26 March 2014

Paheli

2005
Directed by: Amol Palekar
Music: MM Kreem
Lyrics: Gulzar
Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla, 
Suniel Shetty, Amitabh Bachchan, 
Dilip Prabhavalkar, Rajpal Yadav, Anupam Kher, 
Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah
Just before Paheli was released, there was a great deal of interest in the project. It was the ultimate melting pot of the purely commercial, as represented by Shah Rukh Khan (incidentally, anyone remember a time when he was Shahrukh Khan?), Rani Mukherjee, and Amitabh Bachchan, and a very different type of cinema that was personified by Amol Palekar. Reactions verged from 'Amol Palekar has sold out' and 'SRK wants a National Award in his kitty' to a genuine interest in how the project would take shape. Post-release reactions were equally polarised. In fact, I have rarely seen a mainstream commercial film that garnered as many negative reactions as it did positive ones. I hadn't seen it yet, then, and I remember my younger cousin who was visiting from India telling me he hated it - 'A woman falling in love with a ghost!' were the exact words he used, in the most disparaging tones ever. I was slightly taken aback. He and I usually shared similar tastes when it came to music and movies. 

I was also disappointed - I like Rani Mukherjee. A lot. I also like SRK when he is not being "Rahul, naam toh suna hoga?" (Actually, I even liked his Rahul act in the beginning. It just got predictable after a while.) And there was Bachchan saab. Most importantly, it was an Amol Palekar film. I like his films. There is a sensitivity there that I find endearing. So... I sat and watched Paheli with a lot of reservations. 

Here's what happened - I fell in love with it. In its entirety. The plot, the acting, the colour palette, the songs... everything. So once again, I was dismayed when I saw the adverse reactions - ranging from 'She is an adultress' to my cousin's 'Yuck, it's totally unbelievable' (Of course it is! It's a fable!) to a lot of other criticism that made no sense to me. Keeping in mind that film watching is a very subjective experience, and no two people need, or will, see the same film when they watch it, and that everyone brings in their own interpretation into motives and characterisation... this is my opinion of Paheli.

But before that, briefly, the story:
 
Lachchi (Rani Mukherjee) is getting married, and while she had hoped to get married to someone from her own village, her groom is Kishenlal, son of Bhavani Singh of Navalgarh. It's the day before the wedding and her friends tease her - she is not going to get much sleep on her wedding night. Soon, too soon for Lachchi, it is time for her bidaai.  Sooner still, it seems, she is on her way to her in-laws' village. Her new husband, Kishenlal (Shahrukh Khan) is not only a serious man who has no time for her playfulness, he is engrossed in balancing the accounts of the wedding expenses. 
Despite Bhanwar Lal's (Anupam Kher) reluctance, the wedding party decides to take a short break on the way. They soon stop at a roadside inn, supposedly the residence of 108 spirits. Bhanwar Lal wants to go on, but is overruled. Her husband's aunt sends Lachchi off to the well to wash her hands and face. Enroute, a mischievous spirit, wanting to see the new bride's face, takes on the shape of a crow and...
Leaving her friend, Kamli (Aditi Govatrikar), who is fascinated by the spirit who's taken on the shape of a blue bird, Lachchi walks alone towards the bawdi (step-well). The blue bird follows her there. By this time, Lachchi is spooked.
Soon thereafter, they leave the inn, and the besotted spirit is quite despondent at their departure.

The way home is not enlivened by Kishenlal's presence. He is still engrossed in chasing an elusive account, and is quite miffed with Lachchi eating the roadside berries 'like a ganwar'. Things don't change much after they reach home either though Lachchi is very warmly welcomed by both her mother-in-law and her jethani, Garjobai (Juhi Chawla).
Kishenlal is still engrossed in his accounts; so much so, Lachchi has to ask him to lift her ghoonghat. It's when he reluctantly does her bidding that he suddenly remembers the one item he had not added - coconuts! As a shocked Lachchi looks at him aghast, she gets another, more severe shock - her new groom is going away the very next morning. For five years. It will be over in a flash, he assures her. And after all, she will be at home, with his family. It is he who is going to be alone in a strange place. And so, Lachchi finds herself weeping her heart out on her bed - alone; for as Kishenlal explains, why consummate the marriage when he is leaving the very next morning?
 
