Bollywood director Ashutosh Gowariker, whose ‘What’s Your Rashee?’ premiered at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival on 18th September 2009. Gowariker, Priyanka and actor Hurman Baweja were given the ceremonial red carpet reception at the city’s Roy Thomson Hall where the film premiered Saturday. And festival co-director Cameron Bailey was on hand to welcome the trio.”It is an honour to have India’s great and very diverse director (Gowariker) here with us today. We welcomed him here in 2001 with ‘Lagaan’ and we welcome him here again, ” said Bailey. Unlike 2001, Gowariker said, Saturday was a special day for him as it was the first time his film was being premiered at one of the world’s top film festivals. “I am apprehensive, waiting in anticipation how the film is received back in India when it is released next week. I hope the planets (rashee) are with me, ” Gowariker told. Waving to the crowd in the theatre hall, Priyanka said she was thrilled to be at the Toronto film festival for the first time. She asked the audiences to be forgiving as it was her first film premiere at a major international festival.
In ‘What’s Your Rashee?’ (What’s your sun sign?), which is based on Madhu Rye’s Gujarati novel ‘Kimball Ravenswood’, Priyanka plays the role of 12 girls who meet bride-hunting NRI Yogesh Patel played by Hurman Baweja. Yogesh, who has been flown in from Chicago by his parents to get married within just 10 days on the advice of the family astrologer, gets responses to his matrimonial advertisement from 165 girls. But since he cannot meet all of them in 10 days, he picks one from each sun sign to meet.
Asked why he didn’t pick 12 different actresses for the 12 roles, Gowariker said at a press conference here: ‘If I had cast 12 different actresses, the audience would have wanted the fairest to win (Yogesh’s hand) and thus beauty would have taken importance.’ But he didn’t want the choice of bride to be made on the basis of the beauty, he said. ‘I didn’t want beauty to play an important role. When I read the novel, I thought why not have the same girl play the 12 parts? I felt that if I cast 12 different girls, beauty will take precedence. To rule out beauty as a factor, I wanted to assure the audience that Yogesh is going to get the same girl.
‘Once you are sure about it, you just sit back and watch how the relationship develops between Yogesh and each girl with a different sun sign, and which sun sign he finally chooses,’ the filmmaker said. Gowariker said his film is as much about sun signs and romance as empowerment of India women. ”What’s your Rashee?’ may seem a romantic comedy, but layers below it is about the girl getting the chance to speak her heart, and express her desires and ambitions. The film reflects the empowerment of women in India today,’ he explained.
In the packed hall, the audience enjoyed every moment as the over three-hour-long film unfolded on the big screen. After initially switching between India and Chicago, the plot settles on NRI Yogesh Patel’s Gujarati family as the search begins for a bride for him. Twelve songs – one for each sun sign – keep the plot afloat as Priyanka changes chameleon-like from the role of one girl to the other. If she is homely in one role, she is a bold student in the other, a dedicated doctor in another and a corporate in the next. If in one role she says she knows nothing about love, in the next she frankly admits to having an affair with someone. The film is set for commercial release Friday.
The director said the film has deepened his interest in astrology. ‘Before making this film, I was concerned only with my own sun sign Aquarius. But after the film, I now understand that each sign has its own qualities. My way of looking at even my childhood friends has changed. ‘If my friend is a Cancerian, I now take care not to offend him, knowing that his sun sign is the emotional type. So I think in romance and relationships, that extra astrological information can be helpful for more bonding,’ he added.
“What’s Your Rashee?” was the second Bollywood film to be premiered this year at the festival after “Dil Bole Hadippa”, which stars Rani Mukerji and Shahid Kapoor.But many other India-specific films were also screened at the film festival this year.These included “Window” (Janala) by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, “The Man Beyond the Bridge” (Paltodacho Munis) by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, “Road, Movie” by Dev Benegal, and “Cooking with Stella” by Dilip Mehta. There were also quite a few films that were either partly shot in India or have Indian connections. “The Waiting City” by Claire McCarthy revolved around an Australian couple coming to Kolkata to adopt a child. “Google Baby” by Zippi Brand Frank depicts the business of surrogacy motherhood in Gujarat. “The Joneses”, the highly-rated American film by Derrick Borte, had equity from India’s Vistaar Religare Film Fund.
COINCIDENCE: Today afternoon I was talking to my friend Rachna about having a Libran Wife, a Scorpion GF, a Capricorn Companion and an Aquarian Friend. Later I told her to have 12 girls in each sun sign and to select one which will be a Libran. That time I didnt know about the main theme of What’s our Rashee? Really today is a day of Coincidences. Let’s see Harman selects which girl out of 12. I cant wait till I watch the movie and wanna read the novel immediately.