By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Aisha"; Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Amrita Puri, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Shahukar, Arunoday Singh; Directed by: Rajshree Ojha; Rating: ***
The thing about shallow people from the beau monde is that they shouldn't be played shallowly when brought to the screen.
Sonam Kapoor in a 'tailor'-made role (where more moolah seems to have been spent on tailoring her chic outfits than on exploring the locations, sound sights scents and, yes, sense of this embarrassing world of excessive self-preening) gets the Jane Austen character right. Quite a leap for the actress.
When she had played the confused lover-girl in "Saawariya", Sonam had imposed her own natural-born confusions on the character - rendering it shaky and disembodied.
In "Aisha", Sonam is far more in control of her character's misguided emotional compulsions. The fact that the young actress knows this label-centric designer world of chic shenanigans so well, helps Sonam master and contour her character's art of self-deception in a way the original author of the character would have approved.
Sonam's world harks back to Jane Austen's giddy-headed British gentry class where match-making was not an idle chatter. It was religion. When placed in the neo-rich spiced-up politically-charged atmosphere of Delhi, Jane Austen's characters seem to come alive in unexpected spurts of sassy splendour and unbridled joie de vivre. You can't help laugh at these young, often-aimless, people's self-importance.
"Aisha" is a two-hour celebration of pre-nuptial rituals. Though no one says it, every girl in the film wants only one thing. And it isn't necessarily love, but somewhere close. The bristle and bustle of Delhi comes alive through the slender intellectual faculties of the protagonists.
Let's not forget that Jane Austen had applied great intellectual strength to her frail and shallow people. "Aisha" converts Austen's world into a frail feisty frolicsome fashion fiesta shot with an empowering affection for the natural light that bathes these somewhat affected people. The cinematography by Diego Rodriguez and especially the songs and background music by Amit Trivedi create a multi-hued skyline in this saga of sophomore socialites, their loves, lovers and love tattle.
Debutante director Rajshree Ojha gets into this world of titillating trivia and designer dreams with a wink and smile that goes a long way in building a showcase around these metropolitan mannequins on a single-minded match-making prowl. The casting is as dead-on as it can get. While the guys Abhay Deol, Cyrus Sahukar and Arunoday Singh play the Brain, Nerd and Hunk with absolute relish, it's the girls who keep you chuckling and tch-tch-ing.
Neha Dubey and debutante Amrita Puri put in pitch-perfect performances as sahelis bullied into alliances that seem manipulated on earth rather than arranged in heaven. They have a bright future ahead, single or not.
But the film belongs to Sonam Kapoor, make no mistake of that. She makes the best of a rather rare opportunity for an Indian leading lady to be part of a Bollywood film that salutes Victorian mores and Delhi's elitist affectations in one clean cool sweep.
Engaging and endearing - Aisha makes you wonder if there's anything more important in the world than finding the right match.
Maybe finding the right movie about finding the right match?
Bollywood.com Rating: 3