Film Review: Aisha

Directed by: Rajshree Ojha

Starring: Abhay Deol, Sonam Kapoor, Pinky Bose, Shefali Thakur and Cyrus Sahukar

Everyone has a guilty pleasure when it comes to films and television shows – something you know is wrong to like but watch regardless anyway. One of my shameful GP’s is a liking of chick flicks. Whether it is While You Were Sleeping, or The Devil Wears Prada, these films not only guarantee to leave one feeling indulged, they are also excellent tools to secure sofa space and clear a room faster than a smelly fart (well, at least in my household!)

Touted as a chick flick, when I first saw the trailer for Aisha, I was quite excited, as the film seemed to be a Clueless inspired flick with a dash of Gossip Girl thrown in. The prospect of seeing Dior mixed with Delhi was one that appealed and I think even if the film had been awful, there would be the fashion to look at (a key feature that has helped me sit through some of the more awful chick flicks there are – let me say here, though I love these soppy rom-coms, they either have to be done very well or so bad-they-are good otherwise forget it!)

Based on Jane Austen’s Emma, Aisha is the story of Aisha (Kapoor) a wealthy Delhi girl who loves matchmaking but is also convinced that she knows best. Challenged by her not related by blood cousin Arjun (Deol), we see how a group of friends’ lives change when Aisha meddles in their love lifes, learning a few lessons of her own on the way…

I’ll be honest, I thought Aisha would be all style over substance and at the start it did feel that way – the film takes a while to get started and for the non fashionista, it may take a little too long to get into the story but I advise sticking with it as soon the film gets more interesting and leads up neatly to the interval and then a stronger second half. Hidden in the film is a look at modern female friendship and a heroine centric role that doesn’t come along very often, especially for the younger actress like Sonam. I thought the technical side of the film was very good, with a very polished look that feels more Hollywood than anything. I also loved the camera work – notice the extreme close ups of faces and feet that crop up regularly.

I only had two gripes with the film – first off, I wish we had gotten to see more of the other characters besides Aisha – not only do they feel more real but I felt they had stories to be told and are far more likeable than the protagonist – I understand the film was making a point of only showing things from Aisha’s point of view to underline her selfishness but I thought seeing things from other character’s perspectives would have been been interesting too. Secondly, I thought the film needed to do more to make the viewer like Aisha the character– it relies too much on on what one thinks of Sonam Kapoor. At times, I didn’t understand why the characters put up with Aisha or why they accepted her meddling and it is also hard to feel sorry for her when she is upset – it is here Sonam’s performance makes a difference but I felt the script could have endeared us towards Aisha more.

Now to the styling and fashion – perhaps the film’s strongest point. Each character has a clear and distinct look that is coordinated right down to the nail polish colour. Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Ralph Lauren all get healthy product placement in the film as well as L’oreal – Sonam wears some gorgeous pencil skirts and blouses as well as cocktail dresses in hues of coral and mushroom as well as simple monochrome pieces which look amazing on screen. The saris and lenghas are equally extravagant with brocade and heavy embellishment, with the introduction scene lengha set to provide inspiration to many wedding outfit choices in the coming months. The make up is also quite well done – note Sonam’s very long lashes in the scene when she talks to her aunt after coming home from the salsa party. I really loved Ira Dubey’s look with some serious nods to avant garde in her dress sense and a sense of playfulness that made high hemlines look cute rather than cheap. The men also show off some sharp tailoring and I have to say, Aisha certainly sets a precedent of sorts for other films that fuse high fashion with drama together.

As much as I could talk about the fashion, I have to give more space to the performances. The fresh-faced cast are all at ease with their roles and there is no real weak link to be found. Ira Dubey and Amrita Puri are very good as Pinky and Shefali, with the former playing the cynic to the latter’s comedy track. I also liked Lisa Haydon, Arunoday Singh and Cyrus Sahuokar (Aarti, Dhruv and Randhir in the film). Sonam plays her role with energy and really tries to make the character of Aisha her own. Sometimes, the role does feel a bit overwhelming for her and some of her dialogue delivery is not as clear as it could be. This was a better performance than I Hate Luv Storys though and one hopes this trend of Sonam getting stronger with every film continues – she certainly has the potential to do very well and be a competent actress but I think the choices she makes next will be important in determining the path her career takes – but for now, Aisha sees Sonam hit a career best and not a moment too soon either.

The best performance for me was courtesy of criminally underrated Abhay Deol. Right from his first scene, Abhay hits the mark and immediately endears the audience to him. Adding layers to his character and sharing excellent chemistry with all the cast, Abhay’s performance is so good, they could have called the film Arjun! This may not be as obviously off beat as his other film choices have been but be assured, Abhay makes this role his own and in the process, shows off versatility and a commercial edge that some viewers may not have been aware of.

Aisha is a very girly film and many male viewers may not be too interested in seeing it. I would say that yes, this film has some of those moments where the mushy factor is cranked right up but if you can look beyond that, there is an interesting film to be had here on female friendship, something that is quite rare to see in Bollywood. I also think the film would stand up to a repeat viewing or two which also adds to its appeal.

Aisha is a worthy addition to the chick flick genre and may inspire a whole canon of its own. Comparable to films like Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na, Bachna Ae Haseeno and I Hate Luv Storys, all of which have an urban sensibility to them, Aisha is perhaps another example of how far Bollywood films have come but also a reminder that there is still a long way to go. For the perfect guilty pleasure in Summer 2010, look no further than Aisha!

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