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Frontseat: The ‘Austen’tatious Aisha

August 21, 2010

You walk into the cinema expecting an Indian version of Emma, treated with Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Clueless and even Friends all rolled into one. At least that’s what the trailers promised. What you walk out with is a sequel to Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice. Only worse. You walk out feeling sorry for Jane Austen.

Aisha is Jane Austen’s Emma, only set in 21st century India. She is characterised as a high society ‘smart’ dumb blond (whatever that is) whose one aim in life is matchmaking. Her life revolves around parties, camping, fashion and the whole glamourama that Hollywood perfected 50 years ago. But Aisha, directed by Rajshree Ojha, doesn’t cut the mustard because this film is wannabe with a capital W.

What the film begs to do is position Bollywood on Rodeo Drive, it strives to cut Sonam Kapoor out as the next Sarah Jessica Parker and it hopes to portray Delhi’s social circuit as happening as Beverly Hills or Manhattan. Reality check: it doesn’t work. In the opening scene when Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) drives to a wedding and opens the door to step out of her car, you expect her to flash a fashionably high-heeled Manolo Bahnik or Louboutin. What you get is an ugly flat silver chappal. And that’s exactly what this film continues to be: misleading.

There are Dior and Louis Vuitton stores in the background (yes, we envy India and its high-end retail) but the three high society friends (Aisha, Pinky and Shefali) do not step into a single one. Their wardrobes are vague and their personal style is a blur. Not a single Indian designer is mentioned, nor a high-end brand. One might think that the producers wanted to stay away from any branding altogether but the focus on L’Oreal (official sponsor of the film) proves otherwise.

Aisha is disappointing even for those who walk into the cinema for an engrossing story if not a glimpse into a fashion emporium. The storytelling is weak and for a film that should ideally hinge on romance and relationships (if not style), there is almost zero chemistry between any of the characters. Half an hour into the story you can easily predict how it is going to end (as with most Indian films), but you expect the journey to offer a little more than cheesy dialogues and cringe-worthy romance. English literature is adapted well in Hollywood but is completely lost in translation when it comes to India.

Sonam Kapoor looks beautiful but her dialogue delivery is pitchy. Her efforts to pass off as smart as well as stylish fail. Abhay Deol, an actor with incredible soul, is completely wasted and there is no on-screen chemistry between him and Sonam that might make their inevitable love convincing. There are no turning points. Ditto for the rest of the couples. Why Pinky and Randhir come together or why Aarthi and Dhruv fall in love is anyone’s guess. The only zing you feel is between Shefali and her ‘middle-class’ love interest Saurav, the one match Aisha does not want to orchestrate.

Moreover, whether it’s taking a new girl for a makeover, tearing up memorabilia in a dustbin, a father encouraging her daughter to run after her love interest, a passionate waltz or a pesky boy-next-door becoming the knight in shining armour, Aisha appears a patchy quilt of scenes that we have seen one time too many. The only saving grace is the music, composed by Himant Trivedi, which offers some kind of pulse in a film that can only be described as a flat line. — Aamna Haider Isani