By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "What's Your Raashee?"; Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Hurman Baweja; Director: Ashutsoh Gowariker; Rating: *** 1/2)
A Gujarati downmarket wannabe bride dragged out of her traditional habitat into tight skirts tops and a 7-star hotel by her parents to meet the eligible bachelor from Chicago. The girl's longing to go West leaps out at you even when the guy politely rejects her.
"It must be snowing in Chicago," she says with a warm wistfulness that melts your heart.
Elsewhere, almost at the end of Yogesh's (Hurman Baweja) long and exhausting bride-hunt a 15-year-old is passed off by her desperate parents as a purported bride. When our hero politely asks her which college she attends, the school girl burst into wracking sobs.
There are enough heart-melting moments in this lengthy treatise on how not to go bride-hunting for money's sake, to make Ashutosh Gowariker's reputation as a filmmaker. His films constantly ventures into areas of filmmaking that seem at first commonplace but actually secrete the most valuable truths of life.
We saw him make a resplendent virtue of simplicity in the storytelling in "Swades" where Gowariker said "go back home" to the NRI played by Shah Rukh Khan.
A lack of pretension and a thorough affinity to simplicity and grace in the narration imbue "What's Your Raashee?" with shades of life done in the quirky satirical tones that completely reject obscure images and symbols.
Raashee relates the episodic story of the NRI's search for a bride in the easygoing rhythms of a folk tale set to a contemporary but unobtrusive beat. The director's eye for detail is unmatchable. When a postman huffs and puffs up that dusty village-road to deliver a much-awaited birthday card to a rich nanaji (grandfather) from his favourite grandson in Chicago, the postman's shirt is sweat-stained.
When the first of Yogesh's wannabe brides, arguably the best of Priyanka's 12 spectacular turns, walks in, her shoes seem to have been bought only hours ago.
Gowariker pitches the elemental tale at a satirical level. Some of the supporting characters - too broadly parochial to match the narrative's mellow mood - needed to be toned down. Also the whole subplot about the marriage broker (Darshan Zariwala)'s extra-marital affair and a bumbling detective on his trail needed to be edited out.
Some of the music in the otherwise-interesting mix of acoustics and sporadic melody by debutant Sohail Sen is also a burden on the narrative.
But Yogesh's bride-hunt never gets tedious, thanks to the unadorned interiors of the simple plot. The bride-encounters move from the poignant girl who frankly tells Yogesh she had sex with her neighbour to the satirical self-crowned yogini who gets horny on the flustered Yogesh to the unabashedly idealistic barefoot doctor who invites Yogesh to move from Chicago to the village to the satirical theatre actress who spews venom at the NRIs - each character brings her own little universe of flickering emotions and ideologies.
The film is the consummate post-date film. It tells us about what happens to the nice decent Gujarati boy Yogesh, played with heartwarming niceness and decency by Hurman, when he meets 12 prospective brides.
By now we all know Priyanka Chopra plays all the 12 brides. What we don't know is how beautifully she balances every characters' inner life in the swarming but serene paradigm of the plot creating for each of the 12 intended brides an inner life and an outer glow within a restricted time-span.
It's an amazing achievement. Priyanka gives soul to all the 12 characters she plays. In the climactic song, she brings all of them together, quirks and mannerisms all on display in one unified flow of feelings and body-language. The actress achieves individuality for all her characters while giving the plot a homogenous flow.
As for Hurman, this film is his actual debut. His equation with Priyanka is similar to Shahid Kapoor's vis-?-vis Kareena Kapoor in "Jab We Met". Hurman is warm and sincere and ever-articulate before the camera. What a nice guy he has made out of yogi.
A lovely uncluttered, unassuming and transparent film from Gowariker!