wouldn't ask why there was no overt PDA. It's easy to sensationalise a film like this. But this issue at hand is so important that anything else would have taken away from it. We had to make queer love, which is an unfamiliar one for smaller towns, familiar, by setting it with characters and settings you recognise," says Sonam.
How did Sonam work on her chemistry with actor Regina Cassandra, who plays her love interest in the movie? Anil asks, "This, even I want to know!" Sonam smiles wryly. "To be honest, it was like working with a male actor. It was where the 'acting' came in. I am definitely not in love with any male actor I have worked with. At times, you have to work with people you can't connect with, and romance them. But I could relate and connect with Regina, who is a really cool chick."
We end by asking them what they hope the LGBTQi community can take away from this movie, and Sonam says, "I think they will see this movie and know that there is a mainstream character that is not a caricature of them."
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