The next morning, Kishenlal leaves, sent off with many exhortations by his father, blessings from his aunt and sister-in-law, and a grieving mother. Only Lachchi is not to be seen. A disconsolate Kishenlal leaves without seeing his bride again. On the way, he stops at the same inn where they had stopped the day before. The spirit is perplexed. What is this man doing here so soon after his marriage? His puppet friends have no answer, and so the spirit sets out to solve the mystery. 
Besotted by Lachchi, the spirit decides to take her husband's place by her side; after all, no one is going to question him for five years. Back in Nawalgarh, Bhanwarilal is surprised to see Kishenlal back. Bhanwarilal is sure that his son has returned because he could not stay away from his wife. A businessman is useless after he marries, he says. But 'Kishenlal' has a reason to return. He's come to ask his father's advice. On the way, he had come across a sadhu who, pleased with his devotion, told him to return home. Every morning, the sadhu had told him, he would find five gold mohurs under his pillow. So, should he stay, or should he go? Unable to hide his avarice, Bhanwarilal accepts his 'son's' return joyfully. 
So 'Kishenlal' comes home. He is hardly able to believe his luck, though he is afraid it will not last. His mother and sister-in-law are overjoyed to see him, but none more so than his new bride. She is unable to hide her feelings; she knew he couldn't stay away, she tells him happily. The ghost is unable to keep up the deception, at least with her. He confesses that he is only a spirit who has taken on her husband's form for love of her. A disbelieving Lachchi only laughs, but the ghost reminds her of the crow, the squirrel and the blue bird at the bawdi. He loves her, but he will stay only if she wants him to, he tells her. Lachchi is broken-hearted. The ghost, not bearing to see her tears, turns to leave.
But she stops him: 'Jaanewale ko rok na saki; aanewale ko kaise rokoon?'

Lachchi and her 'husband' are soon deeply in love with each other, even while the ghost fears that soon the lawful husband will return to snatch his Lachchi away from him. Lachchi is content to live in the moment. Let the future be what it will. 

Meanwhile, back in Jamnagar, a lonely Kishenlal decides to write a letter to his bride. Unable to fashion a letter to her, he writes to his father instead and sends it via a messenger, Bojha (Rajpal Yadav). However, the ghost intercepts it, much to Bojha's consternation at seeing the person who gave him the letter to deliver, in front of him. Bojha is summarily dismissed and is quite angry at the treatment meted out to him. He's even more disconcerted when he goes back to Jamnagar and sees Kishenlal in front of him, wanting to know if his father had sent any reply!

Meanwhile, the ghost and Lachchi are still engrossed in their newfound love. So much so, the ghost cannot even bear to have Lachchi go to her maternal home for teej, as is the custom. Two years have passed, and everybody is happy. Lachchi is happy at having a husband who loves her; the ghost is happy to spend every waking moment with his beloved; Kishenlal's mother, grieving over her other son's absence is happy to have her younger son back home; Bhanwarilal is pleased to count his five gold coins every day... only the real Kishenlal, alone and forgotten, conducting his father's business in a faraway land is desolate. Acting on his servant's advice, he writes another letter home to ask for permission to return. But Bojha's wife, unable to stomach the insult offered to her husband the previous time, burns the letter.

Back home, the ghost has managed to convince his father that they need to build a bawdi for the village. Lachchi is happy, but not so much when he uses his powers to win the camel-race, the loss of which seven years ago had driven his brother from hearth and home. As she sadly explains, she had quite forgotten that he was a ghost. Why does he remind her? Each bit of magic that he does is yet another chance for him to be unmasked as an imposter. What if the price they have to pay for his winning the race is their relationship? Faced by her very real fear, the ghost promises not to perform any more magic. 
 
