Movie Review: PAHELI (2005)

Published by Shah Shahid on

I recently saw RAB NE BANA DI JODI, (review coming soon) which featured Shah Rukh Khan with a mustache, and it reminded me of this review I wrote of another mustache clad SRK.  I notice I used to be very talky back in the day. The amount of time I spent in this ‘review’ talking about social norms versus actually reviewing the movie… makes me cringe now. But here is another, unedited review I wrote from 6 years ago about the SRK starrer PAHELI.

So a long time ago this guy wrote a book, a kind of folk tale. So obviously a good story begs to be made into a movie. So for the 2nd time, DUVIDHA by Vijayadan Detha has been remade into a classic movie. And when you think of folk tales, and movies directed by critically acclaimed director Amol Palekhar, you don’t really think of Shahrukh Khan being in that kind of a movie! SRK is usually linked to every movie made by the Chopras, Johars, Mirzas and more recently, Farah Khan. All I can say is that I’m beginning to like this SRK… the one who is linked to movies by the Gowarikars, Akthars, Mohammeds and now, Palekhars.

Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars

PAHELI is a really good movie that delves into the fantastical but the moral is something that turns out to be extremely contemporary and something we can all relate to. With a lot of critically acclaimed, female orientated movies under his belt, Amol Palekhar of GOLMAAL fame, ventures into the commercial with a movie produced by our very own Shahrukh Khan.

Now, as mentioned before, this movie didn’t get as much success as is attached with the SRK name. One reason that PAHELI wasn’t really appreciated by the masses was, I would say, is that it wasn’t the type of movie that people wanted to see SRK in, also the message at times gets lost within the olden day dialect, the times it was set in and not to mention the fairy tale that PAHELI essentially is. And that’s exactly it; don’t expect to see a realistic story when watching PAHELI. It’s purely fantastical and a lovely fairy tale, because it is based on a folk tale, which is why PAHELI isn’t meant to be realistic.

After BLACK, Rani Mukherjee has been on a spree of commercial hits by being a con woman in BUNTY AUR BABLI, a kothewaali  <dancing girl> in MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING, and now in PAHELI she plays a married woman with a choice, a choice that some women even today don’t have. Especially woman born and brought up in a family with South Asian traditions and beliefs.

It’s the choice of choosing your own husband that PAHELI deals with. It is a choice that solely belongs to the woman, but in our culture, in the South Asian world that we live in; it becomes a choice that is reserved for the parents and family of said woman. Arranged marriages have been the norm in our culture for generations, and even in this day and age, and even for families living in advanced modern cultures (as considered by global standards) like North America, this is common.

PAHELI is about a woman’s choice in regards to her husband. Not the man she is married to mind you, but a ghost who takes the form of her husband, who by the way left his wife for five years the day after they were married. So the paheli <dilemma> that everyone faces, is that can that married woman’s family and over all society accept a ghost that has showered her with love and been with her for the length of her married life as her soul mate, over the man who has vowed to do these very things but abandoned her the day after taking those vows in the efforts to expand his business?

Rani Mukherjee is as gorgeous as ever in this one, with her old fashioned, accentuated village girl look and those eyes of utter innocence, she does a magnificent job in PAHELI as is expected of her. But what’s most notice-able is something much less important; she just looks utterly gorgeous!!

Shahrukh Khan continues his trend of different movies after SWADES and SILSIILAY and does a PAHELI. With art film director Amol Palekhar, SRK pulls of a dual role of Kishen and The Ghost, with great humility. His performance isn’t that of a romantic, witty, happy go lucky, charming boy-next-door as he has done for the last 10+ plus years in about– well I’ve lost count of how many movies. In this one he plays a role of a reluctant ghost, cursed with having no existence of his own, plagued by his love for a flesh and blood woman that causes him to cross the line from his spiritual form into the corporeal. It’s quite delightful to watch SRK not be a mega star too big for his own ego, but rather effectively portraying the role he plays on screen.

Hmm… I wonder if I can pull off a ‘stache like that…

There’s a lot of supporting roles in this movie, without which it wouldn’t have been half the entertainer that is has turned out to be, like Anupam Kher for instance. It’s nice to see Anupam Kher on screen after a while, playing the greedy father of Kishen. His greed coupled with Dilip Prabhavalkar’s suspicious idiocy provides a great source of humour. Rajpal Yadav at times pops in with some comic relief as well. The best supporting character would have to be Juhi Chawla’s Gajrobai. Providing us with insight on the flip side of arranged marriages, Gajrobai and her son have been abandoned by her husband who has left her and has not returned in 7 years. In a way, this shows a very different side of arranged marriages where the wife has to suffer and be committed to vows that she had no choice in making, and live her life out fulfilling those vows which her husband has abandoned so wilfully, along with her. Sunil Shetty plays her husband in a fleeting role, with a combined screen time of, oh I would say, 3 minutes. (Give or take a minute) Amitabh Bachchan is also in this one in a small role as, believe it or not, a hapless shepherd who’s just as bright as a flashlight running low on battery in a dark cluttered room.  It’s very humorous to watch Big B as a bumbling idiot.

Amol Palekhar does a good job with, what he claims to be his first commercial art film. PAHELI truly does look unique, as it isn’t as polished or glossy as a HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM or DEVDAS {2002}, and doesn’t look too gritty of an art film like, oh almost every Ram Gopal Varma movie. The tone is true to capture the beauty of Rajasthan, but doesn’t take away from the natural feel of the atmosphere. The special effects in the movie have been handled almost flawlessly, and Palekhar did what he set out to do, which is not making the SFX too tacky.

Ultimately, PAHELI is more than just a period flick. If one attempts to look beyond the sand, weird turbans and funky dialects, there is a moral that is relevant to every woman, even today. The matter of choosing one’s own husband. It’s very rare that often a South Asian woman, in North America or otherwise, gets to marry the man she loves. It’s even rarer that the very same kind of woman ends up loving the man whom she was forced to marry through her parents. Granted times are changing, but arranged marriages are still quite common today. The process has changed, and is a lot more mutual than it was back in the day, which I guess is a step in the right direction. Stripped of all the things that make PAHELI unique, such as the locales, the time it is set in and the fairy tale-like aspect to it, it’s a story that a lot of women can relate to. Because as Amitji says, PAHELI is a lot more complicated than just a kahaani ek ladki ki, jise pyar ho jaata hai ek bhoot se… (the story of a girl, who falls in love with a ghost.)

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Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

1 Comment

Shah Shahid · November 8, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Reblogged this on Blank Page Beatdown and commented:

I’m getting ready to leave Canada again for 8 months, so too stupidly wrapped up with last minute packing and all to put up the daily Movember’s Moustache Movie Madness post that I originally intended for today.

Keeping that in mind, I’m just going to re-blog an older ‘review’ of mine, which I wrote years before I even posted it.

Check out Shahrukh Khan in a Moustache in PAHELI! And don’t forget to donate below to help me fight for Cancer!!

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