Director: Rajshree Ojha
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar, Amrita Puri, Arunoday Singh and others
These are interesting times for Hindi cinema. Last week’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, with its mass-driven content, brought in single-screen audiences in hordes. This week’s release, Aisha, seems to be aimed more towards the multiplex junta.
An adaptation of a Jane Austen novel would hardly have much in it to please frontbenchers anyway. Aisha, though, is more akin to Clueless – Hollywood’s own version of Austen’s Emma – that found cult following in the nineties and catapulted its lead Alicia Silverstone to stardom.
Aisha seems to be tailored to do the same for its protagonist, Sonam Kapoor. In her first author-backed role – literally – Kapoor plays Aisha, who belongs to Delhi’s elite, gallivants in designer clothes and lives the high life with her best bud Pinky [Dubey].
Among Aisha’s more favourite pastimes is playing matchmaker and she takes it upon herself to find small-town girl Shefali [Puri] an eligible suitor.
The problem, though, is that Aisha doesn’t take into account what Shefali might really be looking for in a man and tries to set her up with scion Randhir Gambhir [Sahukar]. Shefali and Randhir couldn’t be more different and even though Randhir is evidently besotted by Aisha, she keeps trying to get the other two to hook up.
Aisha’s childhood buddy Arjun [Deol] is critical of her whimsical approach to life and meddling in other people’s love affairs. When Shefali finds out Randhir actually has a soft spot for Aisha, she is heartbroken but Aisha soon tries to get her to fall for Dhruv [Singh], who seems to be attracted to Aisha too. Who Shefali gets married to eventually and how Aisha realises that love can’t be forced, forms the film’s crux.
Okay, if you have read Emma, you know now that the story is almost unchanged from the original. Aisha, though, is more treatment-oriented than story-driven, relying on dialogues, individual scenes and quirky characters to do the trick. To a large extent, it succeeds too.
The pre-interval portion is breezy and Shefali’s innocence coupled with Aisha’s hoity-toity act keeps the proceedings interesting. The friendly sparring between Aisha and Arjun, and scenes involving Randhir and Pinky enliven the film and at half-time you are upbeat and hopeful. Post-interval, though, the film’s pace dips and you soon realise that the makers succumbed to a more convenient route.
Since the film aims at a more informed audience in the metros, scenes that remind you of Clueless and sitcom Friends take the novelty factor out. And Abhay Deol professing his love in the end with dialogues that seem right out of a corny nineties’ romance seems out-of-place and unnecessary.
The acting is largely very good. Both Cyrus Sahukar and Ira Dubey give cute performances while Arunoday Singh comes across as wooden. Lisa Haydon brings in oomph and little else while Anand Tiwari as Saurabh, the guy who truly loves Shefali, is first-rate.
Abhay Deol gives the kind of natural performance you now associate the actor with and in spite of not being the centre of attraction as he is in his other films, he manages to leave an impression. His casting seems to be an inspired move.
Kapoor, though, lives up to the challenge of pulling off Aisha convincingly. Her childlike quality and smile lends itself well to the role and she’s a charm almost right through the film. Her dialogue delivery, though, is something she may want to work on if she wants to play more varied roles in future.
Amit Trivedi is soon becoming a force to reckon with in the music industry and here too he gives a score that gives Aisha a life of its own. The gal mithi mithi bol song in the end, the most foot-tapping of them all, would have been more enjoyable if interspersed in the narrative.
The end titles credit Devika Bhagat as the film’s screenplay writer and thankfully no one gets a billing for story. Bhagat, with the film’s director Rajshree Ojha, has kept the essence of Austen’s classic intact and focused more on the presentation. With producer Rhea [actor Anil Kapoor’s younger daughter], the troika of women has managed to serve a palatable chick flick, but one which is not without its share of shortcomings and cliches.
In the end, Aisha leaves you with mixed feelings. It, however, might be the ideal date flick. If it doesn’t hold your interest, you’ll at least have something to distract yourself with.