An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts Fan Club

It was nearly towards the finale of An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts (2021) that I remembered the monstrosity that was What’s Your Rashee? (2009). Ashutosh Gowariker did this almost a decade prior to Netflix’s adaptation of Silvia Zucca’s book, “An Astrological Guide for the Broken Hearts”. The book was published in 2015 and was positioned as a response to present-day Bridget Jones. While the familiar plot may remind you— an eligible single person tries their hand at courting/dating folks from the opposite sex, one each with a different zodiac sign, to see their compatibility and what follows— the treatment is what made all the difference.

Gowariker’s film ties a timebound marriage to the story, whereas Netflix’s plot revolves around a perpetual spinster who is the star of the show. We’ve got a change in the setting too- between Gowariker’s tightly knit Gujarati NRI family to Bindu De Stoppani’s version of a detached Italian mom in Turin; there’s a stark difference between the socio-political context in both their screenplays.

There’s also no comparison between the protagonist in each; Claudia Gusmano really spells sexy and talented versus Harman Baweja, who I shall leave it to the reader’s discretion and imagination to fill in their own blanks.

And yet, I was reminded of the monstrosity that was What’s Your Rashee? Only for a fleeting moment, when I thanked my (astral) stars for this respite from idiocy and returned to the series.

An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts justifies paying for Netflix. It may not be the most impressive series you have seen, but it is surely the one you should pick when you’re in the mood for something light, fun and not completely brainless. A series that takes a familiar tale of a single woman in her 30s with a dead-end job and shows her in and out of a series of dates and poor dating decisions is a welcome change from all the iterations of this plot that I have seen across different streaming platforms. Her coping mechanisms are real—she drinks after work without thinking of the consequences which often lead to complex situations including drunk texting her ex’s current girlfriend (fiancé), throwing up on her boss after, and promising her married best friend that she will mend her ways. It is almost refreshing to know that Netflix, somewhere in the world, gets the single professional woman right, as opposed to showing her perfect and in control at all times along with portraying her in situations that are not even close to reality.

That satisfaction might be the result that the show is originally in Italian and perhaps the subtitling really led me to believe the series is everything and more. In terms of good production design, screenplay and character breakdown, An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts truly captures the mood (disgruntled, over-worked, under-appreciated single woman in media) and does justice to the way the plot aligns with the storytelling. This may or may not work for Italians, but as a frustrated Indian, I will gladly take this representation. Someone, please nudge the creators and producers of Bhaag Beanie Bhaag. They should definitely add this to their stream list to learn how to make a half-decent OTT series for Netflix without making someone cringe twenty times in one episode.

I digress, but, I’m obsessed and keenly involved in the universe of Alice Bassi. Alice, the protagonist, has a meet-cute with Tio (Lorenzo Adorni), a stranger who she befriends (and not looks at as a potential suitor, thank you, lord). During their initial conversations, we learn that Tio is obsessed with zodiac signs and follows the planetary movements (supposedly) affecting people in his life. In time, we also learn that Tio only exclusively dates folks he’s astrologically compatible with. Alice, a skeptic, thinks the idea is garbage until he figures a thing or three in front of her about her choices in men, which convinces her that he is the right wingman to find her next romantic partner.

In the course of her learning more about different men she encounters, one suitor with a different zodiac sign (starting from Aries in the pilot and going all the way to Virgo in the finale). In the meantime, she pitches a new TV show at her workplace, a small television network where she works with a ridonkulously good-looking and an understanding boss Davide Sardi (Michele Rosiello). The TV show itself is on the same subject—bringing an eligible bachelor and making them choose between single folks with different zodiac signs and using Tio as the in-house expert in guiding the eligible single to make a better decision.

It gets a bit intense with repeated conversations around zodiac sign compatibility and Alice’s personal life, but it’s sweet enough to stream in the background even while you’re working. The costume design and the view of Turin act as distraction enough from all the astrology mumbo jumbo.

One of the highlights of the series, other than TMI about zodiac signs, is the way relationships are written, sans any bullshit. Alice and Tio had me at their friendship, only because, anyone who is single in their 30s can identify with how difficult it is to meet new people and make friends with them. Their relationship is wholesome, heartwarming and real- it goes through waves of highs and lows between them, keeping it relatable and as normal as possible.

The series also takes the viewer through an uncomfortable reality that plagues most workplaces—men hesitating to take orders from women and treating them as pretty accessories to the organization. There are more than a few instances where we root for Alice as she tries to deal with her colleague and ex Carlo Baresi (Alberto Paradossi) at the workplace over leadership issues. Sure, our friend Alice, made some questionable choices, dating colleagues at work, but who am I to point the moral compass at her? Even if she does it twice, including dating a contractual Gemini at work (nooooo, Alice, in this house we don’t date Gemini men), we root for her to get her credits as the creator of the show. Fuck finding the love of your life.  

The fact that the first season of the series rounds up to a screen time of nearly 180 minutes, you can comfortably schedule this on a day off or when you’re sick and need a hug from a friend (but all your friends have left town and you can’t get your own personal Tio cause your life is not a Netflix Original). The music, the dialogues (whatever Italian I could understand), acting, and even the production design all balance each other in a way of telling a simple story with memorable instances, each with an episode.

I don’t suppose you need an astrological chart for yourself to see this series but if you’re unconvinced, watch it purely for the rom-com angle and some sharp chick-flick writing, without being preachy or boring. Whether you look at this as a series on women in leadership roles or women getting drunk and dumped, this will appeal to both your sensibilities if you are looking for a mellow day in.

 The series is available for streaming on Netflix in India.

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Anisha Saigal

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Pop-culture omnivore. Survived publishing, academia, film school. Struggling with the pandemic.