Aisha: A Review

Aisha – Dir: Rajshree Ojha; *ing: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Amrita Puri, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar

Back in the dark ages, when that celebrated case of mangoes hadn’t yet exploded, when mullets were worn as a fashion statement without irony, and when Madonna still occasionally felt like a virgin – the 1980s to be precise – an ice-cream brand in England came out with a new gelato-based dessert that was  like a flippin’ baroque work of art. All swirls and curls and petite curves, it looked like it came off the walls of the Amber Room; if it were egg shaped, you could have called it Fabergé. Anyway, the ad campaign for this frozen delicacy proclaimed that here, finally, was a dessert that ‘looks as good as it tastes’.  It was tempting as hell but I never could bring myself to go for it because, well, they oversold it you see; I would just think, “Yes, but will it taste as good as it looks?”

One faced the same sort of trepidation upon being bombarded by the promos for Aisha: a tremendously good looking film with pretty, glamourous stars and more designer labels on display than you can shake Mr. Manolo himself at, but what proof would the eating of the pie bring forth? Would the seerat match the soorat? Well, having now dined on the thing I can tell you that while it does leave you a trifle disappointed, it is still a fairly tasty bit of morsel; it’s like the wrapper said Lindt but what you got was Cadbury’s – a bit of a gyp, but not bad in and of itself.

The story is based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma. I would’ve used the word ‘familiar’ to describe it were it not for the fact that the generation of moviegoers that Aisha is aimed at doesn’t even know the book’s 1995 adaptation Clueless, and so probably can’t even tell Alicia Silverstone from Golda Meir, let alone Jane Austen. So, for the uninitiated, the titular character (Kapoor) is an effervescent, eternally optimistic meddler in other people’s lives, whether she is setting them up with their ‘perfect match’, or taking on a gauche, gota-wearing small town ugly duckling (Puri) as a pet project, to be transformed into a Swarovski-swathed, Jimmy Choo-worshipping swan. As the Greek chorus to her shenanigans stands her sister’s devar Arjun (Deol), with whom there is that age-old love-hate thing going on. But when for once her matchmaking backfires and ends up as egg on her face, Aisha has to stop and figure out where her life is headed, why she shouldn’t be trying to play Svengali to everyone in sight, and just who is her own Knightley in shining armour. As if she (and you) didn’t know.

Alright, so as far the plot goes, there isn’t much of one to speak of (hey, it’s Austen, not Ludlum), and what there is, is hardly going to have you chewing off your nails in suspense – you pretty much know the end if you see the beginning. There is a distinct lack of depth, of some sort of dramatic pedigree that would give the proceedings weight, give them edge; the characters are never in any kind of emotional or moral peril, not really. You know, that bite you’re supposed to feel when that 70% cocoa hits your tongue. But what we have here is 100% milk chocolate, which, to be fair, has its charm. For Aisha is a lighter-than-air confection, a bit of fluff that, once you reconcile your curmudgeonly self to, is a nice little treat.  One does miss the bitter taste that usually accompanies a character’s journey into love and adulthood, but there are enough diversions to keep one’s interest. As I said, it is a good looking film, handsomely shot, with a uniformly excellent cast. Deol, the thinking person’s sex-symbol, doesn’t have a lot to play with here, but still manages to make his presence felt and more than justifies that tag, while Kapoor, not the greatest interpreter of lines, nonetheless carries herself with irrepressible confidence. The music by up-and-comer Amit Trivedi is utterly infectious, with a myriad moods captured flawlessly.

So, just read the small print on the label carefully for possible allergens, and dig in.

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