Listening to: Paheli (2005)

PaheliWhen I first saw this romantic fantasy, I was surprised to hear of its poor reception in the box-office and by the critics because I enjoyed it very much indeed! Today, I watched with more critical eyes – and I still found it great fun! It reminded me in parts of the traditional folk tales I read as a child in Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama; hints of Aladdin’s genie reiterates this view. Even the use of a narrator (with two puppets in this case) reminds me of traditional theatre. It is uncomplicated, light-hearted fun, full of beauty, colour and fantastic locales and some excellent music – for me that translates as a treat. To hell with the critics and the Shah Rukh nay-sayers !!

The story is set at an unspecified time in the past, somewhere in Rajasthan. The tale commences with the preparation to Lajjo’s  (Rani Mukherjee) arranged marriage.  She seems an excited bride, eager to start a new life with her man and his family. After the wedding, the bridegroom’s party, along with the new bride, makes its way back to its own village.

(Kishen Lal) Shah Rukh is a really berasik fellow, dry as dust. He is more interested in his business and accounting than his bride. His father advises him ‘vyaapar ka sukh hi sabsa bada sukh hai’– the pleasure of business is the greatest pleasure’!! That seems to be his creed. Generally I can understand ineptitude with women, especially in men who have not had much to do with females. But such indifference towards his bride, even on his wedding night? Especially when she looks as lovely as Rani does?  Kishen leaves on a trading trip for 5 years the morning after they arrive home, his marriage unconsummated.

But here comes the fantasy part of the tale. On the way back from the wedding they stop at a haunted place and a ghost falls in love with the bride. Finding out that Kishen is leaving on an extended trip, the ghost – with genie like powers- takes up Kishen’s form and returns home. The bride is delighted to see her husband return within 3 days. And that too a very changed husband! The ineptitude has gone; here is a man who is the romantic hero that can only be the fantasy of a woman’s mind! [Girls note: Men will not spout poetry to the beauty of your eyes so don’t melt if they say things like एक बार इन नैनों में झाँकने के बाद कुछ और देख सकता है कोई? In case they happen to be nascent Byrons, they would probably be totally impractical, drunkards or of loose morals. So if you meet a poetry-spouting, good-looking, sober, practical, hard-working fellow, be suspicious! He’s probably a phantom!] Even when the ghost, in a spurt of conscience, confesses all, Lajjo accepts him as a substitute husband.

Four happy years pass.  The ghost brings happiness not only to Lajjo but to the family and to the community. Lajjo is soon to be a mother when the real husband comes back. Will Lajjo lose her fantasy husband? How will it all sort itself out? You have to see the film to find the answers.

Shah Rukh and Rani are impeccable in their lead roles. Shah Rukh does the comedy side of the role very well indeed and brings nice nuances to the two distinctly different men he plays – well done!! Rani glows. Anupam Kher is his amusing best as the father and Juhi Chawla is flawless as the sister-in-law; other supporting roles are competently performed. Sunil Shetty and Amitabh Bachchan impress in their special appearances.  The real star of the film, however, is the cinematographer Ravi K.Chandran who has painted such a glowing, loving canvas that it seduces us from the start to the end.

The music by M.M.Kreem is very very good. He borrows from Rajasthani folk and melds it beautifully with Bollywood flair. The lyrics by Gulzar are written with his sure hand.

  • Minnat Kare – Shreya Ghoshal and group. A nice melody, it does well as a multi-emotion wedding song. Starts with an upbeat pre-wedding celebration song, it takes a more serious turn with a Shehnai interlude and then continues to a sad bidai tune. The colour and atmosphere of the song makes it a visual treat.Open-mouthed smile
  • Dheere Jalna – Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal. A beautiful song,  it is contemplative, even sad at places. It changes pace from slow to fast; I did not like how some hurried phrases squashed or elongated words to suit the beat. Sonu and Shreya are wonderful singers and this song gives them the opportunity to display their vocal range to the full. The first part has a beautiful flute and sitar interlude, and the second (female) part has an excellent Shehnai interlude. Open-mouthed smile
  • Kangna Re – Shreya Ghoshal and group. A lovely song with a catchy and melodious refrain. The dancing by Rani can only be called seductive. The Shehnai is again used to good effect. I like the little interlude of the Viraha Bhava,  the sadness of separation, with Juhi and Sunil Shetty. Open-mouthed smileRed heart
  • Khali Hai Tere Bin – Hariharan and Bela Shinde. A nice instrumental is followed by Hariharan’s crooning this pathos-filled song. Nice poetry by Gulzar. Beautiful! Open-mouthed smileRed heart
  • Laaga Re Jal Laaga – Sonu Nigam, M.M.Kreem and Shruti Sadolikar. Sonu is excellent in this lively song which reminds me of rain songs from other movies. I have a weakness for a nice group dance routine – and this one sure provides one! Colourful, joyful, the cheerful beat of the Dholak and the colours of the dancers together gives a very nice effect.Open-mouthed smile
  • Phir Raat Kate – Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan. Not my fav but good puppet-like dance.I don't know smile

To listen to the full album, click here.

