Here Comes Ashutosh Goodman

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WHAT’S YOUR RAASHEE. Director: Ashutosh Gowarikar. Players: Priyanka Chopra, Harman Baweja, Dilip Joshi. Music: Sohail Sen Theatrical release (UTV Motion Pictures and Ashutosh Gowarikar productions).

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What’s your Raashee? is the Bollywood version of the Gujarati writer Madhu Rye’s novel Kimball Ravenswood which was made into a television-serial Mr. Yogi years ago. The story line is simple—NRI Yogesh Patel (ably underplayed by Baweja) must marry within ten days to save his family’s honor. And the quickest way to achieve this is to meet twelve girls, one from each zodiac sign, to find the most suitable wife.

Gowariker gives it a brilliant twist by having a single actress play all the roles. Yes, suspension of disbelief is required but Priyanka, fresh from the success of Fashion and Kaminey, tap-dances through the dozen roles. She’s an absolute delight to watch because, despite the severely limited screen time of each avatar, she manages to imbue each with a distinct personality. Full marks to the costume, make-up, and wig departments too!

Whether it’s the gawky Anjali or the steely Rajni, the broken-hearted Hansa or the quirky Vishakha, Priyanka is a treat. And Harman as Yogesh doesn’t let her down. It’s a role which is not demanding histrionically, but his gentle, understated portrayal of the peaceable Yogesh is the perfect foil to the roller-coaster “Priyanka Parade.” He looks good and dances like a dream. A little more work on voice modulation and emoting and he just might make it in fickle tinsel town. Of the supporting cast, only Dilip Joshi stands out as the comic relief who walks away with the juiciest punch lines.

The fatal flaw of the movie is the introduction of sub-plots which eat up valuable screen time that could’ve been used to flesh out the twelve Priyankas for better credibility. If Gowariker had stuck to the original premise—showcasing twelve vignettes and then ending with a dramatic climax—the movie would have been shorter, snappier, and appealed to a larger audience. As it is, saddled with irrelevant footage and a contrived climax, WYR falls short of expectations.

However, the movie is technically sound with excellent and finely detailed art direction—the Gujarati households being a case in point—and top-notch production values. Gowariker gets a chance to play around with different environs ranging from the majestic “Indralok” to the Riverdale-High tempo of a college fest. The humor is refreshingly crisp and clean with both the lead actors displaying a fairly good sense of comic timing (the Piscean and the Sagittarian encounters are laugh-out-loud funny!)

The songs by debutante director Sohail Sen are lavishly mounted and are a pleasure to listen to—be it the hummable “Jaao Na” or the gossamer-soft “Bikhri Bikhri.” And the  credit sequence with the multiple sun-sign-silhouetted Priyankas is fantastic.

And now the key issue—the portrayal of the sun signs. How accurate is it? Well, let’s just say that pop astrologer Linda Goodman’s fan club won’t be too impressed. Each sign gets very little time to play out, especially if you subtract the time devoted to songs. “Zodiacally” speaking, only Gemini (the effervescent commitment-phobic), Leo (the proud dancer), Cancer (the emotional heart-broken lover) and Virgo (the sweet, diligent doctor) come close to being their popular characterizations. Most of the others could be just any zodiac sign.

What’s Your Raashee? is a decent effort by a director attempting to do something different from his usual serious fare but, with all due respect, comedy is serious business

Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer, teacher, and children’s author based in India.

 

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