When the post-movie exit down the stairs turns out to be noisier than the proverbial fish market, you know that the heart strings have been yanked at like nobody's business. In What's Your Raashee?, Ashutosh Gowariker does a take on sun signs, one of womenfolk's top 5 favourite conversation pieces. Audiences of this one are more likely to be the kinds who consider Linda Goodman a significant part of their teenage years - the flick is as chick as a chick flick can get.
What's Your Raashee? is also a celebration of Priyanka Chopra, the actress - in fact, any woman going down the Kamal Hasan highway of showing off how many different kinds of make-up she can don, must be commended. The bigger feat consists of successfully keeping from overwhelming audiences with what can easily slip into megalomania. Chopra is there 12 times over - she's essentially the script of the film - and still gets interesting with each frame.
Gowariker bases his script on a bizarre premise - the foreign-educated Yogesh Patel (Harman Baweja) is forcibly brought to India because he must get married by the 20th of this month, going by the family astrologer. There's simply no other way out, because the family, though well-off, is in some serious debt issues, and the wedding is tied up with some big-time inflow of money.
Yogesh has an obscene number of girls lined up to meet, but decides to meet just 12, one from each sun sign. The women are all caricatures - what the film likes to call manifestations of the vital facets of each sun sign - but Gowariker displays an unfair partiality towards one of them, the only girl he portrays as 'normal' (a fatality, since she has no defining qualities in particular). Love strikes more than once, but the train has to move - Yogesh wants to decide only when he finishes the list.
Yogesh is the solitary thread of sanity in the proceedings, like the narrator in a world of weird women, the common man in an R K Laxman cartoon - and this is what forms the basis of the jokes.
The film is impossible to be considered anything but a â€˜story', a spoof on the zodiac, astrology and quick-fix arranged marriages, because Gowariker wraps it all up so abnormally, it looks like he's poking fun at the peculiarity of it all. Yogesh doesn't know who he's getting married to, even when he sees the bride walk down the pandal. Well firstly, she was finalized by his uncle and not him, and secondly, in his mind's eye, they're all Priyanka Chopras, and this one being dressed like a generic bride makes him keep guessing. Dangerous one there.
There are a few other logical flaws you could pick if you're particular about mapping the film with real life. For example, Yogesh goes through all the 12 women in his head when he's deciding in the end, though he doesn't really have to - because we'd assumed that most of them had already been eliminated during his first meeting with them.
Characterization and story line aside, the poking fun business does raise laughs. The wit is smart and subtle. Then, there are a couple of glimpses of Gowariker's pet topics - a little rural stint, and a very angry rant on NRIs.
What's Your Raashee? is more an artist's indulgence of developing characters, than it is a story-telling session. The creativity here is less in the sets and visuals, and more in Priyanka's look and diction.
Priyanka, for her part, handles it all with eye-popping ease. There's some curiosity value before the entry of each character, and she never once lets you down. She overdoes it sometimes - the Taurian and the Saggitarian are grating, and the Piscean is over-dramatized. Not all of it is her fault, though - some of the characters have been terribly written, like that of the cold and calculating Parmar.
Harman can breathe now - he's good, though audiences might have to live with the fact that the Hrithik-ness is a part of the package. He has to wear an amused and resigned look throughout the film, and pulls it off quite well, besides keeping with the comic timing.
Darshan Jariwala does a splendid job as Yogesh's uncle. Rajesh Vivek and Dilip Joshi are funny, too. The rest of the cast is an assortment of mostly senile unknown faces, who you wouldn't remember after a scene.
It's a completely Gujarati atmosphere out here, but there hasn't been a lot of emphasis on the visuals - Yogesh mostly meets the girls indoors. Priyanka's costumes and make-up are where all the production costs probably went.
Some of the songs are lilting and even engaging, and you could find a few addictively hummable bits here and there.
And at over 3 hours, Gowariker proves once more that he cares a damn for attention spans. What's Your Raashee? is likely to be bludgeoned by some big releases this festive season, but until then, there's reason to celebrate your Raashee.