Twenty years ago, director Ketan Mehta turned Gujarati author Madhu Rye’s novel Kimball Ravenswood into an engaging television serial.
The story, about an eligible bachelor who, to save his family from calamity, must find a bride in 10 days and so decides to meet one girl from each horoscope, is episodic and therefore perfectly suited to TV. The same tale however, makes for absolutely excruciating cinema.
Yogesh, played by Harman Baweja, is an MBA and part-time DJ living in Chicago. He is summoned home by his panicky parents and brother.
The brother has borrowed over Rs four crore from various sources including some unsavory bhais and must pay it back or else, the bhais will starts severing his fingers.
Yogesh’s maternal grandfather is going to bequeath him some serious wealth on his marriage. So the family and eventually a reluctant Yogesh decide that he must marry, inherit the wealth and pay off the debts.
Yogesh thinks he will find some semblance of love if he meets one girl from each of the 12 Rashis, because he tells us, there are only 12 kinds of girls in the world.
Each girl of course, is played by Priyanka Chopra. Making riveting cinema out of 12 similar encounters is a Herculean task for any director. But perhaps even more so for Ashutosh Gowarikar whose strengths as a storyteller seem more suited to 70 mm epics than romantic comedy. For one, there is his talent for telling unhurried stories, which have a certain stillness and gravitas and frequently run into several hours.
This epic length simply doesn’t work for romance. At nearly four hours, What’s Your Raashee, is a marathon watch. And the rewards for enduring it are slim.
The series of dates with potential brides begins marvelously with Priyanka playing a small-town girl who pretends to smoke and drink because she thinks that the NRI boy will prefer it. But very quickly, the girls become clones, each one wearing a sexy, backless choli and one quirk.
Priyanka is one of Bollywood’s most compelling heroines but Raashee gives her 12 roles with very little meat. Her comparatively short turn in Kaminey left a greater impact than all of these girls put together. Also, there is little plot movement in What’s Your Raashee.
Only characters and interactions carry this story. When that becomes shaky, the pace, burdened with too many songs and some feeble comedy, goes into slow motion. And you are so exhausted that you can barely keep track of the girls or their sagas or why Yogesh does or doesn’t like them. Moreover, this entire exercise swirls around Harman who seems sincere enough but simply doesn’t have the screen presence or the acting chops to pull it off.
Ashutosh Gowarikar is a fine filmmaker who has consistently strived to stretch the boundaries of mainstream Hindi cinema – recall the Oscar nominated Lagaan or the less successful but thought-provoking Swades. What’s Your Raashee is a gargantuan misstep. See it if you must.