Storm clouds are nearer than they think... Kishenlal, lost in the pangs of separation, cannot understand why he hasn't heard from his family in the past four years. They have struck water in the parched land. Lachchi is pregnant, and while the family is ecstatic, the ghost is worried. As the puppets point out, what will happen when the real husband comes home? How will the real Kishenlal react to the news of his wife's pregnancy?
 
Paheli is a film about choices. It is also about consequences. It is about a woman's sexuality and her acceptance of the same. It is a film that is definitely not black and white, and I'm not talking about Ravi Chandran's exquisite cinematography that saturated the desert landscape with such vibrant colour. Finally, it is about human emotions - infatuation, love, grief, abandonment, greed... How far can, or should, a son go in his obedience to his parents? (Remember this is a folk tale, and that, from the land where Shravan is deified.) What is his responsibility to his newly-wedded wife? Does the wife have a right to choose her own destiny? Or should she bow her head down under the weight of her  ghoonghat?

A (Indian) friend argued that Lacchi comes from a bania background herself. Surely, she knew her husband would have to leave her alone for large stretches of time in order to trade? She's been brought up to accept such separations. My take away from that is, what if  Lacchi doesn't want to accept it? What if she wants a husband who will be there for her, with whom she can share her life?  Why is it so wrong for a woman not to accept hoary tradition? Would we, for instance, tell a woman that it is okay for her husband to demand that she bear a son? Hey, there's tradition behind that as well. Or, is it okay that young girls are not educated beyond a certain age, because they cannot be more educated than their husbands? If not, if women can (and should) rebel against archaic 'traditions', why is it not okay for Lacchi to seek her own happiness? 

She doesn't know her husband. At all. One day they are married, and the next he's gone. Yes, women do wait for their husbands who have to leave their families behind to earn their livelihood. Not all women are like Lacchi. True. But does that make Lacchi 'bad' to want something different for herself? She chose a certain path. There were consequences. In the original folk tale, the ghost/spirit disappears and Lacchi is left with her brute of a husband. Does that make it alright? I mean, that Lachhi paid for her sins! Does it make everyone heave a sigh of relief that natural order had been restored? Lacchi cannot possibly be happy, yes? Why are we in such a hurry to hang the red badge of shame on a woman who chose what she saw as the best of two options?
Yes, she doesn't spare a thought for her 'real' husband at the end; but I would argue - who is her 'real' husband? The man she married and who then bid farewell to her within hours of the marriage? Or the 'man' she shared her life with for the past four years, her joys and sorrows, her body and soul, whose child she carried within her? Is the wedding the marriage? Or is it the life she lived since then that is the real marriage?

Also, keep in mind this is a folktale; Indian folktales are famous for being allegorical; could we see the changed (from the original folktale) ending as the ghost and the husband being two sides of an individual? So that, in the end, they complete each other? Or should we look at it as Lachchi being able to exercise her choice only through a ghost?   

Rani had a role that was tailor-made for her. Her Lacchi was irrepressible, passionate, sensual, innocent. Rani's eyes and her irresistable smile made it very hard to not like her. She imbued her Lacchi with a charm that makes Lacchi not just an abstract concept but a real person. She made us see her conflict, and how her decision at the end is not a whim. 
 
When the spirit tells her the truth, and asks her whether she would prefer he disappear, she bursts into tears. The visibly discomposed spirit is about to leave when she bursts out, "aj tak mhari marji kisine nahin poochi." No one's asked her to make a decision for herself before. 'Jo tum pooch rahe ho, jawab dena kitna kathin hai, jaante ho? Apni ichcha se par ki hone ko keh rahe ho.' (Do you know, she continues, how difficult it is to make that choice? You are asking me to give myself to you, a stranger, of my own will!) Yet, she does precisely that. She was so alive whenever she appeared on screen that I wished she was there more often.

No one quite romanced on screen like the Badshah of Bollywood did once upon a time. He brought an innocence back to romance, and the combination of puppy-dog eyes and dimpled smile was positively incandescent on screen. Paheli came during that period. And this was a film where, playing the double role of both Kishenlal, the husband, and the spirit who appears in his stead, Shahrukh imbued both with a very different body language.

