'Priyanka had the potential to do 12 roles'
After making a historical epic, Jodhaa Akbar, Ashutosh Gowariker has turned to a romantic comedy called What's Your Raashee? starring Priyanka Chopra and Hurman Baweja. Based on a Gujarati novel titled Kimball Ravenswood by Madhu Rye, this film revolves around the 12 raashees.
Patcy N talks to Gowariker about the film, and much more.
Was it difficult to come up with 12 looks for Priyanka?
I have always liked Priyanka's work, right from Hero: Love Story of a Spy . She's been fabulous in all her films. So when I thought of somebody doing 12 roles I thought about her, as I thought she had the potential. When I offered the role to her, she said yes instantly. Any other actress in her place would have been scared.
When my co-writer Naushil Mehta and I started writing the screenplay we decided to have one song for each raashee which should bring out the character of that raashee as well as the girl's. Every girl had to be different with different nuances.
We decided not use prosthetic on her, no long ears or short noses. We would only work on her hair and costumes. We would differentiate the 12 girls from their mannerisms and through characterisation too.
Hair stylist Asha Hariharan gave different hairstyles and textures to each look. Priyanka brought her talent and understanding to each character, and that helped a lot.
Image: Hurman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra. Inset: Ashutosh Gowariker
'What's your Rashee is a very Mumbai-centric film'
Why did you plan a romantic comedy after your grand epic, Jodhaa Akbar?
I think no director should stick to any one genre, as that will stunt the growth of that person. The director should reinvent himself and go into territory where he has not been before. After period film [Lagaan], social drama [Swades] and historical drama [Jodhaa Akbar], this was the best I could have done, as it's a light film. If audience just smiles after watching this film, I will be happy. That's what I want.
Why did you opt for one actress to play all 12 roles?
The book has 12 different girls but we thought of taking just one girl here. If we had taken 12 different actresses then the most beautiful one would have to be chosen. So beauty would get more importance. But by taking one girl to play all 12 roles, the importance shifts to the characters.
In What's Your Raashee, all the girls are in the age group of 20 and 23, except for one who plays an underage girl. All the girls belong to different stratas of society. It's a very Mumbai-centric film. All the girls are from Mumbai, except for one who hails from Jaipur.
Image: Hurman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra
'I did not look for Hurman's success. I just saw his talent'
How did you decide which sun sign gets the happy story and which one does not?
After doing research on sun signs, I have come to the conclusion that each of us have one twelfth of every sun sign in us. So all of us have similarties to the other sun signs. I learnt basic things about each sun sign like Cancerians are very emotional, that's why Hansa's character has a sad past. I'm sure people will say that my raashee is not like this. But I think that is good.
How did you work on Hurman's character?
Yogesh Patel is studious, truthful and honest. The audience should feel that the poor guy is being forced to get married.
When I saw rushes of Love Story 2050, I liked him immediately. I found him very endearing. He is a good performer and a good dancer. He has a good sense of comic timing. His first film did not work but then some films work, some don't.
I give importance to talent. I have had many good actors in Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar. I have chosen actors from Bhopal and Kolkata who have no association with the film industry. The guy who played Bairam Khan (Yuri Suri) in Jodhaa Akbar is so talented. Likewise, I did not look for Hurman's success. I just saw his talent.
Image: Priyanka Chopra and Hurman Baweja
'Rahman and I decided not to work together this time'
Why did you take a break from A R Rahman after Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar?
In the last 10 years, I have made only three films. Each of these three films took two-three years to get made because the canvas was so huge. A certain era had to be created. But after Jodhaa Akbar, I wanted to make a quick film. When I decided on What's your Raashee, Rahman was already committed to other films. I wanted 13 songs in the film, so we mutually decided not to work together this time.
I chose Sohail Sen. He is very talented and fresh. I wanted him to give his full time to my film.
Won't 13 songs make the film very long?
No, I don't think so. Each song is about three minutes long. I had to build all the characters; everybody had to have their own story. It was important to get the stories right.
How different is the film from the book?
There are a lot of differences, as the novel is vast. We had to deduct a lot of things, and add other things. We made the changes with Madhu Rye's permission.
Have you seen the television serial Mr Yogi, which had a similar story?
Yes. That was also based on the same book. But that was made for television and the format for TV is completely different from films.
Image: Priyanka Chopra
'My next will star Abhishek Bachchan'
Out of the 12 characters that you created, which was the most challenging?
I think Capricorn was the toughest to write and direct. The other was Cancer because that was an emotional story.
How much has the making of What's Your Raashee changed your own belief in sun signs?
I believe the sun signs if something good is written about my raashee. If something bad is written, I choose not to believe it.
Earlier, if I read the description of each raashee, they would all match mine. But after reading about each raashee in detail, I know the main features of all the raashees. I know things like if I don't speak well to a Cancerian, that person will get upset, as he is an emotional person.
I am working a film called Khele Hum Ji jaan Se. It is based on the 1930's uprising in Chittagong. I have bought the rights of book called Do and Die by Manini Chatterjee. It will star Abhishek Bachchan.
Image: Hurman Baweja