Mayank Shekhar's Review: Aisha

By Hindustan Times

Director: Rajshree Ojha
Actors: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol
Rating: *1/2

Couples sip on champagne; tinkle and toast to good health; wear sparkling whites (inauspicious colour for Hindus) at weddings of middle-aged pairs. Sunday afternoons are reserved for fancy hats at the races. I’ve never quite socialised in these imagined circles. But then perhaps, the filmmakers know better. Either way, the disclaimer is necessary.

Folks in the capital’s New Friends or Defence Colony (make that ‘klony’) pass off for British aristocracy of early 19th century. And somehow it seems the New York based Mira Nair was far more organically rooted to New Delhi’s upper classes, Punjabis, and their boisterous chatter (Monsoon Wedding), than the affected Mumbai filmmakers here.

Since all great literature is behind us, the film borrows from Jane Austen’s novel Emma, in about the same way Gurinder Chadha had unbearably adapted Pride And Prejudice, set in present day Amritsar (Bride And Prejudice). If there’s any consolation, this one’s better put.

Sonam Kapoor plays the title role. She heads a sisterhood, a gang of three girls, if you will, who are so luckless, loveless, sexless, they make being single, beyond a certain age, a city disease. The girls are convinced they’ll never find a suitable boy to settle down with. The heroine knows her hero (Abhay Deol, dependable as ever, just wasting his time on this one). Her friends know their mates as well. Each stereotype finds another. Young Aisha plays the unnecessary matchmaker.

Somehow the internal dilemmas true for the village girl Emma in the novel, I’m told, don’t come through for this lead character in the film. This is not a surprise. There are things books can convey that movies needn’t even attempt. The main conflict remains yet the only one possible in urban romances these days: how friends turn lovers eventually (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa, I Hate Luv Storys etc).

Still, as the camera constantly closes in to capture detailed shots of pencil stilettos, Ferragamo signage at stores, and L'Oreal’s nail polish of obvious shades, I suppose, female ‘aspiration’ – that confused term from marketing – is adequately fulfilled.

Young Delhi boys and girls cart their Honda CRV and Volkswagen Beetle off to go camping, shopping, doping, white water rafting, bumming around with the beach-ball…

The atmospherics is complete. The intentions aren’t off the mark. You may like to voyeuristically share a rich experience (with the film’s cast, or crew, in this case). You only wish this sense of outdoor adventure could conceal the blandness of the drama within. And the complete blah for dialogue that get exchanged in flawless Hinglish. The vibes remain cold. Pairs rotate in circles. The same bummers meet over and over again, with little to say, or do. Littler makes sense. Or is even meant to.

You just know it when a film entirely set around a girl – a chick flick, as they say -- isn’t quite working for you. This is when a guy, an odd comedian Cyrus Sahukar, comes across as by far the most entertaining fellow around. Now he’s funny. For whatever that’s worth. To figure the worth of everything else, check on the price tags at your nearest mall.

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