Paheli, Shahrukh Khan’s 2005 movie about a ghost or spirit is one of my all time favorite Shahrukh Khan movies, even if it is not one of his blockbusters. It’s not a scary Halloween movie (like maybe Darr, which is more creepy than scary), but it does have a ghost! Paheli means riddle.
Fantasy film seem to be unusual in Hindi cinema, and in this film Shahrukh Khan plays both a number counting merchant husband, and a bhoot, or a ghost or spirit (sort of a genie, really) who takes his place. Rani Mukerji is the bride who captivates the Ghost, with Amitabh as a wise shepherd in a cameo. It’s a fable that is also about women’s empowerment, and the scene where SRK tells Rani he’s a ghost is one of my all-time favorites. She laughs at first, because it sounds ridiculous! But her real husband barely noticed her, and wouldn’t sleep with her on their wedding night, but this ghost is obsessed with her every since he saw her at the well he haunted.
He could have lied and just taken her in the guise of her husband, but he loves her enough to give her the choice. Swoon!
Rani and SRK have always had great chemistry, but man do they smolder in Paheli. Yowza.
The costumes are just stunning, and the music in the film is just fantastic:
Amitabh Bachchan has a fun cameo as the wise shepherd who must solve the riddle of the two husbands. Juhi Chawla, who co-produced the film, plays Rani’s sister-in-law whose husband (Sunil Shetty) had disappeared. Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak play puppet narrators and of course Anupam Kher is the father.
I love Shahrukh in double roles and these two roles he makes completely separate people. The husband is comedic and obtuse, and the ghost playful and sultry.
Plus, I love the idea of a ticklish ghost! Paheli has been overlooked but I love it. And I love its message of female empowerment and choice.