Kangna Re – For the joyful dancing and beautiful refrain.

Khali Hai Tere Bin – For Hariharan’s smooth voice and the poetry. The video shows only half the song.

And for the choreography, Laaga Re Jal Laaga :



Filed under Bollywood 00's Music

10 responses to “Listening to: Paheli (2005)

  1. Filmbuff

    This film is based on a sahitya academy award winning book called “Duvidha”. There was an earlier film version too by Mani Kaul i think with Simi Garewal which i saw on Doordarshan and found it a yawn (although the movie was simple and true to the original). Paheli was actually a “feast” – story/cinematography/music/acting etc. Amol Palekar has directed well

    • I had heard about the old filmi version but I am not a fan of Simi so I never bothered to watch it. Absolutely, Paheli was a visual and auditory feast – I am glad you agree and dont feel like all the others who rejected it in the box office.

    • anita

      yes, mani kaul’s ‘duvidha’ was what we call in hindi ‘ajhel’ – unbearable. after all these years, i still wonder how i sat through (most of) it.
      I knew for sure it did not star simi. wikipedia tells us it was Raisa Padamsee. simi starred in herman hesse’s ‘siddharatha’ around the same time though.

      • So you too saw Duvidha? If it was on the telly, I am surprised I never saw it! But I thankful, given your reactions 🙂

  2. Hi Suja – I LOVE this film 😀 Every element works beautifully, and the music makes up one of my favourite ‘modern’ film soundtracks. The folk/traditional influences that underpin the songs make it seem quite timeless and yet very fresh. The colours, the set designs and details, the way shots are composed, he song picturisations and the delightful pairing of SRK and Rani – what a pleasure to watch. I think Shah Rukh did a great job of protraying the two very different men, and I have to say the fate of poor boring Kishan didn’t worry me at all 🙂 I really like Rani, especially in a role with minimal crying. Thanks for reminding me of Paheli. I must rewatch it soon.

    • Now Temple, you have astounded me! All this time I thought that you dont like romantic films and this one is not just romantic, but a fantasy!! Very surprised that you like as well as you say!! Yes, I think the Shah Rukh-Rani pairing was very delightful too. Oh, you didnt worry about Kishen? I did, all the time. I even wondered if Rani’s acceptance of another man was moral and at the end, I wondered at her acceptance that married life was to continue with the real Kishen. But I told myself that I was taking it all too seriously and to take a chill-pill, as my kids kindly point out to me ever so often 🙂

      • I just don’t like stupid romances – films where the characters have no thought or motivation but Instant Filmi True Love, and they never develop or grow. Just stalk or whinge or worse. But a romance with people I can like or relate to at least in part, and a good story development is another kettle of fish 🙂 I like high fantasy and folktales so that’s another reason Paheli works for me. Plus it’s just so pretty. I did think a bit about the decision Rani had to make regarding her marriage and the spirit. I think that while they may have been lying to the family she and SRK were honest with each other so I thought they would work things out. I did wonder if the spirit gave Kishen the missing side of his personality so it was more of a merger than a hostile takeover, but it really didn’t bother me. Fairytale outcomes are often quite harsh!

      • I like your concept of a ‘merger rather than a takeover’ hehehehe good one !! 🙂

  3. Hi Suja, I too thank you for having splashed Paheli’s gorgeous colors once again all over my screen!! I too must rewatch the movie quick! I’ve never unloved SRK, so I don’t need to build a new liking of him, so there. As for Rani – my, my, she’s pure honey! And there’s Juhi Chawla’s meethi-meethi smile as a bonus! But in spite of all this, I think I’ll go along with you and say, yes indeed, “the real star of the film is the cinematographer Ravi K.Chandran who has painted such a glowing, loving canvas that it seduces us from the start to the end Great”! A wizard if you ask me!
    Bohot shukriya!

    • Arré Yves Saheb, aap to hindi bolné lagé !!! The colours of Paheli are indeed spectacular, I would love to see it in a bigger screen one day. My husband and I have thought of having a cinema-room in the house if we remodeled it one day..

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