Sunday, May 6, 2018

REVIEW: Paheli (live action movie)

Paheli is a Bollywood fantasy movie that stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji. Netflix has a ridiculous amount of Shah Rukh Khan's movies at the moment, so I decided I should try another one. I selected Paheli because Netflix's description called it "charming."

The movie starts with Lachchi marrying Kishan, the son of a rich merchant. She wants it to be a good marriage, but things are rocky right from the start. Kishan insults her for eating berries they found on the way back to his home (only "illiterates" would do that), spends their entire wedding night working on his accounting, and then tells Lachchi that he'll be leaving early in the morning to do some work for his father. He plans to be gone for the next five years.

Lachchi is deeply unhappy, but, luckily for her, she happened to be spotted by a spirit on the way to her husband's house. The spirit is madly in love with her and, upon learning that her husband would be gone for the next few years, decides to take his place. He uses his illusionist powers to take Kishan's form and take over his life, but he can't bring himself to lie to Lachchi. However, she's more than happy to accept the man who loves her and is currently with her over the man who abandoned her in order to go off and make money. Unfortunately, Lachchi and the spirit's happiness might be destroyed by Kishan's return.

I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. I can honestly say I had no idea how things were going to work out. It didn't seem like the sort of movie that could have a happy ending, but it managed it. Just in a way that made me a tad uncomfortable.

I warmed to Lachchi and the spirit's relationship more quickly than I expected, considering that it was technically an affair and I'm not fond of those in romance. Although it would have removed the "cheating on her husband" element if the spirit had hid his identity from Lachchi (since she would have thought she was with her husband), I think it actually would have been worse if he'd lied to her, since both her relationship with Kishan and with the spirit would have been awful in that scenario. It helped that 1) Lachchi barely knew Kishan, 2) Kishan was repeatedly cold and insulting during his brief time with her, and 3) she had practically begged Kishan to stay with her and he still left her. I could understand and even support Lachchi's choice.

What I wondered about was how things were going to turn out when her real husband came back. Although the real Kishan came to regret leaving his wife, the man Lachchi fell in love with was the spirit. I was worried that the movie would end with the spirit deciding to leave and Lachchi magically falling in love with her husband, or with Lachchi dying so she could be with her spirit lover. While the actual ending was probably the best possible ending for both Lachchi and the spirit, the thing that had to be done so that they could have that happy ending made my skin crawl. Kishan was a terrible husband, but I didn't think he deserved what happened to him.

None of the songs really stuck out for me, but the dancing during the ending credits was pretty clever. The actors imitated puppets on strings, similar to the puppets that were the movie's narrators. Oh, and there were a few stylistic decisions that took me a while to figure out, namely the way the passage of time was depicted. I kept assuming only days or weeks had passed, and then I'd discover that it had actually been months or years. I'm guessing that several of the singing and dancing scenes were shorthand for "time is passing," just based on the way Lachchi went from learning she was pregnant by the start of a song to giving birth right after it.

For the most part, I thought this was an okay movie, although I don't know if I agree with Netflix's decision to call it "charming." 

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