Paheli (meaning “The Riddle”) is, in short, a fairytale and makes no pretence of being anything other than that. Released in June 2005 and running for 2 hours 12 minutes, the stunning scenery of the film and beautiful colourful clothing of the cast will leave you breathless.
~*~ CAST/CREW ~*~
Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee in the lead roles, with support from Anupam Kher, Juhi Chawla, Sunil Shetty, with Amitabh Bachchan in a special appearance.
Produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s production company – Red Chillies Entertainment, Paheli is directed by Amol Palekar, winner of national awards. I have to mention that the cinematographer is Ravi K. Chandran as the cinematography is marvellous throughout the film.
~*~ PLOT TEASER ~*~
Young village girl Lachchi (Mukherjee) marries Kishanlal (Khan) and is full of happiness and romantic notions on the day of her wedding. On the way to her husband’s family home they stop at an oasis (can’t think of any other word to describe the place) to refresh themselves and a ghostly spirit falls madly in love with Lachchi.
Kishanlal seems only to be interested in increasing the wealth of his family and to please his greedy father (Kher). The day after their wedding, Kishanlal leaves for business telling Lachchi he’ll be back in five years. Lachchi is very saddened by this and is comforted by Kishenlal’s uncle’s wife (Chawla) who tells her that her husband (Shetty) has been away for 7 years leaving her at home with his parents too.
The ghost finds out that Kishanlal is leaving his wife for five years and decides to take on his appearance and enters her life telling his father that a sage promised that if he stayed at home he would wake up to five gold coins every morning. Lachchi is ecstatic that her husband has returned home to her but he cannot go through with a lie and tells her he is a ghost in the form of her husband.
What happens when the real Kishanlal returns home to his wife and family? Does all hell break loose? Who does Lachchi choose? The spiritual ghost who dotes on her? Or the real human husband?
~*~ ACTING ~*~
Shah Rukh Khan is brilliant in this film, and he gets two chances to excel. He plays the role of money hungry husband ever eager to please his father brilliantly but not spitefully and in the role of the ghost who is madly in love with Lachchi he cannot be faulted. I can’t think of any other Bollywood actor that could have done these two roles more justice. His facial expressions are a delight to watch when he’s being romantic, cheeky, clever or funny.
Rani Mukherjee is absolutely superb in her role as innocent young bride and passionate newlywed and dutiful daughter-in-law. She is Bollywood’s shining star these days and this part is just another feather in her cap to prove what a talented and versatile actress she is.
Anupam Kher is hilarious as the greedy father. He plays the role with such enthusiasm and hilarity that you can’t begrudge him being such a tightwad!
Juhi Chawla gets very little screen time but she performs her role with dignity. Sunil Shetty gets even less screen time but the few moments he appears on screen are well placed.
Amitabh Bachchan is very amusing in his special appearance towards the end of the film but I’ll say no more about who his character is as it would spoil the plot.
~*~ MUSIC ~*~
The music is directed by M M Kreen and lyrics are by Gulzar. There are some very pleasant songs in the film, and the choreography can’t be faulted. The most memorable song from the film (for me) is “Dheere Jalna” by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghosal. Other playback singers include: Madhushree, Bela Shende, Shruti Sadolikar, Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan.
~*~ FILMOGRAPHY ~*~
Shah Rukh Khan – Kal Ho Na Ho, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, Veer Zaara
Rani Mukherjee – Saathiya, Chalte Chalte, Veer Zaara, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
~*~ CONCLUSION ~*~
Paheli is set in an era when camels and carts were a popular mode of transport! It was shot entirely in scenic Rajasthan in India. The scenery in the film is nothing short of brilliant all the way through. Rich vibrant colours and glorious outdoor filmography make this a captivating film to watch. It is escapism at it’s absolute best.
The film isn’t supposed to be a lesson in what happens to rich people who are greedy and chase after more wealth or why a woman should or shouldn’t be expected to wait patiently for five years after her husband abandons her untouched after her wedding day and there aren’t any “bad guys” in the film. It could be construed as either just a feel good “chick flick” or a wonderfully magical love story somewhat reminiscent of the “Arabian Nights” tales.
I found the scenery entirely breath-taking in Paheli – which actually made me want to go and visit Rajasthan just to see the amazing sand dunes and majestic homes as well. The gorgeous colours worn by the girls in the films many song and dances just added to the splendour of the film. The ending was not at all what I was expecting, it wasn’t overly sentimental and on reflection it suited the film just perfectly! It fact, the ending made me feel very happy indeed and as I watched it with my husband, we actually both were quite touched and amused by the ending and believe me, that’s an achievement – as my husband is very fussy about watching films full stop.
Overall I’d rate Paheli a high 9 out of 10 and would add that it’s a film I’d have no qualms about watching again!
NB: this is a Bollywood film (i.e. Hindi language)