Download Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, director Abhishek Kapoor attempts a perilous tightrope act. He takes a complex subject that many viewers would either be ignorant of or uncomfortable with and then attempts to parcel it as a broad-based mainstream Hindi movie with stars, songs, glamour, comedy, dysfunctional families and emotional drama.
The result is a film that is successful in some ways and faltering in others. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is both, a necessary and laudable conversation starter, but also an airbrushed and simplistic view of the struggle of a transwoman to find love and acceptance. Download Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
The film falls into the emerging sub-genre of Hindi films, which aim to persuade viewers to reconsider their perspectives on tricky topics such as sexual orientation or gender. The messaging is made palatable by the packaging. It’s the Trojan horse manoeuvre, disguising a subversive idea with comforting, commercial tropes.
Think of films like Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, also starring Ayushmann Khurrana, which celebrated the love story of two men or Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, starring Sonam Kapoor, which did the same for women. Full disclosure: Ek Ladki was directed by my sister-in-law Shelly Chopra Dhar. Download Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
Ayushmann, who has already led the charge on sperm donation, erectile dysfunction, middle-age pregnancy and hair loss, is once again our guide into uncharted waters. In Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, he plays Manu Munjal, the local gym rat whose life is defined by protein shakes, keto diets and weights.
What Manu wants more than anything else, is to beat his rival Sandy in competitions that measure brute strength, including one, in which they pull jeeps with their bodies. When we first see Manu, he is bare-chested, doing a punishing routine.
The gym, where he pretty much lives and which he runs with the twin brothers Riz and Jomo, is called Jatts Flex It. Manu is masculinity at its most basic, grunting and heaving. But Manu’s idea of what makes a man comes crashing down when he falls in love with the new Zumba instructor Maanvi.
Maanvi always looks like she’s stepped out of the pages of Vogue magazine, she even comes to the gym in heels. Soon the two are having torrid, passionate sex. But then Maanvi tells Manu about her past and all hell breaks loose. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is based on a story idea by Simran Sahni, who is the mother of trans daughters. Download Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
The screenplay and dialogues, which have been written by Supratik Sen and Tushar Paranjape, juggle between Manu attempting to rethink his own notions of gender and Maanvi’s struggle to forge a life for herself in a world that refuses to accept who she is. The best scenes in the film are the confrontations between Manu and Maanvi.
The tenderness and empathy force Manu, and through him the audience, to reconsider their stance. In one scene, Maanvi tells Manu that she’s already been through so much, that she isn’t afraid of anything anymore. Vaani Kapoor does it with just the right mix of ache and vulnerability and spine.
This is her strongest performance since her debut, Shuddh Desi Romance, in 2013. But the ache of the emotion in the scene and in others is undermined by the excessive polish baked into her persona. There is too much emphasis on her physicality, at one point, the camera lingers on her rear end and even in the hospital scenes, her hair is perfectly blow-dried.
The film is also besotted with Ayushmann’s new body, the actor, who excels as the boy-next-door, is ripped like Mr Universe here and Abhishek takes every chance he can, to showcase the transformation. This doesn’t leave as much room for performance, but in the few scenes he has to articulate the confusion of this man, Ayushmann does it with aplomb. Download Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
Abhishek, Supratik and Tushar address the bias, that marginalized communities face as a matter of routine, but the world of Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui never gets too dark. There’s little of the brutality and ugliness that we’ve seen in Western films on the same subject like Boys don’t Cry or The Crying Game.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui OFFICIAL TRAILER: Ayushmann K, Vaani K | Abhishek K | Bhushan K | 10 Dec 21
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