Saturday nights are generally meant to be de-stressing time for my workaholic family when we all relax and watch a movie or enjoy an occasional dinner in a restaurant. This Saturday was movie time. There were three movies to choose from – Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, Peepli Live and Aisha. We chose the third one. Our funda for movie selection was very simple – (1) Sonam Kapoor looked smashing in the promos, (2) The story was an adaptation of the classic - Jane Austin’s Emma and most importantly for me (3) The hero was Abhay Deol.
However, the predictable candy floss extravaganza that unfolded in two and a quarter hours time made me think seriously. Candyfloss it was – red roses, pink bows, satin sashes through and through. Only the Siamese kitten was conspicuous by its absence. Much has been already written and re-written on the movie on this site. So, I will abstain from a frame to frame, angle to angle, dialogue to dialogue, score to score dissection of the same. Just a few thoughts which tickled my mind while watching the movie.
It is an Anil Kapoor production. Hence, the role is inarguably tailor-made for Aisha i.e. Sonam Kapoor – a daughter of a rich father who has a single vocation, no, passion in life that of matchmaking. Somehow I always associated this “frivolous” activity with the middle aged housewives who did not have much to do than snoop around for marriageable sons and daughters and paired them off successfully and at times unsuccessfully. I am talking about those times when the parents did not depend on innumerable matrimonial sites and dedicated sections (running into pages) in Newspapers for marriage alliances. Also, my contemporaries were less self opinionated unlike modern girls and boys who have very clear and at times uncompromising notions about the institution of marriage. Matchmaking may have its own social significance and the ones actively involved in it perhaps be doing a great favour to society at large, but I am yet to come across a young girl clad in designer outfits and of, I presume, little more than average intelligence, devoting all her talents and papa’s paisa (source undisclosed in the film) to this activity.
Emma was written at a time (in 1813) when ladies with their fancy, frilled parasols, lace handkerchiefs, corsets, coiffures, chaperons and bottles of smelling salt were confined to their homesteads and whiled time in “womanly” activities like gardening, embroidery, socializing and taking care of the household in general. Jane Austin’s novels depicted the social milieu of her times. I always found it difficult to go through one as her characters were invariably caught up in social niceties like who is courting/angling for whom, mamas worried about their daughters not getting married on time, aunts entrapping unsuspecting, eligible beaus for their dumpling nieces and so on and so forth. At the same time, Jane Austin’s novels were hard hitting satires on the then prevailing social system wherein the womenfolk had no other option but to be dependent on marriage for financial and social security. No such message seems to be filtering through the script of this film as the adaptation is superficial without much effort at making the theme contemporaneous.
Given the backdrop of these classic creations, it will not be impertinent to ask whether an adaptation of a Jane Austin novel, especially Emma, befits the contemporary consumerist society, a by-product of an increasingly competitive market driven economy, where women have to precariously balance family life with a 9 to 5 job and at times play the role of the sole bread earner of her clan.
Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar) & Pinky (Ira Dubey), epitome of modern youth, depicted as somewhat paranoid of “being and dying single”, made me wonder whether marriage and relationship are really the foremost concerns of gen now. One may argue that the movie insinuates at the life and mindset of the more comfortable class, scions of which, do not actually have to worry about how to earn their daily grub. But I have also sampled a few specimens of the upper echelon who not only have greater drive and means to further their status but in the process make the race harder for those running in the survival of the fittest track.
What the movie successfully brings forth is the class contempt which is regrettably prevalent in, I think, every society, be it East or West. The continuous jibes at the middle class mentality represented by the “Bahadurgarh girl”, Shefali, aptly portrayed by Amrita Puri, are bold indicators of social snobbery at times bordering on extreme unkindness. Though, the script is amply punctuated by Arjun (Abhay Deol) chastising Aisha to stop reorganizing other people’s life and do something more constructive instead, nothing much propels her to do otherwise which again raises the quintessential debate whether Rajashree Ojha through her directorial debut is reinforcing the dumb damsel status quo wrapped in glitzy package.
The only glimmer of sunshine in the whole movie is the sensible, down-to-earth character of Arjun, played by Abhay Deol. That man has a knack of fitting into a character like hands slithering into a pair of well fitting gloves. His presence in the movie is like a breath of fresh air. I was taken aback to see M. K. Raina (Aisha’s father) dancing to Bollywood beats. Besides his nocturnal adventure with gajar ka halwa, Raina is grossly underutilized in the film. Anuradha Patel has nothing much to do but look elegant which she is.The opulent sets more than hint at a lifestyle where money is no issue. Ms. Ojha is promising but at times the infinitesimal pauses between dialogues (especially when Randhir proposes his undying love to Aisha to her utter chagrin) could have been pruned to make the pace racier and story telling crispier. The music by Amit Trivedi is passable.
All said and done, I would not say I yawned through the movie. The movie has great visual impact and the character portrayals are very good, especially that of the lovable Shefali i.e. Amrita Puri, who with her so-called “behenji” syndromes offers an equal match to the overpowering screen persona of Sonam Kapoor, if not outshine. Overall, running the risk of being branded as moral police, I’d say it is a clean film viewable with family and even enjoyable at times, especially, the repartees of the young ‘uns.
In fact, I am a little surprised that the movie could evoke such strong sentiments in me and incite an incisive analysis of the screen play. It is not that I have not enjoyed such light hearted chickflicks before. But the peach and cherry cake splattered with an additional ounce of icing and cream dished by Ms. Ojha, indicated another, rather a more disturbing fact, that I am way past that phase of life when I could thoroughly enjoy a mindless recreation cooked up by throwaway money and wasted energy of aimless youth.