As Kishenlal, he was fussy and nervous, yet he was also the man devastated by being forgotten not only by his wife (to whom he faithfully writes long letters) but also by his family. He is the man who is heartbroken when he returns home and realises that no one really cares who he is. 
 
Shahrukh is also the shape-shifting mischievous spirit who falls in love with a girl, and is devastated to realise she is newly married. (He goes off to pour out his woes to two puppets, beautifully voiced by Naseeruddin Shah and his wife, Ratna.) He lives for that love, and he is willing to captured for that love. From the beginning, even though he is willing to impersonate Kishenlal and deceive everyone else in the family, he is always honest with Lachchi. The only thing that was disconcerting (to me) was Shahrukh's huge orange turban!

Of course, there were a couple of scenes where he reverted back to being Shah. Rukh. Khan., but they were rare. This is one of his finest roles, and one where he performed so well that it shocked me when, in a TV interview after its poor showing at the box-office, he disowned the film. I must confess that it made me think a little bit less of him.
Juhi Chawla appears in a small role as Kishenlal's bhabhi, Gajrobai, whose husband, Sunderlal (Suneil Shetty in a cameo) abandoned her whilst he ran away. She lent her role a dignity that is evident even in her grief, and I wished that I could have seen more of her. There is one scene where Lachchi begs her to come to the temple; perhaps, if she asks the deity to intervene? Devotion can work wonders after all. A stoic Gajrobai looks sadly at Lacchi and says, ''Jo apni marji se chale jaaye, unhe bhagwan se jora-jori karke wapas bulwaane ki kya darkaar hai, Lachchi?' (When someone leaves of his own free will, where is the need to beg God to compel him to return?)
 
 A special mention to Rajpal Yadav, who appears as a slightly manic messenger (he just blends into his character), to Dilip Prabhavalkar and to Anupam Kher, who plays Lacchi's slightly vaccuous uncle-in-law and avaricious father-in-law repectively. How can I not mention Amitabh Bachchan's fantastical shepherd? It is a cameo, but a wonderful one. And the two puppets. Naseer and Ratna made use of their theatrical roots to give life to two of the most lovable puppets I have ever seen on scene. They are both sutradhars and voices of caution.
 
Amol Palekar's Paheli is an accredited re-telling of Vijayadan Detha's novella Duvidha. It had been made into a film once before - by Mani Kaul. (Incidentally, I think 'Duvidha' is a far better title for the film than 'Paheli'. Because it is not a riddle, but a conflict. Even if it is not quite the conflict you think it is going to be.) He makes no attempt at explaining the story, he just puts it out there, and allows you to take away what you will. He lent a progressive twist to Detha's novella by changing the ending to reflect the woman's choice.
 
Paheli is a feminist fable, but not in the sense that you usually think of the label 'feminist'. This is a film where women seek, and make choices that allow them to live their lives within the constraints of their own traditional society. So, if Juhi's Gajrobai silently bears the grief of her husband's absence, but offers her support to Lacchi, whose life seems so different from hers until it all falls apart, there is strength in that choice. And so is Lacchi strong, in her decision to have a relationship with a husband who's not exactly her husband, in her decision to have and keep the baby even when she thinks she is going to lose her lover. So are the other women strong; for instance, Lacchi's mother-in-law, who consoles a grieving Lacchi (though the mother-in-law doesn't understand what Lacchi is really grieving for) telling her that there is no dishonour attached to her for becoming the mother of another man's (spirit's) child, for if they, the parents did not recognise their own son, then how could Lacchi be expected to? 

I watched the film again recently, and I fell in love with it all over again. And this time, I noticed some of the bitter-sweet scenes that I had not paid much attention to earlier. I could have wished for a slightly tighter editing, a better narrative for Juhi's character, perhaps cutting a couple of the songs (sacrilege! if you listen to them!), but in the final reckoning, it is a film that I really liked. Have you seen it? Did you like it? If not, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.

