Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui: Meandering Climax Drags Down This Important Film

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Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui story needed a better climax: Ayushmann Khurrana and Vani Kapoor starter Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui was made available for viewing on OTT recently. Since a lot of us couldn’t catch the film in theatres owing to the COVID-19 scare, the film had many takers over the weekend. However, unlike other Khurrana films, which stay with you after the credits roll, this one didn’t hold its ground. Is the film’s meandering climax to be blamed?

What is the film about

While the trailer hinted at it but never made the premise clear, everyone knows now that Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui revolves around a man who falls in love with a transgender woman. Now keep in mind how the previous sentence has been written out because that sets the tone for the film. The film is less about a transgender woman’s struggle to fit in, find love and acceptance, but  more about a brawny Punjabi munda coming to terms with the idea of gender. While the first angle could have done a greater service to cinema which still struggles to portray members of the LGBTQIA+ community as people, not as caricatures, we are willing to accept the second angle too, because progress comes in baby steps, especially in Bollywood.

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So, we are introduced to bodybuilder Manvinder Munjal who is buffing up to win some testosterone-fuelled competition that’ll help promote the gym that he runs with his best friends. Manu gets distracted from his goal when Zumba instructor Maanvi lands a job at his gym. It is attraction at first sight for them, which eventually leads to love. But when Manu proposes to Maanvi, she reveals that she is a transgender woman. Manu’s volatile reaction to the disclosure leads to an uncomfortable scene, which perhaps might offer viewers a peek into what people from the transgender community have to actually deal with in their day-to-day life. However, it also raised some questions on consent.

Did Maanvi deceive Manu in any way by not disclosing her gender identity to him before they had sex? Can it be seen as a violation of his sexual consent as well? Moving on, Manu’s friends and family do not hold back either, as we see them choose the worst kind of slurs to describe her. But what keeps the film from falling apart is how she is shown to deal with the crisis and the fact that we know that their reaction isn’t far from what we witness in our society.

With her head held high, Vaani Kapoor as Maanvi brings a lot of dignity to her character. In one of the best scenes from the movie, when Manu laments how he had failed to protect her dignity, Maanvi hits back at him, telling him that she is perfectly capable of standing up for herself. We see Maanvi stand up for her self-respect multiple times in the film – be it when her relatives prod her about what “happened” to her or when Manu’s sisters try to shame her for her gender identity during her Zumba class.

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The film doesn’t cross a certain line in describing the process of gender reassignment and the struggles faced by members of the trans community. But considering the fact that it aims to introduce masses to this subject that is seldom talked about, it feels like the director Abhishek Kapoor’s approach to playing it little safe works if the target audience for this film is our parents, uncles and aunts, and tier two and three city crowd. Having said that, the film’s ending does leave you wishing for more.

There is no way that a perfect ending for a film on this subject could be about a sweaty competition where participants literally try to prove who is the bigger man or “gabru”. And why does Manu’s family suddenly approve of Maanvi simply because he wins a bodybuilding competition, how are the two even connected?

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is still an important film in Indian cinema as it challenges the mainstream cinema’s definition of romance. One simply wishes that the makers had ditched that stereotypical Bollywood-style “happy ending” and given us something sweet yet offbeat instead.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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