Sunday, August 7, 2011

Suno Aisha.. (About Aisha and other Emmaites.)

Aisha came out around a year ago, and I finally managed to watch it. Seeing as how I cannot talk about the film in detail without going into previous modernized Emma adaptations such as Clueless, this review will have two parts: one short spoiler-free part, and one more detailed, spoiler-filled part which compares and contrasts it to the other adaptations of the story.

Part ek:

I pretty much loved Aisha, even though it was far from being flawless. In fact, while the film is overall well-made and executed the Austen story well for the most part, there are a couple of problems, especially with Aisha's characterization that I can understand may take some viewers from the Loving Camp and place them in the Meh Camp. I'm still with the Loving Camp, but I do wonder whether that'll change. Sometimes phrasing the problems in form of a movie review can make them more apparent to me as a viewer, which takes some enjoyment out of the film. Regardless, Aisha serves its purpose as a fluffy romcom with good-looking, charming leads, a well-paced storyline and I still dig the soundtrack an awful lot.

Plus it has Abhay Deol. That, in and of itself. Well. You know.

Part do (SPOILERS):

I'll state at this point that Clueless, Amy Heckerling's 90's Valley girl spin on the classic Austen novel Emma, is one of my favourite films of all time. Not that it's a master piece, but it is one of those few perfect, charming teen comedies as well as a pretty nice romcom. I watched it as a kid, loved it and have rewatched it numerous times since. On the other hand, I have a weird relationship with some of the other Emma adaptations. I can watch the miniseries that have been made and enjoy them, and while I don't love the Gwyneth Paltrow film, I suppose that's okay as well. However, to me, Clueless' Cher is the most lovable of the Emma characters. I suppose the other versions are closer to the original version in the books (which I've read but have very vague memories of).

So you could say I love the general story structure of Emma; the fact that it's a female centric story where the main character has to learn some pretty crucial lessons that she isn't always in the right, and that sometimes her class prejudice can cloud her from seeing things that are truly there. I think we all enjoy watching characters that learn things and when they do bad things, get their comeuppance. Simple enough, that.

Now, at first appearance I thought Aisha was a little less charming than Clueless, and just a tad more commercial/consumeristic. What was with that L'Oreal advertisement in the middle of my movie? Learn to be subtle, product placers of Bollywood, for goodness' sake. But the film grew on me, mostly on the backs of the side characters. Shefali (Amrita Puri) was just delightful and Abhay Deol did not disappoint in the least. There is a lot to be said for Sonam Kapoor's Aisha, too. It's easy to believe that somebody as gorgeous as Sonam, growing in wealth, could be this sort of clueless, spoiled character who always gets her way and always thinks her way is the right way for things to go. She's believable, and while the role doesn't exactly feel like a stretch (not that Sonam is like this in real life, but I'm sure she's run into the type, being the daughter of Anil Kapoor, and hanging out in the glitzy upper-class filmi circles), she does a good job.

I guess where the problems come in is the "comeuppance" part of the storyline, the point that everything has been building up to. The thought I couldn't shake after the film was over was this: does Aisha truly learn anything? We see her moping around a lot, eating ice cream (in that most terrible of female clichés), and finally seeing her friendships fall apart. We see her realize how much she loves Arjun, which is all very well, and we see that she's probably quit meddling in the affairs of others. I walked away from the movie, liking it a lot, but wondering if these lessons she's got to learn were portrayed believably in the film.

In comparsion to Clueless, I just thought that Cher had a very visible "oh, I get it now" moment and her efforts to make amends to her previous actions were portrayed in a way that really redeemed the character. And even before that, as spoiled and silly and annoying as Cher was, she also had a big heart and you could really get a sense of it as you watched her go through her consumerist, vapid existence. With Aisha, the helping of others truly feels mostly self-serving, and so she comes off as a less sympathetic character. She isn't clueless - you can see she's smart, but using her smarts in a very foolish way. Cher was smart, too, but (I think) very unaware of it, or thinking that her smarts only applied to the social world of high school. Aisha's character is not a teen, she's an adult, and though young, it sometimes feels like she should know better by now, and heed the advice of Arjun instead of stubbornly picking up her pet projects with very self-centered goals.

This all makes it sound like I hate Aisha - I most certainly don't. It's just that I can see the flaws in the characterization, perhaps where they just wanted to glam her up as much as possible, they forgot there are ways of making her more sympathetic to the viewer as well.

