So,what is this post about, if it is not about Progati? It is about Paheli. Shah Rukh Khan's Paheli? Rani Mukherjee's Paheli? Amol Palekar's Paheli? No, its about a woman's Paheli - Does she have the right to choose, to take a decision? And if she does take a decision, do the men support it?
Paheli is the story of Lachi, a newly wed whose husband leaves for business the day after their wedding. And then she has to choose between loneliness for the next five years or the love of a spirit who has taken her husband's form. Well, it is no suspense that she chooses the latter, and the rest of the film potrays their relationship and the effect it has on their lives. A tad unconventional, and very very progressive - its tough to believe that this story was written decades ago! (For the sake of those who are planning to see the film for themselves, I am not divulging any more than the media already has)
Coming to the film itself, the most remarkable thing was the authentic period setting! Right from the sets to clothes to props, the bygone era is well captured. There is a splash of colours across the screen - as if a painter decided to empty his entire pallette on a single canvas. The movie opens at a brisk pace,and becomes sluggish later on. The music is strictly OK, and none of the songs leave a lasting impression. The dance sequences are repetetive. A mention of the costume designer here - its a great job done. The special effects are neat and simple, just enough to keep the flow going not more, not less.
The film packs in as much star power as possible, and the list does seem impressive - Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla, Suniel Shetty, Anupam kher, and Amitabh Bachchan. But guess who walked away with the maximum hoots and catcalls? Rajpal Yaadav! The hall erupted into laughter the moment he appeared on the screen and in the five odd minutes that he occupies the screen space, his comedy charms!
Anupam Kher's potrayal of the greedy, money-minded Baniyaa is impressive, whether chiding his son and brother for spending money or trying to solve the baffling puzzle of recognizing his real son and the fraud, he is just too good.
Juhi as the young mother whose husband walked out on her seven years ago doesn't have many scenes and dialogues, and walks through her part gracefully. She is looking lovely in the film. The make-up is kept to a minimum in this film, and all the actresses look nearly natural.
Suniel Shetty as Juhi's husband does a two minute cameo, and speaks about three lines. Except the hideous red streaked hair, nothing about him is worth writing.
There are a host of television and theatre artists, including a veteran marathi theatre artist and Sharvari Jemenis who made a big impression in her marathi film Bindhaast, but most of them are wasted in the film.
The hyped appearance of Amitabh Bachchan as the shepheard who solves the villagers' dillema falls below expectations. As the brash illiterate with a common sense, the Big B does not impress at all. Though when compared with the rest of the cast, his Rajasthani accent sounds the most authentic, his eccenticity definitely doesn't.
Rani Mukherjee gives another powerful performance, you can see her transition from a young innocent bride to a mature woman to a mother. Whether its pain or happiness or jealousy or indecision, she doesn't need words to do it for her. Her eyes are enough to do the job! Beautiful rajashani ghagras and antique jewellery that forms her costume eliminates the need for make up. She makes full use of the screen space allocated to her, sounding quite rajasthani, and charming the audiences.
And finally, Shah Rukh Khan rocks! With the same get-up, the same look, the same Rajasthani accent, he creates two different characters on screen - the loving spirit Kishanlal and the money minded flesh and blood Kishanlal! He has shed his usual antics - a mile a minute talking, his lopsided grin, they are all mising in Paheli. He manages to play both the characters fairly, and refrains from being partial to any one of them. The audiences forge a connection with both the Kishanlals, feeling the joy of the one who finds love with Lachi and the pain of the one who is living a lonely life. In one frame you celebrate the spirit's love and in the second you cry out for the human pining for his wife and family. Surely one of his best performances.
Lastly, Amol Palekar has done a good job. Fusing art cinema and commercial cinema, he is definitely expanding his reach. This is his biggets directorial venture so far. The story has been handled with sensitivity, and never for a moment can you see a bias, he doesn't profess that Lachi's decision is wrong or right. He has simply raised a question in the film, and is sure to leave the viewev thinking - What would you do in a situation like this?
I liked the film - did you?