Monday, June 6, 2011

Aisha (2010): Cute chick flick with Abhay-dorable-ness.

Kinda funny -- inadvertently talking about Sonam Kapoor films two days in a row! But this one and Saawariya are about as different as two films can possibly be.

Aisha! Papaya and I awaited the arrival of this one from Netflix for a long time. The promos for it just looked so good. Maybe the best parts of the film were in the promo, which is what reviews have said, but this was still a pretty good little film in and of itself.

Aisha is effectively the Bollywood interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma. That in and of itself nearly guarantees a good film. I like to consider myself a relative expert on Austen because the Regency through Victorian era is my favorite field of literary study, and though Persuasion is by far my favorite Austen work, I’d say Emma is the best of all Austen works to consume visually, as is proven by the number of successful Hollywood adaptations. Additionally, Mr. Knightley is the most all-around loveable of all Austen heroes, even, if you can believe it, over Mr. Darcy. (And if you don’t want to read much comparison of Aisha to the original characters of Emma, skip the next couple of paragraphs.)

For the most part, Aisha does a quality job of sticking to and interpreting Emma appropriately. Emma becomes Aisha (Sonam Kapoor), the bratty rich girl who has an obsession with matchmaking and “improving” her poorer friends lives. Mr. Knightley becomes Arjun (Abhay Deol), Aisha’s friend/neighbor/brother-in-law who criticizes her meddling antics. Willful Aisha then sets about her meddling, which ends up going any way but the way she wants, and life gives her a few good lessons.

I’d say the film positively interpreted the character of Mrs. Elton, changing her into Aisha’s best friend Pinky (Ira Dubey) who just so happens to fall in love with the Mr. Elton character. While I’m usually a stickler for close interpretation and it confused me for 75 percent of the movie as to whom she was supposed to be, Mrs. Elton is a downright annoying character, and it makes sense to get rid of her rather than subject viewers to an hour of THAT. I’m on the fence, though, about interpreting Mr. Elton, who is one of those love-to-hate people in Emma, as Randhir, a misunderstood dork who just needed to be loved by someone unconventional.

This film makes much more use of this jodi (the Eltons/Pinky & Randhir) than Austen, maybe effectively for on-screen.

And to complete the spectrum, I was incensed by the adaptation of Frank Churchill as Dhruv, who just so happens to spring on Aarti when Aisha doesn’t show him enough interest. In this interpretation, Frank becomes a womanizing idiot without a cause. In Emma, Frank behaves the way he does toward Emma because he’s engaged the whole time to Jane Fairfax (Aarti) and simultaneously wants to hide that relationship while playfully torturing Jane. Instead of being a working, crucial part of working out the jealousy triangles rectangles POLYGONS that comprise the basis of Emma, Dhruv is just… there to take away Aarti at the end.

I also kind of lament the underusage of Aisha’s father in the film because Mr. Woodhouse is such a comical and amusing addition to the storyline of Emma, especially in some movie adaptations.

Anyway… Overall, I felt like the film may have struggled to keep all of the characters straight and each of their individual storylines holding its own, but maybe that’s something only Jane Austen really could have managed to do without confusing everyone.

Yeah, too many people trying to cram in, because this isn't even everybody.
I felt that Sonam Kapoor filled this role pretty well. There were times when the performance didn’t feel like it connected, but for the most part, bratty Aisha seemed right up Sonam’s alley. (And no, I don’t mean that in a fully rude and derogatory way because while she’s often bland, I mostly genuinely like Sonam, but I can also see where playing a spoiled brat would be right up her alley.) And Abhay Deol, true to Deol form, is adorable as benevolent but teasing Arjun. There’s also the way the character of Mr. Knightley is written, but Abhay certainly brought his own charm and je ne sais pas to the role. I’d really like to see more films featuring him (hurry up, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara!). 

The two also seemed to play well off one another as a cute, young, fresh couple even with Arjun being the older, more responsible one like Mr. Knightley - in fact, he brings a youthfulness to the responsibility. The only thing I was annoyed with was that after all the hype about it, the kiss was cut from this film. -_- You can tell in the resolution scene that something's missing, too. It wasn't skillfully worked around.

Abhay, may I nickname you Abdorable?

A couple of random aesthetic points: The film’s rather mellow music was pretty nice even though mellow music is usually not my thing (give me upbeat or give me depressing ballads, I say). I really enjoyed the Latin dancing scene, but then I have a love of Hispanic cultures that predates my love of Indian culture and am generally a sucker for Latin dance.

This film also features quite possibly the COOLEST CAMPING TRIP OF ALL TIME. Seriously, can I leap right into this scene?

Overall, Aisha is a decent chick flick and mostly enjoyable if not overly wowing. I believe the best term for this one is probably a word I tend to avoid using: cute. Maybe there was a bit too much focus on the film’s glamorous sheen and not quite enough on its heart, but the film is still a good four out of five from me. I enjoyed it perhaps a little more than Clueless, the particular Hollywood Emma adaptation it seems to draw from, and a little less than the 2010 PBS adaptation of Emma.

Yep, definitely a chick flick. Which, as much as you can dislike them, we all need one now and then.


  1. On my DVD, the kiss scene was not deleted... Well, it's not spectacular, but... cute. And probably appropriate.
    Nice to hear that you liked the film too, most people didn't.

    1. What version of the DVD (2010 version without the subtitles or the 2011 one with the English subtitles) do you have?

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  2. Odd, but lucky you. Maybe we got one that was theatrical release? It was really strange because I remember thinking you could tell part of the scene just wasn't there.

    And I'm increasingly convinced that if most people don't like it, me, Papaya and Kiwi will love it. I'm a slave to the masses too (K2H2 and DDLJ are two of my favorite films), but every time we've seen a film on bad reviews, we've loved it. (Tees Maar Khan and Thank You, to name a couple.)

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