The mere presence of superstar Shah Rukh Khan is usually enough to make millions of Bollywood fans across the world jump with glee. But when he's playing a friendly ghost dressed in a comedy turban and moustache, you can bet your bottom dollar you are in for a treat. However Amol Palekar's Paheli, a romantic fairytale about a spirit who takes on human form after falling in love with a young Indian bride, is more subdued than supernaturally spectacular.
Lachchi (Rani Mukerjee) is distraught when husband Kishen (Khan) leaves her the morning after their wedding under the instruction of his greedy father (Anupam Kher). More interested in making a fortune than making love to his wife, Kishen goes off for five years leaving a love struck spirit (Khan in a double role) to take his place. In today's age that would be grounds for divorce, but in 19th-century Rajasthan, a loving, albeit paranormal, husband is apparently a blessing in disguise. When the real Kishen returns, confusion arises until a wise old shepherd (Amitabh Bachchan) devises three tests to resolve the riddle that has baffled everyone.
"OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMEDY ARE OFTEN MISSED"
Despite a great cast and colourful backdrop, Paheli is far from the musical entertainer you'd expect from a big budget project headed and produced by King Khan himself. Opportunities to exploit the ghostly situation for comedy are often missed by Palekar, a filmmaker better known for his sensible art house films than rollicking Bollywood blockbusters. The result is a film that lacks pace, humour and real mystery, leaving you feeling more indifferent than enchanted.
Music: M M Kreem
In Hindi with English subtitles.