And as seems to be the Abhay Deol character cliché at this point, his Arjun does come off like a bit too smug at times. This didn't rid a whole lot of enjoyment of the movie for me, but it was something I picked up on, and something that could rub others the wrong way.

But despite all these points, I did genuinely enjoy the film a whole lot. I liked the fact that while Pinky comes off as quite the bitch with regards to Aisha picking up Shefali as a new project, you can later see at least partly why she's upset about this. It's not the first time Aisha's done it, and it's also that Aisha tends to not notice Pinky when something like this comes around - like her friends are simply accessories, and sometimes the newest one is her favourite. Shefali was great, and all the moments between her and Saurabh were too adorable for their own good. And the song picturizations were quite a delight (L'Oreal commercial aside). Big ups, Amit Trivedi.

So.. what did you think?


Sonia said...

I'm not in the Meh Camp but definitely not in the Loving Camp either.

Watching the trailers and promos and all the photos released before the film, i actually held my hopes up for this movie. Because - 1) ABHAY DEOL, 2) I had some remote thought that Sonam would be able to show some acting skills in this one. But her acting is still pretty much non-existent.

And the development of the story isn't very convincing. Many things just happen "all of a sudden". (It could well be because I wasn't paying 100% attention to the film when I was watching it...)

Abhay Deol's fine in smart suits. But it'd be great if he could have more to do in the movie.

Anishok said...

I don't wanna say I hated Aisha, but I kind of hated "Aisha" the character. You make great points by comparing Aisha to Cher and I agree with you that Aisha didn't really get her comeuppance by the end of the movie. Where Cher was ditzy and sweetly clueless, Aisha just came off as rude and obnoxious. Maybe it's Sonam Kapoor or maybe a bad script, but I just didn't feel sympathetic towards her at all. And the most jarring thing was her treatment of Aarti. Totally rude and bitchy with NO reason whatsoever. By the end I was like, really? Am I supposed to root for this spoiled b*tch (I'd say spoiled brat, but she's supposed to be an out-of-college adult in the movie, right?) to be with Abhay?

Wow, didn't know I had this much ranting in me! Sorry!

Sal said...

You really captured my issues with "Aisha." Let me state at the outset that I love the film and watched it thrice in one week, once on a plane, then with my sister, and finally with my best friend, who could really appreciate the superficial pleasures of the film, i.e. the styling, with me. However, the protagonist in Aisha is nowhere near as likable as Cher. I think Cher comes across as a little ditzy but sweet at the same time, and by the end you see her putting her efforts into actually doing good. Aisha never gets to that point of redemption; her turnaround is when she gets a job. Also, Paul Rudd's character is so much more likable than Abhay's; Abhay's defining trait seems to be that he disapproves of Aisha's flightiness, while Paul Rudd's character seems fascinated by Cher despite their frequent disagreements. I don't think Sonam is a bad actress by any means; she is expressive and has a feel for her material. However, as I remember reading somewhere, her character just doesn't get to do as many fun things as the other girls. In spite of the flaws in characterization, I do adore this film, in large part due to the strong supporting cast and the great, detailed depiction of upper-crust Delhi.

veracious said...

Sonia - Good to know I wasn't the only one who felt this way! I had ridiculously high expectations but then I heard so many people were disappointed so my expectations got downgraded. I wasn't very disappointed but it could have certainly been better.

Anishok - Don't worry about ranting, that's fine - it's annoying when a movie could be good but just has these little things that make it not-that-good in your eyes..

Yes, her treatment of Aarti was almost as bad as Pinky's treatment of Shefali. There's that line of "okay she's jealous and doesn't like the girl" but it went overboard and just came off as unfair and silly.

And you make a great point that Abhay's Arjun doesn't really go, "Okay you really need to learn some things before we can be together", he's like "Okay I fixed your mistakes by setting Shefali up with Saurabh, we can be together now". Not a good message, that. :D

Sal - Yep, it's sad when a remake can mostly make you want to rewatch the original. I suddenly came aware that my Clueless DVD is nowhere to find, which is a bummer!

I think in Clueless you understand why Josh is into Cher despite her ditzy, silly behaviour. In Aisha, Arjun's fondness for Aisha is more difficult to understand, to be honest..

Lime(tte) said...

After my first watch, I was definitely in the Loving camp. The question is now, if I still am, if I watch it a second time. I pretty much have the same problems with the film as you have - Aisha not being sympathetic enough is one of the biggest problems.

alexandra said...

as far as her treatment of aarti --- this is how emma treats people.. Now what is weird is that no one calls her out on this-- not even Arjun