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?