49 comments:

  1. Now this is what I call a superb review. Good, satisfyin, inspiring. I have seen Paheli (and liked it), but years ago, when it was released. Haven't seen it since, but your review's made me want to go and buy it and watch it all over again! Thanks, Anu. :-)

    By the way, that baori at which they stop when Rani's character first sees the blue bird? I believe that's the Chaand Baori at Abhaneri. It also appears in an important scene in The Fall (which, by the way, has a similarly gorgeous feel - colours, monuments, etc - as Paheli).

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  2. This was remade in Tamil as Thee, starring Rajni. Didn't really know that it was a frame-by-frame copy of Deewar. Sadly the Tamil version is no match to the original.

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  3. Heard that the the story of Uttar Dakshin, which released almost a decade later, is very similar to Trishul. Have you seen UD?

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  4. Great review! I like Paheli for its novel theme and its rich cultural backdrop.The cast was brilliant and did justice to the characters given to them.I especially liked Juhi Chawla's performance as she played the character of abandoned wife quite convincingly.The pain was evident in her eyes;she indeed is a splendid actress.Loved the climax of the film!

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  5. Thanks, Anu. :-)

    You're welcome, Madhu. *grin* (I know what you really wanted to say!) That information about the well is interesting. It looked beautiful, didn't it? You've mentioned The Fall before. I should look for it.

    Thank you for the appreciation. I needed it.

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  6. Thanks, coolone. :) Yes, Juhi was awesome. I kept wishing they would develop her story further; but of course, that would taken the film off on a tangent.

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  7. Likewise!

    The Tanishq bit was a bit overdone. But yet, I loved the colors and fantasy. Shahrukh reverted to his charming self in this movie. Rani was so spot on. So was Juhi.

    I need to re-watch this.

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  8. Laughing at the Tanishq bit. :) But apparently the author is all praise for Shahrukh who, he said, sent a team to Rajasthan so they could accurately recreate the haveli in Bombay. And he is one of the rare authors who only had good things to say about both the films (and filmmakers) who made a film out of his novel. Even about Amol Palekar changing the ending.

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  9. It's been nine years since I was forced to see this film, and I remember liking it because it was different. But I was only 17 when the film came out and way too cool for Hindi-films so I didn't pay attention to the narrative or message of the film and just liked it for the enchanting picturization, beautiful backdrops and cinematography.


    Plus I've never really liked Shah Rukh Khan **shocking I know** but I remember liking him in Paheli.


    I think I'm going to have to dig up a copy and watch this one again now that I actually like and can appreciate Hindi-films lol.

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  10. Yes, I'd seen this (seems a long time now!) and I still use Paheli when I have to introduce people who ask about something like "Rajastani folklore". I remember falling in love with the lavish colours, the songs, the dances, Rani's soft huskiness, Juhi Chawla's dimples and (why hide it) SRK's charm and antics. The only thing which I thought was overdrawn was the camel race at the end, even though it's "Rajastani"... But I haven't seen the film recently, so would have to do that again in order to appreciate afresh. Thanks!

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  11. I remember thinking it was just that bit too long when I first watched it, but it has a charm that has only grown. Think that's why it still stands out from other movies made around then - mindlessly violent or plain idiotic (just generalizing). And the colors are vivid and vibrant, even in the desert. Thank you for this :)

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  12. Tell me how you like it - "now that you like Hindi films". :)

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  13. Yves, welcome. :) Yes, I thought the camel race was a drag as well. Besides, why couldn't he have just made the family's camels run faster, instead of all the antics? But the film is definitely worth a re-watch.

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  14. You are welcome, Anu. Yes, they could have cut off a couple of the songs; though, as I mentioned in my post, they are so beautiful that it seems sacrilegeous to think of cutting them out. And as Yves mentioned, the camel race was also redundant, at least in the form that it took in the film. A good twenty minutes could have been shaved off the length. But it is still a lovely film, and as you put it, its charm has only grown.

