Paheli (Devanagari: पहेली, Nastaliq: پہیلی, English: Riddle) is a Bollywood ghost movie, released in India on 24 June 2005, directed by Amol Palekar and produced by Gauri Khan, Sanjiv Chawla and Shahrukh Khan, who also plays the male lead. Paheli is based on the short story written by Vijayadan Detha and tells the story of a wife (Rani Mukerji) who is left by her husband (Shahrukh Khan) and visited by a ghost, disguised as her husband, who is in love with her and takes her husband's place.
Sunil Shetty, Juhi Chawla, Rajpal Yadav and Amitabh Bachchan have special appearances in the film.
The movie opened the ninth Zimbabwe International Film Festival at the Libertie Cinema Complex in Harare.
The working title of the movie was Ghost Ka Dost (translates to Friend of a Ghost).
The movie is narrated by two puppets, voiced by Naseeruddin Shah and his real-life wife Ratna Pathak Shah. Enthusiastic young Lachchi (Rani Mukerji) is to be married to Kishen (Shahrukh Khan), the son of the rich merchant Bhanwarlal (Anupam Kher). Kishen is a dutiful son who honors his father's wish to start a new, far-away business on a predetermined auspicious date, which happens to be the day after the wedding ceremony. On the wedding night, Kishen turns away from his wife to finish his bookkeeping, and in the early morning hours sets off on a business trip that is to last five years. Lachchi is devastated; Gajrobai (Juhi Chawla), her husband's sister-in-law, consoles her, empathizing on the grounds that Gajrobai's husband (Sunil Shetty) has also disappeared. The next day, a ghost appears, having taken Kishen's shape and voice because of his own attachment to Lachchi.
Lachchi is thus presented a riddle (hence the title "paheli") between the representation of all of her desires in the form of the ghost and her real husband. She takes this new, fond, sexual, magical, social, self-confident version of Kishen as hers. As Kishen, the ghost befriends all of the real Kishen's family and keeps Bhanwarlal happy by providing him with magical, possibly illusory, gold coins. His only blunder is in his treatment of the messenger Bhoja, who is perplexed by the idea that Kishen has sent a letter from his business trip only to receive it himself in his own house and offended when the ghost (who appears as Kishen) does not offer him a drink of water. Lachchi's bliss goes on until four years later, when she is pregnant and the real Kishen realizes that he misses his wife. He returns to find the ghost in his (Kishen's) own form. Kishen's family is unable to determine which of the doppelgangers is the real Kishen (the ghost refusing to confess). They decide to visit the king so that he can arbitrate. On the way to the king they meet an old shepherd (Amitabh Bachchan) who helps them out. He asks the real son of Bhanwarlal to pick up hot coals, asks the real husband to gather the sheep, and asks Lachchi's real paramour to enter a water-bottle. The real Kishen is found out and everyone returns home. Lachchi is devastated over the loss of the ghost. In the very end it is revealed that the ghost has escaped the bottle and taken control of Kishen's body in order to live with her. By now Lachchi has given birth to a daughter, Looni Ma, by whose identification the ghost exposes his identity to Lachchi. The puppets close the film, remarking that the film's plot is "an old story".
The film was screened at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It was nominated as India's official entry to the 79th Academy Awards. Paheli had received fairly good reviews from critics, who praised the acting but criticized elements with the story in general. Although it did well overseas, the movie did not perform well at the Indian box office and international box office receipts were not enough to recover cost. Some critics[who?] accused the Film Federation of India (the body in charge of nominating official entries to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) of succumbing to lobbying, or pandering to the Academy by appealing to their stereotyped view of Indian society.
* Shahrukh Khan .... Kishanlal/The Ghost as Prem
* Rani Mukerji .... Lachchi
* Anupam Kher .... Bhanwarlal, Kishanlal's father
* Sunil Shetty .... Sunderlal, Kishanlal's brother
* Juhi Chawla .... Gajrobai, Sunderlal's wife
* Amitabh Bachchan .... The Shepherd
* Rajpal Yadav .... Bhoja
* Dilip Prabhavalkar .... Kanwarlal, Bhanwarlal's brother
* A.K. Hangal .... Jeevraj
* Naseeruddin Shah .... Male Puppet (voice)
* Ratna Pathak ... Female puppet (voice)
* Music Label - T-Series
* Music Director - M M Kreem
* Lyricist - Gulzar
Song List and Singers:
* Dhire Jalna - Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghosal, for which Sonu Nigam won the Star Screen Award Best Male Playback singer award and Shreya Ghoshal won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer.
* Dhire Jalna (Instrumental)
* Kangna Re - Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghosal, Madhushree, Bela Shende, Kalapini Komakali
* Khali Hai Tere Bina - Hariharan, Bela Shende
* Laaga Re Jal Laaga - M.M Kareem, Sonu Nigam, Shruti Sadolikar
* Minnat Kare - Shreya Ghosal, Madhushree, Bela Shende
* Phir Raat Kati - Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh
* Phir Raat Kati (Remix)- Sunidhi Chauhan, Sukhwinder Singh
 Box Office
The film was a flop in India and the overseas market. It collected about Rs. 13,09,00,000.