The Quote Hanger

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
- George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Aisha kyu?

A realistic, albeit annoyed, interpretation of Aisha

            The recently released film Aisha had created quite a hubub prior to its release, particularly amongst the urban, college-going youth. On seeing the trailers, it is not too difficult to guess why – the effervescent, barely-past-adolescence Sonam Kapoor, Ira Dubey, Abhay Deol, and co. seemed to strike a chord as they fretted about “sixteen pack abs,” and being eternally single while waltzing around high-end malls. The promotional snatches seemed to promise a glossy, cheerful, and luxurious romantic comedy, a genre that still seems relatively novel in the Hindi film industry. However, the movie, in its entirety, seems to induce a different response.
            Aisha tells the tale of an ostentatiously wealthy girl from Delhi. She seems to while her time away by shopping, socialising, match-making, baking elaborate desserts, gardening with possibly branded gloves on, and organising events free of charge. It is hardly surprising, then, when she squeals, “I love my life!” in one of  the many voice-overs in the film. Of course, in the course of the film, she asserts that she hates her life, and the hate is induced by several trivial complications, most of which she brought onto herself due to her meddling and misunderstandings. Eventually, all’s well that ends well.
            One of the most significant aspects of the film is not only its female-driven cast, but crew, too. The director (Rajshree Ojha), script-writer (Devika Bhagat), producer (Rhea Kapoor), and casting director (Amrita Sehgal) of Aisha are, as their names suggest, women. It leads one to the inevitable question of how (and why!?) a crew consisting of women alone could create a protagonist, who seems to be the epitome of utter cluelessness, and the diametric opposite of how one would perceive an intelligent, city girl. Having firmly ventured into the 21st century, it seems feasible to believe that the damsel-in-distress has died a ntural death. Ojha, Bhagat and Sonam Kapoor, on the other hand, seem to be intent on resurrecting the deregatory female archetype through Aisha, who does not bat a heavily made-up eyelid before promptly calling her knight-in-shining armour when her car breaks down. Nor does Aisha have any qualms about abandoning her decidedly gullible friend, Shefali, at a guesthouse in Delhi, with a man she herself seems to dislike vehemently. The director described Aisha as “an extremely frank and open-minded girl, who loves to live in her own fairytale world.” How “open-minded” is it to evince disgust for the “middle-class”, and to discourage marriage solely because the boy (Saurabh) doesn’t belong to a higher strata of society? Buying criminally expensive apparel, and facilitating a make-over to ensure a match for the “behenji” friend doesn’t seem too “open-minded” either. In addition, it is all very well to spend one’s childhood in one’s own personal universe, when noone else is affected by it, but when an influential twenty-something girl refuses to emerge from it, it isn’t endearing in the least, but incredibly annoying. The implied empowerment of a women-centric cast and crew is negated by the plot, which, eventually, relegates the female characters in the film to women who are defined by their respective partners, and who do not hesitate to spend their father’s money (Rs. 53,000, to be precise) in one gigantic shopping-spree.
            Sonam Kapoor’s character moves from one disastrous event to the next, and brushes them all off under the guise that she was “only trying help.” Realisation does strike during the second half of the movie, after all her friends simultaneously seem to declare, “We are not your projects,” or something to that effect. After weeping, and drinking Moet through a straw, Aisha decides to apologise. While all the characters are magnanimous and forgiving, for the audience, it seems like too little, too late. Ojha described the film as a “coming-of-age” film. Nonetheless, Aisha does nothing to endear herself to the audience before she came of age, while she was coming of age, and when she does apparently come of age.Unlike Udaan, which is touted to be a coming-of-age film, too, and which is one, in the true sense of the phrase. While Abhay Deol’s character, Arjun (Sonam Kapoor pronounces the name as “Archan”), seems to represent the voice of reason in the movie, and does try to rectify the damage Aisha incurs, one can’t help but question his presence in such a film. Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar, and the Angelina Jolie-esque Lisa Haydon deliver competent performances, and act as foils to the uni-dimensional Aisha, and the uni-expressionistic Sonam Kapoor. Another grouse against the movie would be its similarities with Clueless (1995), wherein Alicia Silverstone plays a rich, teenage girl, who takes a “lame” young girl under her wing. Certain scenes, such as the one where Shefali gets rid of her ex-love’s belongings, are identical. Since Aisha is, apparently, inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Emma, it seems quite ironic to find scenes from a highschool movie duplicated in the film.
            It is true that Aisha never claimed to be a “serious” film, but to lose oneself entirely in frivolity  doesn’t seem appealing, particularly when the “lightheartedness” is coupled with immaturity, and silly, discriminatory behaviour. If Aisha characterises modern-day fairytales, I can’t help but exclaim, “Aisha kyu?!”