English v/s Indian adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen
Ever since its publication in 1815, Jane Austen’s novel Emma has seen many on-screen adaptations. Aisha (2010) lengthens the list and comparisons are only natural. Pitch a 1996 TV adaption against Aisha and we see how the two fils score over each other on various accounts.
Handsome, clever and rich is how the central character of Emma Woodhouse is described in the introductory line of the novel. Starring Kate Beckingsale as the protagonist, the TV adaptation does get the handsome and clever part right, but not the rich. Sonam Kapoor as Aisha, however, looks every bit as wealthy and stylish as Emma is said to be. Emma, the TV series, takes us to a bourgeois part of 20th century Britain. Accordingly, we see proper curtseying and mannerisms, ball room dances, puff-sleeved gowns, and large bonnet hats that are typical to the English. Aisha is set in elitist Delhi society where people raise toasts at weddings and take up gardening as a hobby. Financially secure and without a care in the world, Emma’s character focuses her abilities on matchmaking while she herself declares her wish to remain unwedded. Beckinsale as Emma does or aspires nothing of importance as she goes about her day, socialising. And in that, Aisha is more believable as a character as she is shown to be a budding artist and having a keen interest in animal welfare, apart from shopping and partying, that is.
A major aspect where Aisha scores over Emma is the supporting cast. Aisha has a strong ensemble of characters in the form of Ira Dubey (Pinky), Amrita Puri (Shefali), Abhay Deol (Arjun) and Cyrus Sahukar (Randhir). In Emma, none of the actors fail to make an impact or leave a mark. Puri is especially delightful as the small town girl, while her counterpart Samantha Morton as Harriet hardly matches up to her. Beckinsale does not emote aptly and one often wonders what a particular expression is supposed to convey. Ditto for Kapoor. Mark Strong (Mr Knightley) and Deol are both wasted in the movies with hardly any screen time. Characterisation has been given some thought in Aisha, while in Emma, the story moves on a very superficial level, barely connecting us to the characters and their emotions.
Direction-wise too, Aisha is one ahead of Emma as Emma fails to capture the vast beautiful countryside ofEnglandeffectively. Aisha, on the other hand, takes us enjoyably through the streets ofDelhias well as more picturesque locales when characters go on a camping and rafting trip.
Dialogues are another element that either makes or breaks a movie. Emma wows you with the controlled, archaic language that is delivered brilliantly by the actors in a distinguished British accent. Aisha does have a fine supporting cast but the leading lady Kapoor herself says her lines flatly, in an annoying saccharine voice.
The chemistry between Mark Strong and Beckinsale is cackling, unlike that of Deol and Kapoor. As the plot includes merriment and hobnobbing, there is song and dance in both – at Christmas and in a ball room in Emma, and at clubs and weddings in Aisha.
On the whole, Emma, the movie and its character, seems rather dull in comparison to the fun, colourful and bold, Aisha.
P.S.: Had written this back in college as part of an assignment in a Feature and Opinion class. Thank you for reading!
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