Lanky, long-haired and perfectly dressed Aisha is a rich Kapoor princess from south Delhi. She shops at DLF Emporio mall, attends polo matches, gripes and whimpers most of her waking life and adds a prefix to the name of everyone who is not her: bechari or bechara. The ultimate antithesis of her, in her own words, would be “bechari middle class”
The girl also has a pet project: transforming Shefali, a Haryanvi bechari from Bahadurgarh, into a style diva and finding her a husband. So far, great chick-flick heroine—confused, arrogant for no real reason, a slave to fashion, clueless about what she wants but clued in to what her friends want, and cocooned in her own little couture clique.
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Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Emma, the most filmed of all Austen novels, Aisha is directed by Rajshree Ojha and produced by Rhea Kapoor under the Anil Kapoor Films banner. Sonam Kapoor, who plays the lead role, has everything at her command then although, presumably, not the writer and director. But she is such a poor actor, unable to dominate or shine in even a single scene in the film, that Alicia Silverstone, who played the lead role in Clueless (1995), the Hollywood film of which Aisha is a direct adaptation, seems like a thespian.
The comparison is fair. The two films are similar in many ways. Like most Austen heroines, Emma has an unbridled energy and arrogance that makes her memorable. Silverstone did a superb act as a sassy, teenage, know-it-all in Clueless. Kapoor fails to evoke even a fraction of the original character’s zest. Her dialogue delivery, diction, expressions and mannerisms are flat and vanilla-coated. In treatment, Aisha tries to be Sex and the City-meets-Clueless, but Aisha has none of the wit and humour that these two films have.
Abhay Deol, who plays the role of Arjun, Aisha’s childhood friend and the love she refuses to acknowledge, doesn’t help. Otherwise an extremely capable actor, he is cold and uninterested—a sissy, inarticulate corporate dude who is supposed to be the cool one. The chemistry between Aisha and Arjun? Not even a small flicker.
Aisha is India’s first big-budget chick flick. And one of those rare movies whose title is that of the eponymous heroine and not the hero. The story is foolproof film material, adaptable to any culture and any age. Even so, Ojha and her team manage a plastic, glossy dud of a film that has no memorable scenes or dialogues or visual beauty. It’s almost a surprise. Everyone knows you don’t take chick flicks seriously. But some chick flicks stay with us women. The camaraderie of the four girls in Sex and the City, for example: priceless.
The look, the costumes, the luxurious homes are all in place in Aisha. This is our first truly 2010-style luxe movie set and it’s all very pleasing to the eye. Is that your reason for watching a film? If yes, stop reading the rest of this review.
Aisha begins with a wedding, where we meet Aisha, the daughter of a rich businessman. Her best friend Pinky Bose (Ira Dubey) is a straight-talking, brash, boho Bengali girl who is yet to find out what she wants to do for a living. Pinky is somehow convinced that she will remain single all her life. We also meet Shefali (Amrita Puri), who is living with her aunt in Delhi and is in search of a suitable groom. Aisha takes on Shefali as a project. She sets her up with a bumbling Punjabi (Cyrus Sahukar), the son of a mithai tycoon. Aisha herself is drawn to a smooth-talking stud who also seems to fancy her, except he has a roving eye. Arjun and Aisha are constantly making digs at each other, and are jealous of each other’s temporary dates. If you’ve read Emma, you know who will eventually hook up with whom.
The real star of Aisha is its supporting cast. Not the writer, or the director, or even the technicians (the cinematography by Mexican director of photography Diego Rodriguez is banal. For example, some scenes in Rishikesh, where the gang goes river rafting, are extremely ordinarily filmed). Sahukar and Dubey are into their roles and even without a superb screenplay to depend on, lend distinctive stamps to their characters. Puri fits right into the role of Shefali. She is every bit the Bahadurgarh girl—unable to adapt to the fashionable south of the metro axis, but trying very hard; unable to hide the Haryanvi twang, but trying very hard to walk the walk. A climactic scene is when Shefali snubs Aisha as a shallow rich brat—she is obviously in control of the scene as an actor, and not vice versa.
Aisha has the cosmetic trappings of a modern romcom or chick flick, but is painfully bereft of good cinematic moments and style. It’s only for dumb fashionistas, not those who know their heels as well as their mind.
Aisha released in theatres on Friday.