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Friday, August 6, 2010

Aisha – The Dashing Emma of Bollywood

         Abhay Deol and Sonam Kapoor (Arjun-Mr Knightley and Aisha-Emma) from

Time and time again we see remakes of Jane Austen novels, most of which fail to impress us who know our favourite novels inside out. Yet, seeing all these new adaptations appear clearly demonstrates how widely Jane Austen has influenced the world of art and entertainment. 200 years after her death, Jane Austen continues to move us, entertain us, and remind us of the imperfections and foibles in human nature.

In Emma, she delights us with her huge cast of interesting if contrasting characters that we can still identify in people around us. The rich, pampered girl who is used to getting her way; the patronising older man who behaves like your big brother but cares about you more than you know; the handsome, charming stranger who is not what he seems; the naive, young girl who is introduced to society and whose manners are polished by well-meaning friends.    

The wealth of interesting characters is the reason why Jane Austen continues to be popular. Throughout the world, new adaptations, both period and contemporary, emerge annually. India, in particular, is an ideal place for the setting of contemporary Jane Austen adaptations – a conservative, traditional society that has a strict social hierarchy and still favours matchmaking in the marriage market.


The newly released Aisha is a refreshing Bollywood remake of Jane Austen’s Emma. I was lucky enough to see the movie on its first date of release (today), and was impressed against my expectations.

Although the movie had the dialogue and style typical of a Bollywood masala movie, it was well able to capture the characters and the feel of the original novel. An added bonus was the beautiful costumes and excellent cinematography in the movie. My only criticism would be that the film did miss out a few key characters – Emma’s sickly, needy father; the intolerable Mrs Elton – and the intriguing mystery between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. However, I would warmly recommend this light movie to any Austen fan anywhere in the world – with subtitles of course!

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