Sonam K Ahuja has made a brave choice in headlining a film that shines a spotlight on same-sex love — a subject that has unfortunately remained untapped in an industry that ironically thrives on romance dramas. But as is the norm with brave choices, they don't come without their share of hiccups.
While ELKDTAL may have struck a chord unanimously, critics and viewers have debated how the script didn't devote enough time to Kapoor's love track with Kuhu, portrayed by South actor Regina Cassandra, thus playing it safe.
But the film was categorically about the girl and her family," reasons Kapoor, who plays Sweety, a closeted homosexual trying to come out to her family about her truth. "It was important to show her as simple and ordinary because a gay girl is still a regular girl. We didn't want to stereotype her. As far as Kuhu goes, by design, if the story was bent towards developing their relationship, it would have taken away from showing what the girl's father [Anil Kapoor] or her grandmother goes through, or how her brother treats it as a sickness."
As much as writer Gazal Dhaliwal and writer-director Shelly Chopra Dhar are being celebrated for creating their characters with empathy, a line in the film's climax has raised eyebrows.
Kapoor is seen telling Rajkummar Rao that he needs to rescue other Sweetys in the world, thus presumably indicating that homosexuals are victims who need help. Point this out to the actor, and she argues, "People debating that line completely missed the point. She was talking about the power of art and its impact. In a movie-obsessed country like ours, we can't deny the dialogue a film can start. Since Saahil is a playwright, she feels that as a storyteller, he can bring about a change."
Despite a limited release of about 1,000 screens, the film is going from strength to strength.
"We didn't make this film for money. Dad told me that a decade ago, this film would have opened to Rs 10 lakh. Today, we could rope in eight commercial actors and get a big studio to present it. The numbers will come as the days go by. I can't tell you the number of people telling me their stories. Even if one person musters the courage to come out with their truth, we have done a worthy job."