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Paheli movie review

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Cast Rani Mukherjee, Shahrukh Khan, Anupam Kher, Amitabh Bachchan    more...
Director Amol Palekar
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The Paheli Movie Review

By Nitika Desai
Rating: 0.5/5

The moment Paheli begins, you know that it is a fairytale. The sandscapes of rural Rajasthan, the vibrantly colorful dresses of its denizens, the rustic ambience, all of it transports you into a mirage-like world.

And yet, when the movie gets going, you find yourself completely immersed in it as if it were real life. Such is the mastery of Amol Palekar, who has adopted a simple and thought provoking folktale onto celluloid for this unforgettable cinematic experience called Paheli.

Paheli is a beautiful riddle that provides its own answer. It is the story of a woman who longs for love of her husband. It is the story of a ghost who reciprocates her love by assuming the form (in flesh and blood) of her husband.

Lachchi (Rani Mukherjee) is a dreamy-eyed, giggly, beautiful girl married to Kishenlal (Shah Rukh), who is a full-blooded baniya. In her heart, the nubile girl longs for the love of her husband, but he seems married to his bahi khata (accounts) instead.

In the beginning of the movie we are also introduced to a ghost, a wandering spirit who assumes the shapes of different living creatures (like squirrels, crows, singing birds, humans etc.) at will.

On the very next day after marriage, Kishenlal leaves his village for a business that would take him years. Lachchi is left alone pining for love.

It is then the wandering spirit takes the form of her husband and reciprocates her emotions. 'Ghost' Kishenlal (Shahrukh) has the qualities that Lachchi longs for in a husband. He is a sensitive lover, a prankster, a magician and much more.

Years pass before the real Kishenlal returns home to bewilder everyone. Lachchi, her in-laws and the entire village is stunned at seeing two Kishenlals. Unable to find a way out of this predicament, the villagers decide to take the king's counsel. But on their way, they meet an eccentric shepherd (Amitabh Bachchan) who solves the paheli with his almost Zen-like wisdom.

There is something beautiful, deep and subtle about this story which is so simple and yet it leaves you clouded with pleasant thoughts. Paheli is no love epic, nor is it a hollow harangue on morality or women's right. However, the movie does raise a few pertinent questions as to whether a woman has the right to decide about her own life and spouse. But it is all done in subtle ways. It doesn't blare out its message. But it says it in subdued tones, saying it without speaking, thereby creating enough gaps to involve the viewer to make the story work. That is why Paheli is a piece of excellent cinema.

Some may find the movie a bit slow in the first half. The songs, no doubt a delight to the ears, are more frequently strewn in the initial half. The cinematography by Ravi Chandran is simply mesmerizing. The best thing about it is that it doesn't take your attention away from the story despite capturing the hues and shades of a Rajasthani ambience with striking brilliance.

As for the acting, it must first be confessed that this writer has never been much impressed with Shahrukh's acting in the past. But in Paheli we get to see the glimpses of a real actor coming to form. In his twin role of the emotion-dry Kishenlal and the vivacious 'ghost', SRK has surpassed my expectations.

Need it be said that Rani Mukherjee is perhaps the best talent we have in Bollywood at present. She is an actress who can speak with her silence, express any emotion with a mere facial expression. And what to say about her chemistry with Shahrukh! You have to see it to know it.

In the marginal roles Anupam Kher and Rajpal Yadav stand out. Amitabh Bachchan appears for a mere cameo and leaves you awe-struck with his unexpected rural looks and his incredibly convincing portrayal of an eccentric shepherd.

In short, Paheli is one of the best films to have come out from Bollywood this year. The folk tale of Vijaydan Detha has been retold on the screen with remarkable authenticity. The script by Sandhya Gokhale is without any faults. The dialogues are in crude Hindi and have a rustic Rajasthani twang.

Last but not the least, Amol Palekar at least deserves an award for telling a beautiful story with such simplicity that it stays with you even when the movie is over.

A Must Watch

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