Friday, August 6, 2010

Film review: Aisha

Fresh, but forgettable too
Director: Rajshree Ojha
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar, Arunoday Singh, Amruta Puri
Stars: **1/2


Hindi cinema, given its unique framework and form, has seldom lend itself easily to literary adaptations. But Jane Austen's novels - with their romantic appeal and lush characterisation have been a hot favourite with desi makers too. There was Rajiv Menon's Kandukondain Kandukondain, a wonderful adaptation of Sense And Sensibility in Tamil. As for the women - Austen's influence has been profound - there was Gurinder Chadha's curry musical, Bride & Prejudice, and now, there's Rajshree Ojha and Devika Bhagat who have adapted Emma for the screen.

Yet, it must be said that Austen novels, for all their wit and acute sense of characterisation, have never had much of a plot. This is not a problem for filmmakers in the West who adapt her novels in their pure form. The novels have enough highlights to keep it engaging, and the period appeal is massive. However, to adapt it, and that too for a desi audience, requires some work. So are the Aisha makers upto it? They seem on track for a while, and it tickles you to see an out an out chic flick being attempted in Hindi. A whole song is dedicated to L'oreal products!
However, the film runs out of ideas once the screenplay exhausts itself working around the wafer-thin plot.

Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) is rich, fashionable and giddy-headed. Her partner-in-crime is Pinky (Ira Dubey). And together they have a rollicking time - shopping, looking for frivolous pass-time, and teasing their 'too uncool for us' acquaintance, Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar). They come across Shefali (Amruta Puri), a bumbling, small-town girl, who is actively looking for a husband. Buoyed by the success of her previous match-making attempt, Aisha promptly takes her under her wings and promises to find her a suitable match. She tries to bring Randhir and Shefali closer, because she believes they would be right for each other. The plan does not work, and ends in an unexpected match. All this while, Aisha's family friend and relative, Arjun (Abhay Deol), is displeased with her match-making activities and admonishes her on several occasions.
The film realises that there aren't enough strands to work with, and hence introduces two NRI types - Druv (Arunoday)and a desi Angelina Jolie, Aarti (Lisa Haydon) --- each one meant to serve as rivals and 'supposed' love interests of Aisha and Arjun. But it starts getting predictable, and the second half is repetitive and long drawn. All this while, you could at least appreciate the understated, subtle treatment that Ohja gives to the narrative, but the last 30 minutes of the film goes haywire. Suddenly, everyone behaves out of character, and everything is spelled out loudly for the audience. There's no clear build-up to the events or characters, so many of the later outbursts by Arjun, Shefali and Pinky don't seem convincing enough. And the climax is just laughable.

The film is a great showcase for Sonam, who gets a meaty role to essay and looks like a million bucks. But her poor dialogue delivery again mars much of the effect. The bigger problem is that you never get into the head of her character. There's just a lot of surface acting going on. And since she's there in every frame, she fails to carry the audience along.

On the plus side is the peppy sound-track, the good-looking sets (lots of English-looking outdoors, floral curtains and frocks, curled hair). The Cyrus and Ira Dubey love-hate relationship and Amruta Puri's gawky act are the best things about the film. Abhay Deol has become something of a poster-boy for new age films, but his acting has rarely come in for much attention. Here, he shines and plays his supporting part effortlessly. Arunoday has a brief role, but he does well too.

The film's effect disappears faster than the taste of toffee in your mouth, but it's still better than many of the recent flicks one has seen. It has patches of understated humour(derived from a lot of American rom coms) and has the novelty and freshness of a desi chic-flick.

-Sandhya Iyer

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