Increasingly India’s film industry has begun tackling unconventional and bold subjects. And to say that Bollywood has been focusing on tabooed topics without lecturing and with great sensitivity is no small feat. Let’s not forget that this is an industry that worked with the standard recipe of music filled, dancing around the trees kind of romance, between a hero and a heroine, with a villain ultimately unsuccessful in foiling the romance, for decades.
In “Chandigarh Kare Ashiqui”, Manu (Ayushman Khurrana) is in the hyped up masculine profession, as a bodybuilder and a fitness trainer, with his own gym. Manvi Brar (Vaani Kapoor) joins the gym as a zumba instructor and is an instant hit with the guys who find her beauty irresistible. Of all the good looking young men, it is Manu, who captures her heart. The movie flies through a few scenes and it seems the pair has hit it off with great chemistry. Manvi appears to be wealthy, polished, and classy with impeccable English, whereas Manu’s English is sprinkled with a Punjabi accent, but that doesn’t hold either of them back. Manu and Manvi feel they have truly found their soulmates.
At home, Manu’s family is waiting for Manu to find the right girl and is thrilled to know that Manu seems to have finally found a perfect life partner. Meanwhile, Manu’s father (Girish Dhamija) is in a relationship with a Muslim woman. The father is unable to share the news of his own relationship with the whole family, as he feels that it will be unacceptable to the family. Manvi on the other hand, is very close to her father (Kanwaljit Singh) who refers to her as his beta and beti (both son and daughter). However, Manvi and her mother (Satwant Kaur) are estranged, as her mother is not able to accept Manvi’s choice of who she chooses to become.
Set amid what appears to be normal family grievances, an issue rises to the surface that is anything but normal and for centuries has been pushed down as non-existent in society or even systemically socially marginalized. As the issue rises to the surface, the film constantly encourages the audience to grapple with the question of what constitutes normal and who decides this normal, in an individual and also in a relationship.
Bravo to Bollywood and the producers, for tackling such issues and kudos to director Abhishek Kapoor for tackling the issue lightly and yet with enough gravitas to gently nudge the audience to expand their perspectives. On a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie 4.6.