What’s Your Rashee?
Priyanka Chopra, Harman Baweja
Given this is the 50th year of the national broadcaster, some may recall a popular prime-time show from back in the otherwise dull days of Doordarshan, called Mr Yogi. One lanky, affable Mohan Gokhale used to play the main role. He’d extend his hand and introduce himself as “Y I Patel?” To which the girl at the other end would balk, “That’s your problem.” Every week, this young, visiting Indian Yogi would amuse his audiences, meeting a new desi girl, exploring the prospect of marriage.
Each episode would be a complete relationship drama, with its own comical ups and downs; no different from, say, a bunch of free-spirited singles hooking up each night on Sex And The City. The context of course wasn’t the same. This unfortunate film is adapted from the same Gujarati novel, Madhu Rye’s Kimball Ravenswood that the amiable Mr Yogi was based on. Yogesh here (Harman Baweja; charmless to the core) is a hunk; quite unlikely to imagine from a Gujarati family of plump shorties.
He has an elder brother under severe debt. The family needs the money. The grandfather is willing to pass on his wealth to Yogesh upon his marriage. Dowry could also settle the Patels’ monetary problems. This explains the unusual pressure on NRI Yogi to quickly score a life-partner. He meets a new girl of a different zodiac sign. Except each time he steps out, he sees the same girl (Priyanka Chopra) in a different form.
This is because, as his grandfather patiently explains a moronic twist of magic-realism, “In every woman, you’re looking for the princess of your dreams. They will look the same. It’s happened to me as well.” Sure! Only the lead actress is likely to be impressed by that sort of skull-duggery to suit her screen presence.
Pretty much through half a person’s work-day, Chopra plays a teenybopper who’d rather wait out a year before getting married; a homely, TV-soap bahu material, who’s lost her virginity; a corporate hot-head; a psycho, who fancies Yogi from her previous birth; an aspiring model; a doctor; a princess; a dance-a-holic; an astrologer… After a point it just stops to matter.
You may be driven to appreciate Chopra’s performances. Yet, she merely has to caricature her humourless parts; never add any depth to her roles. This is more an endless, giggly fancy-dress gig, between compilations of music videos from a second-rate soundtrack. No one out here is in any sort of rush.
The premise is still indelibly Indian. Apart from the romp of a wedding ceremony itself, the process of an arranged marriage is arguably this nation’s favourite pastime: The wedding date is usually fixed. What follows is a series of blind dates. Conversations around hobbies are exchanged, besides what they call ‘BHP’ (bio-data, horoscope and photograph). Access to English is a good indicator of a girl’s success at impressing the rich groom-to-be. Much about urban India may have changed. Not this. They just call it, “Meeting through parents these days.”
The phenomenon is unique to this culture. Gowariker (Lagaan, Swades, and this?) could’ve sensed the script as fit for crisp fun. It could have been even vaguely arresting to watch various personality types through the prism of Linda Goodman’s popular fiction. Nothing of the sort here. Neither actor has much flair for comedy; certainly not the dry, self-indulgent, self-serious writer-director, who takes us through everything (including social commentary), succeeding merely in sucking out every sense of joy. The rustic Russian roulette spins out restlessly. There are twelve sun-signs. “How many over yet? Three, five, seven, ten,” you hear murmurs from behind your seat. “How many more to go?” Quite a few, evidently, and over 3 hours and 20 minutes as well.
Producers at Doordarshan should be pleased. The tacky quality of production here is the only thing that could match Mr Yogi: that wonderful show we waited for a week to catch. This pressure-cooker could do with 12 breaks. But I suspect, that may not help the agony either.