Paheli (2005)

April 14, 2009 at 3:58 am 2 comments

Directed by: Amol Palekar

Starring: Rani Mukherjee, Shahrukh Khan

The film is aesthetically breathtaking. The music is soft and enjoyable for those of us who don’t like our songs too loud (so dancey without the dance.) Paheli is based on a classic Indian folktale, and is wonderfully adapted for this 140 minute film. Not to mention the delicious Shahrukh Khan.

Lachchi (Rani Mukherjee) is a young woman engaged to be wed after her fiancée’s father gave her family a coconut…a…coconut. Anyway, in all of the excitement before she is to be taken away with her new in-laws, she breaks into song with her female friends and family about convincing her husband to ~cough~ ‘lift her veil’ on their wedding night. Cut to her nervous departure. Kishanlal (Shahrukh Khan), Lachchi’s husband-to-be is too busy with repetitive calculations over the wedding expenditures to pay attention to her…then he notices the ring on her finger that she can’t seem to stop fiddling with. So he takes it for safekeeping.


The family decides they’re tired, so they take a break at a large well, where ‘128 ghosts reside’. Lachchi is walking alone with her aunt-in-law when her cousin-in-law sneaks a peak at her face to make sure Lachchi isn’t cross-eyed. He then smiles and runs off, immediately followed by a bird with an unreasonably large dropping that falls smack dab on Lachchi’s shoulder. No matter, she can go wash it off…right? When she walks away from the bird, the animal becomes golden mist and turns into a squirrel that pursues the girls. Lachchi looks at it and smiles, then walks on. The squirrel becomes a colorful bird and again Lachchi is amused. Then she finally gets to the well, while her aunt-in-law waits somewhere else…for some reason.


Anyway, while she’s busy cleaning away at the bright white stain on her shoulder, Lachchi hears a sound and is startled. She stands up and sees footprints of water appearing on the ground nearby…the steps come closer, and she runs off. When the family departs, the golden mist swarms around a tree bedecked with ghost doll. The mist is of course a ghost, and he has fallen in love with Lachchi. He tells this to (I’m just assuming) his parents and they are quite amused.

When they arrive at their home, Lachchi goes through ceremony (rice-bowl kicking, etc.) She is now a bride, and is quite ready for her wedding night. Well, when she goes into her bedroom and hints strongly at Kishenlal to lift her veil…he does so. But that’s it. He’s still busy re-calculating wedding expenses because his father can’t stand errors when it comes to money, and there was an error somewhere. They converse, and Kishenlal explains that he can’t bed Lachchi because it would be pointless to incite passion for just one night when he’s leaving the next day for five years…

Wait, what?! FIVE YEARS?! Why did he think it was a good idea to get married if he was going to do this? Couldn’t he have gone away for five years, then come back to get married? They don’t address this possibility in the story. Kishenlal goes on about how his father wants him to go to a market somewhere far away to double his fortune, because it is an auspicious time for finances…blah blah. Anyway, Lachchi falls asleep and refuses to see her husband off in the morning.

On his trip, Kishenlal stops at the well we saw earlier…and the ghost who fell in love with Lachchi spots him. Taking the form of a man, the ghost follows Kishenlal and greets him. They talk, and Kishenlal explains that he’s leaving for a few years right after he just had his wedding. What perfect timing! When Kishenlal is completely out of sight…the ghost takes his form and goes to his home so he can have Lachchi all to himself. The ghost avoids conflict with his ‘father’ (Kishenlal’s father) by explaining that he met a sage and did him a great favor by cleaning him off…so every morning the ghost is to wake up with 5 gold coins as a blessing. Problem solve, and none the wiser of where the real Kishenlal is.


That evening, Lachchi tells the ghost that she knew he would come back. Then he tells her he isn’t Kishenlal, he’s a ghost…a bit of drama, and she accepts him (because he told her, and nobody has ever asked her what she wanted before…some might think Lachchi is easy…while I think she er…well…I’m not sure.) The ghost and Lachchi make love on the roof in the rain. It’s a beautiful scene, actually. One of the most beautiful scenes in the film. Those Indians sure do know how to make a good romantic bit in the rain.


Meanwhile, the real Kishenlal attempts to write a letter to his wife. He ends up writing one to his father instead, because he’s got a creepy obsession with pleasing his good old pop. Back at the house, we find the ghost and Lachchi together…The ghost is afraid that their happiness will end too soon, and she tells him to live for the present, because that’s all they have together.

