September Issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 14 years ago

Indian cinema first ventured into Jane Austen territory with Gurinder Chadha’s adaptation ofPride and Prejudice, resulting in Bride and Prejudice. And now Anil Kapoor’s banner bringsAisha, based on another of Austen’s novels, Emma. The essential difference between the two adaptations is that while Bride and Prejudice did not work for a myriad of reasons, Aisha actually does. Bride and Prejudice, for one, tried too hard to keep as close to the original as possible — Aishadoesn’t. Those who have read Emma will be quick to notice the similarities in plot, but there are many points of departure as well — and the movie is all the better for it.

Sonam Kapoor plays Aisha, the rich, spoilt, Daddy’s little girl. Abhay Deol (Arjun) is cast as a younger, more dashing Mr Knightly, with a dry sense of humour. Related through their siblings’ marriage (Aisha’s sister is married to Arjun’s brother), they are as different as chalk and cheese. He is the focused, investment banker, with his life all figured out. She is steered in whatever direction life — or rather other people’s lives — takes her. He wants her to get serious; she wants him to lighten up.

Aisha’s favourite pastime — and passion — in life is matchmaking. And so when Shefali, a small-town girl, arrives in Delhi, it becomes Aisha’s life’s mission to transform the “bechari bhenji” into a glamorous chick more suited to the high life in Delhi. That means getting rid of the shalwar kameez and plaited hair, and getting into shorts and skirts. But when the makeover starts turning into the matchmaking mission, laughter gives way to tears, confusion and hurt.

The storyline is predictable, but the reason Aisha works is because of the refreshing cast. Each character stands out, especially the girls. It is enjoyable to watch both Ira Dubey, who plays Aisha’s cynical, sarcastic childhood friend Pinky, and the chirpy Shefali (Amrita Puri), who is phenomenal as the misfit. Sonam and Abhay are absolute naturals and make a good match. Their respective dates Arunoday Singh (Dhruv) and Lisa Haydon (Aarti) have a commanding on-screen presence. Cyrus Sahakur in his role as Randhir, who pines for Aisha but ends up marrying her friend, is in a role no different from the ones he usually plays, but he fits the bill.

Aisha is a movie about friendship and love. Even though the story idea is not entirely original, you may want to watch it for its stylish wardrobe, the relatively new star cast, quirky exchanges and lighthearted fun. It is representative of a class and lifestyle that is equally familiar to Pakistanis: frequenting malls, salons and spas, spending a night at the beach, holding midnight meetings in the kitchen with father and crying your heart out over tubs of ice cream — sound familiar?

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.