Monday, September 28, 2009

What's Your Raashee?

First things first, a remake of the absolutely delightful TV program Mr. Yogi (1989), where the incomparable Mohan Gokhale so beautifully acted out the shy, sensitive, confused young man after whom suddenly everyone wants to run, should never have been attempted; the film is of course obstensibly on the same Gujarati novel by Madhu Rye, but it makes a botched attempt trying to cover all bases of (a) showing "real" India, (b) cheesy comedy, (c) launching for the third time the hero of the film, (d) giving some contrived happy ending. When you do all that you tend to get lost; now to the specifics. And comparisons.

Mohan Gokhale was lovable as the NRI who is desperately seeking for a bride with whom he thinks he can be then faithful and peaceful; Hurman Baweja is not, not just because he can't seem lovable at all, but also because the plot shows him as a man with no sensibilities to whomsoever he marries! To top that, the director tries to depict him a "progressive" young man [yeah, I will have to dole out many double quotes]. Baweja looks a lady-killer alright, but a downright killer too in the bargain; his acting skills make it seem he is himself bored of it all, why is he an actor then? Priyanka, at the time the film was shot his flame, can't keep up the film: just because in spite of the 12 roles she tries to essay, some are written to be the same, some are acted by her as if same.

Ashutosh Gowariker has time and again proved to be unbearable: the only film of his that I have ever been able to watch in full, that too only in spells over months, was Swades. The mistakes he repeats in that film are repeated here again: sugarcoating realities and presenting them as new realities, which makes things worse. A geek is allowed to change the whole system and politics quite easily in Swades, without even getting so much as a death threat; here, the hero gives mouthfuls of preachings to the damsels he rejects, and wow! the lives of heroines change and they are jumping after the hero who came, saw, conquered, and left. What flights of fancy and disgusting implications! [I don't think exclamations also are getting a break!] While watching a Gowariker film (since I've managed to watch spells of other films, but they just look uncompletable), you feel as if he neutered everything good, everything evil, then maybe distilled a drop of what he called "good," and vaccinated everybody with it. The half-confused public falls for it usually, swept up in frenzies of winning awards or national pride or prima donnas moving completely painted in grotesque makeups in grand sets; sets which also look sets. This time I think the public has for the large part rejected it, since men think to see a film anywhere near zodiac as womanly, the women are disappointed to find out that there is no glorification of the zodiac (in fact, in a fuzzy manner, a satire), and the kids of course get disappointed to find no "action" or vulgar jokes which they could recount in school next day. A shame really, to disappoint the viewers in such a manner after so stylishly naming the film, What's Your Raashee?

In spite of the mindless subplots of an other woman and a local mafia don, which were thought to be laughter inducing, what makes the film truly daunting to watch is its length, and the number of songs. I guess the director forgot his job and thought it's meant to showcase Priyanka Chopra, the actress playing all the 12 prospective brides, and not the story. If that is what he had in mind, he could have succeeded had not Chopra not known at all how to play a girl sensitive or shy: all she does is to curtail her lips in a manner suggesting some physical deformity, and speak from only the left side of her mouth! Considering that the 12 were neatly divided into two categories of not submissive and submissive, that's an extraordinary lot of digesting left-side-speakers. The music itself is not bad, but there was simply no need for it. The original novel character had a girlfriend in America too, which makes the real NRIs coming and arranging marriages scenario much more real; why was the hero here painted so much in confusion and so running after every girl, and yet he doesn't have a girlfriend back new home? Could have made the story more real: could have shown the intentions of an NRI to get a docile cow from home. But oh! The intentions were to save his family from a local mafia don! I forget the jumble always.

The only place where the film does score is touch upon, maybe with wrong approach and in wrong measure, some of the lives that women do lead, especially the Indian women living in the closed framework of families still living in the India of colonial and Mughal times, an era of living death for women. If all 12 stories could even have been just this touch without the preaching, it would have been some worthwhile effort. However, even focusing upon women and their lives in today's India seems a bit cliched; I would love a story of men, maybe not in the guise of zodiac, just different men, different circumstances. Calling Dalits as Harijans was in itself Gandhi's insult to them; why a different label? Isolating like some strange species women and microscoping them is as much hateful; the film does a good job of being feminist. When there are people who also keep refining their sentiments about things, I guess this is part of the world I live in.

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