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  15. Songs Of Yore27 March 2014 01:31

    Anu,
    This is a lovely review of a beautiful film. Among my top favourite films of Shahrukh Kahn. The humour depicted in the characters of Anupam Kher and both the Shahrukh Khans, besides Rajpal Yadav, is very natural and sweet.

    I do not remember how Detha's story ended, but Paheli's ending is very satisfying. Mani Kaul's film, as most of his films, was very inaccessible for an average viewer. Amol Palekar takes top Bollywood stars, but does not succumb to the commercial formula. The film recreates the colours of Rajasthan, and gives a literary feel.

    AK

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  16. "(I know what you really wanted to say!)"

    What?

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  17. Thank you, AK.

    I must confess to not having read Detha, or even known of him until Paheli released so many years ago. But I read about him since then, and from what I can tell, in the novella, the ghost is captured and the bag thrown into a disused well, and the husband returns home in triumph. The wife resumes her duties submissively. But Detha seemed to have no problems with the twist in Palekar's version. Here is an interview by him:

    http://www.indiaglitz.com/duvidha-is-realism-paheli-reflects-modern-yen-hindi-news-19646

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  18. Well, I thought your 'thank you' was because, as is usual with us, 'This is another film I have to (re)watch, Anu, and where do I get the time'... From your response, I gather that was not the case here. :)

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  19. You are so right, film watching is indeed a subjective experience, not just that everything in life is, so an actor maybe loved by one person but some other person may detest that actor. That is what happened to me, I like Amol Palekar both as an actor and as a director I really liked 'Ankahee', I think that was his first film as director or was it? I also like Rani Mukherjee but my main problem is I just cannot stand Mr Khan. Out of curiosity I did try to watch the film, I found it interesting too, but thanks to Mr Khan I could not sit through it and in this case there were two of them, so like you said it is subjective, I avoid SRK's films. Pity if it were not for SRK I think I would have enjoyed this film.

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  20. Akriet was Palekar's directorial debut, Shilpi. And I really like him too as both actor and director.

    I don't think you are the only person who detests SRK. I think plenty of people cannot bear to see him on screen. I stopped watching him after Don though I made an exception for Chak De India, in which I thought he was very good. It's a pity though, that you could not sit through the film. (I can understand, though.) The film was very good.

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  21. I forgot to add that Mani Kaul's Duvidha is available on DVD - a remastered, clean version with subtitles under NFDC's Cinemas of India project. It is a three DVD pack. The other films include Uski Roti and Nazar. I have the DVD, though I haven't watched it yet. When I do, I shall review it as well, as a sort of companion piece to this one.

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  22. No, no. That was not a sarcastic Thanks. It was a heartfelt one. God knows when I'll get the time to actually go and rewatch Paheli, but still. :-D

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  23. *grin* No, not sarcastic, but the resigned tone we have when we know we want to watch the movie but don't know when we will get the time. But yes, glad to know it is not either. Now, where you will get the time, I have no idea. :)

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  24. Yes it is a pity isn't it? I think I will give it a try, time willing.

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  25. Perhaps you will be better able to tolerate SRK, now that you know I and most of the commenters found it interesting? :)

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  26. Songs Of Yore29 March 2014 02:34

    Coming back after re-watching the film a few days ago. Found it more charming on re-watching. I have this faculty of forgetting the details of a movie very soon, which is in a way blessing, because I am always game to repeat a good movie.


    I realise the original story's ending may be more credible in the given socio-cultural milieu. Amol Palekar's ending may be more 'satisfying' to the viewers at large. As for some people finding Rani Mukherjee consciously choosing to co-habit with the other guy adulterous, I did not find it disturbing at all, nor did anyone in my family.


    When the two Shahrukh Khan's merge, another layer of meaning occurred to me. The fable can be seen as suggesting divergent manifestations of a man's personality: one, cold, not given to displaying emotions, engrossed in mundane money-matters; the other, voluble, humorous, romantic. Therefore, they are really the same person.


