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AISHA. Director: Rajshree Ojha. Players: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Amrita Puri. Music: Amit Trivedi. Theatrical Release (UTV).
The channeling of Western classics onto the Indian screen may very well have started with Sohrab Modi’s 1935 classic Khoon Ka Khoon, which reconfigured Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Other notable and successful transfers included Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, remade by Jyoti Swaroop as Padosan(1968) and Nasir Hussein’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While not quite in the same caliber, co-producer Anil Kapoor and company’s attempt to give Jane Austen’s Emma a salon makeover with Aisha is credible.
Under the watchful eye of her well-meaning neighbor Arjun (Deol), twenty-something New Delhi spinster Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) pushes forward with social plotting to match up as many of her friends, acquaintances, distant relatives and total strangers as possible, undeterred by her dismally low success rate. Along with pals Pinky (Dubey) and Shefali (Puri), Aisha’s triumvirate never misses an opportunity to introduce would-be paramours to each other. If that fails, the trio opts for power shopping, which gives Diego Rodriquez’s sumptuous cinematography a chance to zoom in on the toniest boutiques in Mumbai and Delhi, mountainous vistas north of Delhi and lots of designer threads.
What is most striking is Aisha does the seemingly impossible—it becomes that very rare big-budget Hindi entry with a strong female at the center to have a successful opening weekend and qualify as a sleeper hit.
Against all odds, this softly-focused romantic interlude with a not-always-likable female protagonist finds the right outfit to step into. Go see and then go figure!
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.