Thursday, March 23, 2006

I heart Paheli

I have been waiting forever to see this. I kept thinking the video store would get it, but no, and it was never in at the grocery store. So, after an esteemed advisor told me he thought I would love it, I just gave in and bought it. And zowee was he right.

What a beautiful, touching movie - full of color and light, choices and love, footsteps and anklets, murals and puppets. No particular time, no particular schedule, just gently and with care telling this lovely story, watching what happens when individuals make choices. It raised so many interesting questions but never threw them in your face; instead, options played out, drenched in sun and color and quiet yet dearly-felt emotions. Whom should you choose: the one who loves you but might be too good to be true? or the one who is completely real but blunders, not knowing anything and probably too afraid to try? the accountant you know or the ghost you don't?

And what a miserable, dreadful ending. I don't think I've ever been so angry at a Bollywood ending.
me: What about Kishen, you selfish, presumptuous bhoot?
bhoot: Eh? Didn't you want me to end up with Lachchi? C'mon, you know you did.
me: No! No, I didn't! I wanted all three of you to get to choose what you were going to do! Especially her. Here she is, years after making an extraordinary choice, then having a chance to reevaluate and decide whether or not to continue with the choice. We should all be so lucky to have such an opportunity, and you robbed everyone of some interesting conversation.
bhoot: You didn't really think Kishen could love her, did you?
me: I don't know! But you didn't let him try! You essentially killed him off. He made very thoughtful use of the only piece of information he had about her; maybe he would have done just fine, now that he was home, he knew his family loved him, his uncle was back, and the house was filled with happiness - and he knew how to stand up for what he thought was right. Ordinary people have an extraordinary capacity to love, so you just bugger off and let him try! And anyway, just because you have all the charisma of SRK doesn't mean you get to go around eliminating people from other people's lives! And go shave that mustache.

I know I will very happily watch all but the last few minutes of this again and again, lost in this golden, twirling, almost whimsical world.

A few unorganized little points:
1) Farah Khan, brava! How can one person be responsible for so much greatness? I would love you forever even if you had only done MHN and this puppet dance, but there's so much more!
2) Puppets! Puppets puppets puppets! I loved them! They reminded me of weird filmstrips from childhood and greatly added to the fairy-tale feel.
3) Is Kirron Kher the voice of the puppet queen?
4) Who played the ghost when he was talking to Lachchi before becoming Kishen? That actor looked very familiar. Was he in Hulchul, maybe?
5) I watched this with a friend who's been going through some incredibly difficult times. She was as taken as I was, but we disagreed over the ghost, her rooting for him to win Lachchi's heart permanently and me for letting Kishen have his turn now that he knew a bit more about who he was. Part of my argument was that the ghost was so many different layers of not real, reminding her that, as Bridget Jones says, "being imaginary is a character flaw that cannot be overlooked." She immediately tossed back "That's better than so many different layers of disappointment, which is what I have now." I laughed so hard, gasping for breath and almost falling off the sofa. Point taken. Which is the lesser of two sadnesses: imaginary or disappointing?

And in other news, I saw someone looking at Kandoukondain Kandoukondain at the video store and, having just lent my copy to Abby, leaned in to her and said "That's really good. You should definitely get that." I think I scared her a little. So apparently I've become that person. Great.

12 comments:

harry potter said...

hi beth...nice review...i have heard good reviews about the movie form my sister and a few friends...who appreciate these movies...but i have never been able to watch it...for some reason or the other...but with your lovely critique of the movie maybe i will finally get the cd...
ciao...

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth
I am glad you loved Paheli, I did too, such a beautiful film, it was grand in its simplicity..... what did you think of the bhoot during the camel race?that mischivous look in his eyes when he started messing things up was hilarious and priceless!
and I totaly agree on Farah Khan, people who accuse her of only doing modern choreography should watch Paheli, I am glad SRK insisted Amol Palekar used her in the film.

Obi Wan said...

