In one of the most delightful scenes in Dev Benegal's Road, Movie, the character played by Satish Kaushik stops a film being shown in an outdoor theatre near a desert village, claiming it is too boring. He knocks off a few scenes from the movie, and restarts the show, smiling to himself and saying that now the film is fine. The villagers are happy.
Couple of days after Road, Movie, which is 96 minutes long, was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, we are watching the press screening of Ashutosh Gowariker's What's Your Raashee? which we were told was 195-long. Now, it transpires it is about 210 minutes long. Even then it felt, with its subplots and badly placed song sequences, to be two years old.
A colleague remembers the scene from Road, Movie, and whispers: Some one should have done that to this film, too. The pronouncement comes half way through Raashee. As the film limps from one scene to another, another colleague says: Gowariker should change his astrologer. This film is going to be an embarrassment.
It was another thing that the public screening in Toronto the film got a cheering ovation. Perhaps the audiences were feeling good about the film because they had a good look at Priyanka
But when it was released a week later at 78 locations in America and Canada, the film was dead on arrival. In three days, it grosses a meagre $169,000, less than half of the amount grossed by another disappointment, Dil Bole Hadippa. In the United Kingdom, there is more bad news. The film grossed less than $100,000 at 40 locations.
For distributor UTV, the film is a setback. For Gowariker who has had two big hits abroad (Lagaan and Jodhaa-Akbar) and a success (Swades), the failure of his sixth directorial vehicle sends a message, more is not always successful at the box-office.
If the film hasn't done well in India, it will be a third flop for Harman Baweja after Love Story 2050 and Victory. For Priyanka, it will be a big setback after the success of Kaminey, Dostana and to a lesser extent, Fashion.
"It is too long, and it is confusing," said a young viewer at a New York screening. "By the end of the film, it is difficult to remember what each character portrayed by Priyanka (Chopra) has done."
The scenes in which one of Priyanka's 12 characters tries to seduce Yogesh (Baweja) got plenty of sneers.
Some moviegoers laughed loudly at a scene in which one of the 12 characters played by Priyanka scolds Chicago-returned Yogesh for refusing to eat street food. He has become too sophisticated and snobbish, she seems to think.
"This is nothing but super patriotism," said a young woman. "Everyone knows the junk food in America is terrible, even then it is not as bad as the street food in India. Many of us who visit India after living here for some years fall sick because of the bad water and over used oil." And the situation is not confined to India alone, she said. Her Indian friends who returned from Ecuador recently had fallen ill after eating street icecream.
Priyanka, who has said that she has never worked as hard as on this film, could draw some conclusion that her work has been appreciated. The New York Times said she is the best thing about the movie. She 'plays all 12 and manages to make each distinct (if inevitably, sketchy), wrote the Times that ran the review under the headline: A Woman for Every Zodiac Sign. The movie is an epic in length only, the review added.
The review mentioned Yogesh's search for a bride taking him to a Virgo, a doctor who doesn't want to move to Chicago because she wants to run the rural clinic she has started near Mumbai.
'At this point, a good Hindi movie hero ought to stop,' wrote the reviewer Rachael Saltz, "and examine his values. Not Yogesh. He just moves on to Taurus.'