Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (CKA) now streaming on Netflix, is another “Boy meets Girl – Both fall in Love – Face some conflict – Get together in the end” template film set in small city Chandigarh. Just that there is a twist in this tale. And that is – Boy meets Girl who was not a girl in the first place but is one now. So, the after effects in the relationship when the boy comes to know of this and how the protagonists deal with them at the end, is the story.
For Hindi cinema this is of course a bold and a progressive theme. Director Abhishek Kapoor and writers Supratik Sen and Tushar Paranjpe handle this rather sensitive subject fairly well by and large and come out unscathed. I say “by and large” and “unscathed” for a reason. There could be other interpretations both from conservatives and liberals on the treatment of the subject which may not be as charitable. Be that as it may, I found the film reasonably acceptable.
Ayushmann Khurana, who plays the male lead is now the champion of woke cinema in Bollywood. From the time he made that impressive debut with Vicky Donor, he has been the first pit stop for directors looking for unconventional male leads in unconventional subjects. He pulls off the role of a typical Punjabi Munda, a gym owning body builder in that, brilliantly. The body language, the demeanour, the all Punjabi dialect and finally his portrayal of a conflicted munda waffling between Physics and Biology while dealing with his own future are top notch.
Vaani Kapoor plays the role of the female lead in what is a very challenging role by itself. She plays it well but doesn’t stretch herself beyond the role of a normal female lead having problems in relationships at home and outside. Nowhere has she attempted to remind us of her past by way of physicality in playing this role of a person who has undergone a sex change. That the Director also missed this nuance is bit of a surprise. The supporting cast are all good and play within the established Punjabi stereotype framework.
While the subject itself is bold and novel, the treatment and the screen play plays it very, very safe. In a screenplay where there is ample scope for resolving the conflict between the boy and the girl with more realistic and touching moments, the makers keep it simple just as in a normal Rom-com. And that the film ends as a redemption for the boy with a win in a local fitness competition in the climax and not the girl is a let-down. I guess the idea was to keep the film light and not make it tear jerking beyond a point and so it works alright.
The film is made well capturing the aesthetics of day today life in Chandigarh very well. Characters speaking mostly Punjabi laden Hindi adds to this effect. Music is typically chirpy and loud as one would expect in a Punjabi setting. Overall the making is good.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui notwithstanding its play safe approach, is a film worth watching once for the progressive theme and Khurana’s performance.