Spoiler Alert: This review of Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui contains spoilers.
Ayushmann Khurrana started his career in Hindi films by playing a sperm donor in Vicky Donor. Over the years he has been part of projects where he has gone bald, played a gay protagonist and has essayed the role of a man with erectile dysfunction. Challenging notions of 'masculinity' and striving to do what we like to call something 'hatke'.
His latest, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, directed by Abhishek Kapoor, though has high testosterone running through his veins. Chandigarh da gabru jawan Manu Munjal, introduces himself as a certified fitness provider. His world revolves around his dumbbells, keto, protein shakes and his gym buddies.
Soon a Zumba instructor is hired for the gym rightly named 'Jatts Flex It'. Maanvi (Vaani Kapoor) is a statuesque beauty and she turns heads. Weightlifter Manu finds himself being drawn towards her but Maanvi has a past which she fears Manu will not be able to handle.
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A love story of a trans woman and a desi Johnny Bravo is a delicious idea and also one that can be explored in various ways. This, for example, would have been a different film if a trans actor was hired for the role or if the focus was not so much on the love angle but Maanvi’s transformation wholly.
Click on the player below to listen to the full podcast.The story idea credited to Simran Sahni and screenplay by Kapoor himself along with Supratik Sen and Tushar Paranjpe chooses to take on the issue in an easy flowing, palatable way for a family audience.
The first time Manu hears all about Maanvi's past and gender reassignment, he storms out screaming. He is repulsed by the idea that he made out with Maanvi who, in his eyes, is 'a man'. His family and friends use derogatory terms - the homophobia and transphobia that we have unquestioningly internalised. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui makes its point softly, slowly lifting the veil off the characters and their bigotry while keeping the entertainment and glamour quotient intact.
Kapoor’s hold as a storyteller rarely slips through Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui's 117-min runtime, which is why it remains wholesome and enjoyable. So, there is song and dance, an uber glam heroine and the camera that lingers a tad longer on her curves to accentuate her assets.
Vani’s Maanvi is a supremely attractive woman. It’s easy to imagine any guy fall for her. There is no denying the fact that Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui does try to soften the rough edges and give us a more glossed up version of a truth that is far more stark and painful.
Maanvi’s financial security and looks put her in a privileged position (the controversial 'passing privilege') and makes us wonder how difficult and different her circumstances would be without these embellishments. But Kapoor doesn’t compromise on the maturity and sensitivity required to tackle a subject such as this for easy laughs.
Vaani gives her character an authentic depth of emotions. A woman wary of how she will be perceived, trying to live life by her convictions, Vaani imbues Maanvi with a quiet sense of dignity that the role deserves. Ayushmann on home turf as a Punjabi gabru and never has one false note. His scenes with his buddies superbly played by the identical twins Goutam and Gourav Sharma are great fun to watch too.
Our Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5