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Rahul Joshi wants to be a successful businessman so he works hard for his boss Siddharth. One day Rahul meets Seema, an up and coming model, and he feels like he's finally met his match. Will Seema fall for Rahul?
Shah Rukh Khan,
Parsimonious Bhanwarlal is a Bania (businessman) who lives in Navalgarh, Rajasthan, along with his wife; his sons Sunderlal and Kishanlal; Sunderlal is married to Gajrobai and has a son. During the annual camel race, Sunderlal loses the race to the Thakur and out of shame leaves home, never to return. Now Kishanlal has come of age and is married to Lachchi. But on the very next day of the marriage, he must leave for Jamnagar to expand business, and can return only after 5 years. A tearful Lachchi bids him goodbye, but to her pleasant surprise he returns within a few days, and informs his dad that he met a holy sage who had instructed him to return as he will find five gold coins every morning. Pleased with this, Bhanwarlal does not object to Kishanlal's return. After four years, it is now time for the camel race again, and this time Bhanwarlal's camel wins, much to the chagrin of the Thakur who suspects witchcraft. Then Lachchi gets pregnant and on the day of the child's birth the ...Written by
Paheli is an unusual film on the subject of women's rights disguised as a love story. It is basically the story of a young woman, Lachchi (Rani Mukherjee) who is abandoned by her husband Kishan (Shah Rukh Khan) the day after their wedding. A spirit who falls in love with Lachchi on her way home comes to find out that the husband will be away for 5 years and so he takes the form of Kishan and lives with Lachchi for the next four years. Eventually, of course, the husband returns and Lachchi must choose between the two. How the story is resolved answers the 'paheli' (riddle) of the film.
The film works well for several reasons: acting on the parts of all principal players is quite good, the visuals and cinematography is breathtaking and the theme is quite unusual, especially for a Bollywood film. It does have its drawbacks, though: there are at least two too many songs, and the film ultimately becomes the ghost's story when it should have been Lachchi's.
Shah Rukh Khan delivers his most restrained, understated and likable performance in years; it is because of this performance that he still qualifies as one of India's quality actors. Rani Mukherjee is also sufficiently restrained (unlike her overacted performance in the overblown 'Black' or the overstretched attempts at humor in 'Bunty Aur Bubli'). She gives Lachchi a likable innocence without overdoing the vulnerability part. It is the kind of part one would expect an actress of Tabu's calibre to play.
Anupam Kher and Rajpal Yadav play their parts with gusto. Amitabh Bachchan as the wandering shepherd milks his 5 minute cameo for all it's worth. Sunil Shetty, with all of two lines, is utterly wasted.
It is Juhi Chawla, however, who delivers the most dignified and poignant portrayal in 'Paheli': even in moments when she has very little or no dialogue, her silently suffering Gajrobai speaks volumes through wary visages and a body language that speaks of years of defeat. I kept hoping to see more of her throughout the film, and though she is definitely there, it's not enough. Her story is far more heartbreaking than Lachchi's and deserved more attention. Juhi has become a perfectionist as an actress: the forbidding longing on her face as she watches Lachchi leave for ritual prayers, or her sheer disbelief at the return of the husband who abandoned her is award-worthy acting. Everyone's favorite giggling heroine has emerged into a tour de force dramatic talent. Believe it or not, she *is* the new Shabana Azmi. If Bollywood has any sense at all, films will be made just so she can act in them.
Paheli is a likable, unusual film. Watch it for Shah Rukh (who is mercifully restrained), watch it for the story (which is unusual and relevant), but most of all watch it for the few fleeting moments of Juhi Chawla's revelatory brilliance.
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