Not so serious as to bog you down, not so frivolous as to be dismissed, Aisha is just right. A rom-com, it traces the life of central protagonist Aisha (Sonam Kapoor), an upscale Delhi girl whose life revolves around shopping for brands and matchmaking. She calls the latter “social service” in all seriousness, even as friends Pinky and Arjun keep telling her to quit meddling in people’s lives.
Pinky (Ira Dubey) has been her best friend since they were little; Arjun (Abhay Deol) is the one who’s severely critical of her and at times even patronizing. Aisha meets small-town girl Shefali (Amrita Puri) who is in Delhi to get hitched. Aisha adopts Shefali as her latest project and gives her a makeover, inevitably manufacturing a clone of herself. She tries fixing up Shefali with various suitors, manipulating situations and forcing romance.
Then on it’s a yo-yo ride between love, infatuation, friendship and so on. It’s an entertaining journey, as the characterisation is delightful and you form a connection with each of the film’s players. The additional characters, for example, include a mithai-king’s son - rich, but a little clumsy, and vulnerable to jokes and Arjun’s girlfriend who gives rise to a serious case of “bitchititis”.
The dialogue is real, hugely entertaining, and promptly makes its point. The writing (Devika Bhagat) is fabulous, folding in drama with humour expertly. There are lots of scenes that’ll remain with you like the one where the group goes for an overnight camp and snuggle together as someone strums a guitar: a breeding ground for hearts fluttering, and some breaking.
Director Rajshree Ojha’s (Chaurahen-Crossroads) storytelling is full of style that also reflects in the songs, the editing pattern, the shot-taking, and art direction. Clothes styling by Pernia Qureshi and Kunal Rawal is a treat.
Of course, the consumption and glorification of brands by the female character reminds one of the Sex and the City series. Music (Amit Trivedi; lyrics by Javed Akhtar) is just lovely.
Sonam Kapoor gives an ace performance as the somewhat nasty-sometimes angelic Aisha. With this role rendered so perfectly, Sonam has proven herself to be an actor to watch out for, capable of belting out an entire range of emotions. Abhay Deol is wonderful as the “corporate slave” who’s pining away for one person, but is involved with another. As Aisha’s best buddy, Ira Dubey is superb, bringing in nuance and individuality to the character. Amrita Puri as Shefali is immensely likeable and has some of the best lines. Cyrus Shaukhar as Randhir - the over-privileged nice guy, but a joke among his friends is impressive.
Then there are the little cameos that make the film special: M K Raina as Aisha’s father, Arunoday Singh as the love interest, Anand Tiwari as the “middle-class boy” constantly dissed by Aisha, and Vidhushi Mehra playing Aisha’s sister.
The fun in Jane Austen’s Emma and its subsequent adaptations has been the relationship dynamics between its characters. Two of the unlikeliest people fall in love; confused folks mistake infatuation for love; friendship remains a vague term. Even if you have seen the Hollywood adaptation Clueless, you’ll still enjoy Aisha for its expert desi spin on the story. It’s a world where the travelling-to-Mumbai gang may shop on the street but will lunch at The Taj and dine at Tetsuma.
It’s so rare for a film to get it all together: from the story, to the performances, to the atmospherics, to the music and more. This one goes perfectly with the popcorn: don’t miss it.