    AK

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  27. Ah, I now understand. Daily sex is what female sexuality is all about :) - thank you for that bit of enlightenment. Liked your review, disliked the whole idea of the movie. Will watch it though, my interest is piqued. I still wonder, if the heroine had to have an affair when the husband is away on work, why should it be a ghost in that poor man's garb! Indian morality?

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  28. I realise the original story's ending may be more credible in the given
    socio-cultural milieu.

    Definitely. And keep in mind that this is a folk tale. Usually, these are morality tales, and there is always the triumph of the human over the spirit and the ghost and the demon.

    Amol Palekar's ending may be more 'satisfying'
    to the viewers at large.

    I don't know about the 'satisfying' part, though I agree that it was so much more so. But as far as I remember from Palekar's interviews, it was to reflect a woman's right to choose, within the parameters of that society. If you see the interview with the original author (that I linked below your original comment), he agrees with the 'modern' twist.

    I agree with your summation - yes, to me, it was like the two - spirit and human - melded together to make the complete man. Because you cannot live on love alone; neither can you sustain a relationship if only lucre rules your life. I think it helps to see the ending as an allegory rather than fact.

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  29. Shalini Razdan29 March 2014 11:13

    Lovely review for a lovely film, Anu. I don't much care for SRK and his brand of romancing does nothing for me, but this movie was such a pleasure to watch. I'm baffled by the negative and disapproving reactions to the film. Not only did I not mind the "adultery", I actually rooted for it. As you said, " this is a film where women seek, and make choices that allow them to live their lives within the constraints of their own traditional society." I can't help but love a film that recognizes women as living, breathing human beings.

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  30. Daily sex is what female sexuality is all about :) - thank you for that bit of enlightenment.
    If that's what you got from my review (or from the movie), I suggest you read my review (and watch the movie) again. Sex is the least important of the things that make or break a relationship. Companionship, affection, shared routines, the daily sharing of joys and sorrow, laughter and tears, and yes, sheer drudgery - to me, and many women (and many men) these are important. So she makes a choice.

    Remember also, that this is retold from a folktale. Our folktales and our myths did not have as puritan a mentality as the later texts did. Heck, you should know! Ancient Nair women had the right to choose whom to bed, even if they were married!

    As for 'heroine having an affair with a ghost while the husband is away' - the basic premise is that the ghost is taking the husband's place in her house and life. How else can he do that without taking on the form of the husband. It has nothing to do with 'Indian' morality, which, incidentally, was a lot more fluid in the days that this folk tale must have been written (or spoken or sung.) Initially, he doesn't intend to tell her that he is a ghost. It is her innocent happiness in his return that makes him confess.

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  31. I can't help but love a film that recognizes women as living, breathing human beings.
    That is exactly it, Shalini. Have you seen Palekar's Anaahat? Beautiful film. I reviewed it a while ago. http://anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com/2011/11/anaahat.html

    I like Palekar's films. His women are traditional, yet strong.

    About SRK's romance, I think I liked him in earlier films. Not DDLJ, which I hated with a whim and a verve. But Chalte Chalte and films like that. But your mileage might vary (see Shilpi below *grin*). But this is a film which, despite SRK, was, as you put it, a joy to watch.

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  32. You hate DDLJ and you like Chalte Chalte... Good Lord! Don't tell me Aziz Mirza also happens to be your fav. director!


    Anyways. Of course the criticism was unfair. It was easily the least contrived movies of SRK, the likes of which he hardly seems interested in making. But I am glad at least he has this masterpiece in his portfolio, even if he had to suffer losses.

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  33. You hate DDLJ and you like Chalte Chalte... Good Lord! Don't tell me Aziz Mirza also happens to be your fav. director!
    Eh. I liked the TV serial that Mirza made - Circus and a couple of movies that - his remake of Shri 420 for example. No, he is *not* my 'favourite' director. I don't know that I have one. Favourite, I mean. That said, there are directors, whose films I will watch based on *their* name, and not the starcast - Dibankar Bannjerjee, Vishal Bhardwaj, Raju Hirani, et al.

