Let me start with the film. Clearly, the story and screenplay (both by mommy Vrinda Rai) was written with Aishwarya in mind. She dominates the film, start to finish. A teacher at a school for deaf-mute children, a woman married to the man of her dreams, a widow who has lost her memory and yearns for the man responsible for it -- Aishwarya has ample screen time portraying all these.
Not, mind you, that there is anything wrong with an actress dominating a film. Preity Zinta played the lead in Kundan Shah's Kya Kehna! and the film worked well at the box-office.
Dil Ka Rishta, Ash's first production, with bro Aditya co-producing the film alongside friend Shabbir Boxwalla, could have worked fabulously for her. She could have cashed in and made it the role of a lifetime. But she goofs up. And how!
A sore point is the constant focus on her wardrobe and looks, not performance. She also refers to her previous films to emote. When flustered by husband Raj's (Priyanshu Chatterjee) teasing, she reminds you of Nandini (Hum Dil Chuke Hai Sanam). When she pines for Jai's (Arjun Rampal) love, she reminds you of Paro yearning for Devdas.
That Ash is a director's actress is established with this film. Naresh Malhotra is no Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The result? Dil Ka Rishta leaves much to be desired.
By way of pluses, the other actors turn in credible performances. Priyanshu, in a guest appearance, is refreshingly natural and exhibits good comic timing. A pleasant surprise from his release last week, Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai.
Arjun Rampal shakes off his wooden image and comes up with a good performance. He is subtle and convincing in the emotional scenes. He has certainly moved on from Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat.
Raakhee and Paresh Rawal, as Ash's mother and Arjun's father respectively, do justice to their roles, though Rawal is largely wasted.
The film's pace and songs help build the narrative, though Nadeem Shravan's score is definitely not a strong point.