Kishenlal’s uncle is a drug addict. Hooka, what-have-you. Not a very sober man most of the time. So when the letter from Kishenlal arrives, and the ghost takes it (much to the surprise of the messenger who’s walked for over a week to bring the letter to a man who sent it out in the first place.) The uncle asks what he’s holding, and the letter disappears in a burst of golden sand. He tells his uncle’s servant to take it easy on the hooka. When the messenger arrives back home with the real Kishenlal, he asks what the point of the trip was at all. They have a loud argument, and Kishenlal calls him a drunk because he never left the market (otherwise he wouldn’t have sent a letter.)

Back home, Lachchi is to return to her mother’s home to celebrate the third lunar cycle of the monsoon (because it’s a tradition in the Hindu religion). The ghost asks why, she says she has to. Well, he doesn’t take this too well and ends up following her. At first this angers Lachchi, but she forgives him because she’s fallen in love with him. In the process we get a really cute song about bangles.


During the song, you get snippets of Kishenlal’s father’s brother’s wife (aunt-in-law?) and her husband together. He left years ago when their son was just an infant. Afterwards, two servants at the urging of the ghost confront Kishenlal’s father about being allowed to camel race to bring prestige back to the family because his brother lost and disappeared years ago (the same brother who left the poor wife with her baby boy.) There is a debate, and he agrees when the ghost gives him his daily 5 golden coins. After all…if they win, his brother might come back to them.

Cut to the real Kishenlal desperate to send a letter because he hasn’t gotten anything from his family in the long months he’s been there all alone. He gives a letter to the messenger, and the messenger’s wife tears it up when Kishenlal leaves (after all, he called her husband a drunk in front of everyone!)

Back to the family eating dinner, the ghost thinks they should build a well for the village. His ‘father’ thinks it’s a bad idea because there couldn’t possibly be any water there to strike. His brother agrees, and the ghost makes his uncle’s sweets disappear. The uncle changes his mind, and the sweets re-appear. Kishenlal’s father finally agrees to have the well built.

At the camel race, with a bit of magic from the ghost, they succeed in winning. Unfortunately, when everyone celebrates…the man who lost the race notices the gestures the ghost was making and I believe suspects him of witchcraft (either that or just beats the crap out of him because he’s in a bad mood.) When Lachchi mends his wounds, she is upset that he used his powers and explains that it scares him when he does things to remind her that he isn’t human…so he agrees not to use magic anymore.

Back to Kishenlal, and he’s…working. He decides to take berries back to Lachchi when he goes home because he saw her eating them on the day they were travelling together to his home. Kishenlal seems to have tender thoughts of her. Perhaps it’s his desperate loneliness, but the man isn’t completely without a heart. I would even go so far to say he loves her with a gentle tenderness, yet not passionately enough to have put her before his father’s ridiculous wishes. That’s why he’s in the situation in the first place, and the ghost managed to steal Lachchi’s heart away.

Back home, we find out Lachchi is pregnant. Wonderful! Her real husband has been away for over a year, and she’s pregnant. THAT won’t bring up complications later…Anyway, Lachchi and the ghost talk about it, and they decide together that they want a daughter. This is a really sweet moment (one of many) made just to win the audience’s heart over in the ghost’s favor. They decide to name their daughter ‘Looni’.

Well, ghosty gets his well, and everyone dances while they build it. Now, in the center of the well, during the dance…there is a girl spinning around on her knees in a long twirling skirt. It’s a minor scene, but something that certainly caught my eye the first time I watched Paheli.

Suddenly…the real Kishenlal returns, having heard his wife is pregnant…and giving birth right at that moment…

He brings with him berries…and a lot of confusion. Everyone gets angry and calls him a fraud. There are arguments and angry words, a bit of crying from poor Kishenlal when his own father refuses to recognize him as the real Kishenlal…and everyone decides to have some sort of contest to figure out who the real Kishenlal is.

On the way to wherever, they meet a shepherd (Amitabh Bachchan, Big B) who proposes a perfect way to figure out who the real Kishenlal is. He states that whoever loves Lachchi will be able to fit inside a water skin. The ghost realizes that this is the true test of his love…to be trapped inside a water skin for the sake of his beloved…And what happens? I guess you’ll have to watch to find out.


Rating: 9/10 Bindis


Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Exceptionally good (8-10), Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. krisha daswani  |  June 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I don’t know how many times my hubby must have seen this movie. Mr. Palekar has done a tremendous job of directing and producing this timeless piece. The costumes, the music (songs and background), the stars and their characters from the most important to the least and the story line is just awesome.

    Three cheers to Mr.Palekar for this undertaking and delivering it flawlessly.

    We know it did not do very well in India because of the mental block of the general public and their failure to accept a new storyline which is completely different from the regular love angles or masala movies…but here overseas most the non residents have enjoyed his masterpiece.

    We are looking forward to seeing more of his genius.


  • 2. rohan1796  |  December 11, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Reblogged this on rohan1796.


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