I loved Paheli for its simplicity, though a lot of people are of the opinion that its more a play than a full-length film, as far as the script is concerned.
The puppet narrators were Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah (his wife), as far as I remember. Missed the first 10-15 minutes of the movie because of work (we'd organized the premiere), and so don't really know who the 'original' ghost was!

azuregoddess said...

Your fictitious dialogue exchange with the bhoot cracked me up. They should put it in the DVD extras - seriously!

harry potter said...

hi beth...finally saw the movie yday night...and loved it...it was a colourful movie...subtle in its simplicity...and the sets were too realistic...the story was really kool and all in all i enjoyed the movie...
ciao
-joy

Totally Basmatic said...

Honestly, I was very happy with the ending of Paheli. I couldn't think of a better way to do it. Here's why:

Kishen really didn't have a personality. He was a complete doormat. He couldn't even prove his identity to his family; rather, it was the disproof that the bhoot was Kishen that established Kishen's identity. That's a funny way to exist - not as a person but rather as a negation of something else.

On the other hand, the bhoot had nothing but personalty - sure, magic powers help, but really he had nothing tying him to the physical world. By combining these aspects in the end (body/mind) the resolution was complete.

Although, yeah, it did kinda suck for Lacchi.

BTW - I've been reading your blog for a while. Keep it up!

Beth said...

Azuregoddess - thanks! It was the best way I could think of to express how I felt. I found it amazingly therapeutic, since the friend I watched the movie with didn't agree with me, so I'm wondering if I ought to have more fictional dialogues with fictional characters?

HP - so true! Glad you enjoyed it.

TB - thanks for stopping in and I love your name. I'm just getting your site loaded now and can't wait to dig in! You make some very good points about Paheli - I hadn't thought about that at all. I just wish Kishen had had a chance to prove he was more than a negation. I really want to read the novel now too.

Cathy said...

I've read an argument somewhere online that the bhoot and Kishen are two parts of the same person -- neither is complete in himself, but at the end they are united to make a real man. The bhoot has no sense of responsibility or humanity, Kishen has no passion and whimsy -- but as the bhoot inhabits Kishen's life, he learns to be more human, while Kishen is learning to be more loving, and in the end they are united as a complete person (at least symbolically). That made me feel a litte better ...

... because read literally, the ending seriously PISSED ME OFF! (Can I say that in your comments?) Poor Kishen gets treated like dirt by everybody, and he only wants to be a good son and do what he thinks is the right thing. Even more than being denied by his bride, I thought it was painful that his own parents liked the bhoot better. And then he gets murdered by the bhoot, and that's the happy ending?

Up until the very end, I loved this movie so. I think it might be my favorite Bollywood movie so far.

Beth said...

Cathy, I think your interpretation is great and I agree completely. In fact, I want to put the movie in right now and re-watch with all that in mind (and I can, becuase I have it here at work, oddly). I love what you said about the bhoot in particular. And yes, you can say whatever you want in my comments! (Or email me if you really need to let loose!) Kishen just needs more time, that's what I think - and yeah, the ending sucks. It's beautiful and wonderful in every way. Right on!

eliza bennet said...

Hi, even though I read your blog this is the first time I post.

I think exactly the same with you as far as the ending goes. Poor Kishan should have been given a chance. He didn't do anything wrong (except obeying his parents). Just because the ghost is more entertaining and powerful doesn't mean that he has the right to steal poor K's body. Seriously I was also suprised by Lachchi, she looked like an assertive woman and she looked really happy that her lover has killed her husband off.

I would have loved if the three of them sat down and discussed the whole thing and end up with a solution that doesn't involve thievery. Failing that the ghost should have stayed in the water bag!!!

ajnabi said...

Hi Beth! I couldn't agree more about Farah Khan--the puppet dance is sheer frickin' genius and absolutely jaw-dropping.

About the bhoot--I think the whole thing is symbolic. It's only my opinion though. ;-) I just reviewed it here if you want to check it out.

Gauri Radha said...

Cool review!! I enjoyed the traditional Rajasthani folk dances in this movie.

The desert dance during the end credits was my favourite.

I'd like to see more Bollywood movies in a Rajasthan setting, it is so rich and colorful.