Paheli opened in Laurel, Maryland last night. The theatre was three-quarters full.
I loved it. When I walked out, I thought, "Hey, there were no fight scenes. No one was killed." How often can you say that?
Ok, in case you wondered, the film stars Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Anupam Kher, Juhi Chawla, with guest appearances by Sunil Shetty and Amitabh Bachchan.
What was it I loved? It was colorful and funny. It was a fantasy. You could lose yourself in the story and yet peer into life's dilemmas.
The story based on a novel by Vijayadan Detha is a marvelous adaptation of his folk tale, "Duvidha." The use of animated characters and a bit of special effects set the stage for a magical story. To me, it is a husband's cautionary tale -- be the love your wife desires and you shall reap bountiful rewards.
Two delightful puppets (voice overs: Naseeruddian Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah) assist in the story narration.
After her marriage, Lachchi travels by caravan to her future home. When the caravan stops to rest near an oasis, Lachchi passes under a banyon tree and a ghost sees her and falls in love with her. The ghost appears in many forms in attempts to attract Lachchi's attention. After the caravan leaves, the ghost is tormented by his love for her.
The husband, Kishan (SRK), is a prig. All he cares about is money not romance. Kishan tells his new wife "making money was the foremost duty of a trader." "Only wealth matters," he says as he leaves the morning after their wedding. His journey to outlying villages to collect taxes and barter for goods will take five years. Lachchi, his wife (Rani), cannot come to terms with the situation even though she is surrounded by loving in-laws. While her sister-in-law, (Juli Chawla), tries to console Lachchi by telling her the story of her husband's abandonment, Lachchi longs for the love she had hoped for.
Kishan stops at the same oasis to take a break. Curious, the ghost takes human form (Aasif Sheikh) and learns that Lachchi's husband has left her for five years. He takes the shape of her husband and comes to the family home as their son. At first, the ghost as the son, Kishan, must convince the father (Anupam Kher) that his return will be profitable. Once convinced, the father and family welcome him lovingly. When the imposter enters Lachchi's bedroom where she waits, he tells her the truth and pours out his heart. He tells her his love is true and undying and asks her to accept him. He gives her a choice. He is ready to accept her rejection. Torn between wanting to be a loyal wife in a loveless marriage and the gift of eternal love, Lachchi chooses love.
For a few years, the imposter Kishan and Lachchi live as a loving couple within her extended family. Love is SRK's theme and in this role he shines as a loving husband, son, neighbor, and father.
During this time, various events illuminate some of the family's history. Interlaced, in this time period, are the odd messenger (Rajjpal Yadav) who claims to have been sent by Kishan from a distant village, and similar remarks by others that are dismissed, especially as they can see Kishan is here in his home.
While the sets and costumes were lavish, the story took center stage, and as the imposter's plans are foiled by the early return of Lachchi's real husband, the story continues to provide many surprises.
If blood and gore is what you want in a movie, or if you like fight scenes and gritty realism, Paheli is not your kind of movie.
Another thing I loved was SRK looked healthy. After seeing Veer-Zaara, I was frozen with concern. SRK was too thin in that film, with Paheli, I can relax.
Director: Amol Palekar
Cinematographer: Ravi K Chandran
Choreography: Farah Khan
Action Sequences: Allan Amin
Film Editor: Amitabh Shukla
Music: M.M. Kreem
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