Nyaka and nice!
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- Published 7.08.10
Aisha the movie is full-on ‘nyaka’. A word which can never be correctly translated in English or Hindi but you know it when you see it. Yes, it’s very much a Jane-Austen-meets-Sex-and-the-City-meets-high-society-Delhi chick flick but it’s also so very nyaka. How can it be anything else when a whole bunch of 20-somethings have only one agenda in mind — to get married!
But that doesn’t mean Rajshree Ojha’s Aisha is not enjoyable. It’s a light, frothy weekend watch, the kind of film which disappears along with the popcorn in your tub. They come a dime a dozen in Hollywood but seeing our guys in the middle of one — that too in a well-made, good-looking ensemble — is certainly a welcome sight.
The credit goes to scriptwriter Devika Bhagat — Bachna Ae Haseeno and Manorama Six Feet Under — for managing to transport the Woodhouses and the Knightleys of 19th century rural England to the Kapoors and the Burmans of today’s Delhi with some degree of conviction. The last time someone tried something similar, we all know how Bride and Prejudice turned out.
Bhagat also prioritises her characters perfectly. Despite juggling with so many boys and girls, you never have an iota of doubt who the main players are, who the supporting acts are and who are just peripheral ornaments. There’s, of course, the unavoidable corollary that you can guess fairly early — who dances with whom in the end to Amit Trivedi’s chartbuster Gal mitthi mitthi bol.
Aisha (Sonam) is described in many ways throughout the film but we would leave it to you to make your own assessment of the lady. Austen had described Emma as “handsome, clever, and rich” in the very first line. As for Aisha, we are only sure about the first and last qualities.
She is a chalti firti shaadi.com. Aisha is like one of those old aunties at home who is always trying to hook up unmarried members of the family with some distant friend or relative. But she also looks at matchmaking as a social service and she says proudly, “I don’t even take money for it.”
The ‘project’ at hand is Shefali (Amrita Puri) and Aisha just has to turn the kaddu into a Cinderella. Once the parlour and the shopping mall get rid of the behenji look, she tosses Shefali to family friend Randhir Gambhir (Cyrus Sahukar) first and then to childhood classmate Dhruv (Arunoday Singh). But it is Aisha’s jija’s brother Arjun Burman (Abhay Deol) who keeps bubbling up in the equation. Also part of the matrimonial Rubik’s cube are Aisha’s best friend Pinky (Ira Dubey) and Arjun’s business partner Aarti (Lisa Haydon).
Now, all the fun and games, the hitch-up and heartburns play out at one exotic event after another. Say bye bye to karwa chauth get-togethers, Holi songs and Rakhi bondings and say a big hello to polo matches, beach volleyball games and farmhouse salsa parties. In its fresh quotient, Aisha is almost Dil Chahta Hai’s female counterpart.
Once all the permutations and combinations of match-making are struck off, there is that suddenly serious third act. When rainbows have to be replaced by “traffic ki dhuan”. Austen is sacked, Shakespeare is summoned and nyakami rises to a 130-minute high with one of the cheesiest closing scenes ever.
But then watching Abhay and Sonam in syrupy tones cannot be that bad, right? The two look terrific together. If you thought Sonam looked great in I Hate Luv Storys, you have to watch her in Aisha. Aided by a wow wardrobe, her radiance is what drives the film. There are scenes when her eye make-up makes her look like a young (and, dare-we-say, better-looking) Rekha. And this time she even handles the heavy scenes much better.
Abhay doesn’t have to drop a sweat to become the ubersexy Arjun. There’s that casual charm about him which is perfect for a film like Aisha. Of the rest, Ira Dubey is splendid. She looks sometimes and sounds always like her mother but it’s more than her genes that’s on overdrive here. She and Cyrus bring a certain amount of gawkiness, that slight rough edge to the cliche-happy feel-good ride that is Aisha. Amrita goes overboard once too often while Arunoday hasn’t entirely got rid of his screen stiffness. As for Lisa, she is clearly better off on the ramp.
The cinematography by Diego Rodriiguez is top notch, with every frame a riot of colours. Amit Trivedi gets the sound of Aisha just right, even if all the songs don’t stick. A film like this must have had heaps of rushes and Sreekar Prasad’s scissors piece them together beautifully.
And let’s not even get started on the costumes. It deserves a separate review altogether (and that is what you will soon get in t2). Just to give you an idea what we are dealing with here: the list of designers in the closing credits is much longer than the cast list, which itself, as you must have figured by now, is quite long! Dior, Chanel, Ferragamo... you name it, someone’s wearing it.
But it is our very own Anamika Khanna who stands out in the brand crowd. You can make out which designs are by her and they really bring alive the events in the movie.
In Javed Akthar’s words, Tum ho kamaal... tum bemisaal... tum lajawab ho Aisha. We would just like to add... Tum ho nyaka... bahut paka... par mast timepass ho Aisha.
Pratim D. Gupta
How much of Emma is Aisha?
If Emma stayed with her father Henry Woodhouse in their comfortable Hartfield estate home, Sonam Kapoor’s Aisha lives with her father in the posh Defence Colony area.
Abhay Deol’s Arjun Burman is the George Knightley of Emma. He is Emma’s biggest critic and dearest friend. Arjun is definitely much younger than his Austen counterpart in age, though.
Emma’s Harriet Smith is Aisha’s Shefali. In the original she is a “not remarkably clever” girl of “unknown origin” yet “pleasantly graceful” and “easily charmed”, attributes that can be used to describe Amrita Puri’s character in the Bolly adaptation.
Frank Churchill is seen here as Dhruv, played by Arunoday Singh. Frank is a very good-looking young man, who comes visiting Emma’s one-time governess and Emma likes him instantly. That would be ditto for Dhruv’s character who stays in Aisha’s Masi’s (Anuradha Patel) house.
Pinky Bose (Ira Dubey) is Aisha’s best friend, almost like a mix of Miss Taylor and Miss Bates. Naturally who she will fall in love with adds a fresh twist to the proceedings.
Aisha does disapprove of Aarti (Lisa Haydon) just as Emma despises Jane, but Aarti is far more forthcoming and financially independent than Jane who was destined to be a governess.
George Knightly in Emma was far less empathetic towards Harriet than Arjun is towards Shefali.
Emma never openly professes her love. Aisha goes the whole nine yards to the wrong wedding party professing her love to the wrong guy(s).
Unlike Dhruv who is pretty explicit about his interest in women, Frank Churchill never openly showed any affection towards Jane. On the contrary he makes Emma believe that he despises her charm and manners.
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