    I'm glad as well that SRK made this film. Yes, it is sad that he doesn't seem to be interested in making such films any more. But commerce is king, I guess, not content. There are a handful of films in his kitty that he should rightly be proud of - Paheli is definitely one of them.

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  34. I like Paheli!
    And I like its characters.
    I have watched it nearly thrice. Once even in German, which shows that I really liked the film.
    The only thing I didn't like about the film was its opulence, but I found the excuse of a fairy-tale for it.
    Yeah and the camel-race was not upto my taste. It hardly had any relevance to the story and it went on and on and on.
    Thanks for reviewing one of my favourite films from the recent past.

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  35. Ah. See what a nice welcome you got. :)

    I did a quiz on RK some time back - perhaps you should take a look at that as well...

    http://anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-only-showman.html

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  36. Yes, the camel race - Yves mentioned that as well. I agree totally. Also, it seemed rather forced - after all, if the spirit knew magic, why couldn't he just have made *his* camels go faster? Why such an ostentatious display that make people suspect witchcraft?

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  37. Ek din raatre starred Raj Kapoor. This is a pretty decent print. The sound track drags a bit , clobbers the background music somewhat

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edd06SYRkGI

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  38. Yes, Ek Din Raatre; both versions were made simultaneously.

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  39. I took the time to re watch Paheli and I have to admit I really liked the film. Probably helped that I had your excellent review and had some ideas going into the film. I agree with you, I liked that it was a film about female agency (to an extent) and I can appreciate it since the film manages to give Rani's character the ability to make such a decision while remaining within the traditional archetype of a wife and woman. But I do feel bad for her husband, he's basically coming home to a family that's replaced him. Yeah, okay, the ghost has taken on his form so his family doesn't know that it's not really him, but that's something that I don't think he deserved. He may have put his job first, but he was trying to provide for his family and to be fair he did write his wife letters..

    It was a good film. It was different from the usual fare and while it could have been a bit shorter IMO it was still enjoyable. I'm glad I went back and watched it again (and didn't think I was above watching Hindi cinema lol)

    And for the record, while I like Paheli, I still dislike Shah Rukh Khan but he's not bad in this one, he keeps his punch able crying face at manageable level--which is really all I can ask for from one of his films.

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  40. Probably helped that I had your excellent review



    Thank you! You made my day, you know!



    Yes, I did feel bad for her husband, because he is not a bad person really. But I'm looking at it as a fable, so perhaps the ghost and the husband are just two sides of the same person? Perhaps she has both of them now?


    As for SRK, I look at it this way - not watching a good film because I do not like the actor is cutting off my nose to spite my face. *grin* I like my movies too much for that.

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  41. I'm glad I made your day, that made my day! Spread the cheer I always say! And you're right about not liking SRK, there are a lot of actors I don't like much but still watch their films because I just love films that much. :D

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  42. *grin* Watch a few more good movies. There are some lovely recent ones out there.

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  43. Wikipedia says that this film inspired another Bollywood film Uttar Dakshin starring Jackie Shroff and Rajini. Is it true?

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  44. I have no idea. I know I have watched Uttar Dakshin, but thankfully, I have forgotten all about it now.

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  45. Interesting film. Is there a "Ennama kannu" kinda conversation (song) between AB and Sanjeev Kumar?

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  46. No. (Thank heavens! Just the thought of that in this film makes me want to gag!)

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  47. Nalini Ikkandath23 May 2014 10:09

    Very glad you liked Paheli, very glad you reviewed it. I love Amol Palekar's movies, they are sensitive and interesting, his characters are human, not just man and woman. And I did like the colour, the visuals, the costumes.. Most of the characters are well thought out and well done. And I do like the songs. And talking of Shahrukh Khan, I would like to read your opinion of "Kabhie Haan Kabhie Na". Another of his movies I like very much.

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  48. Thank you, Nalini. I agree with you about Amol Palekar's films. His films are very sensitive and his characters are well etched.



    I liked Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na when I first watched it; I'm afraid I couldn't sit through it when I sat down to watch it again a few years ago. My tolerance for that sort of films is going down considerably.

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