When Palekar offered Shah Rukh Khan a role in Paheli, the latter was so enthused with the script that he offered to produce the movie too. The promos intrigue film buffs with a glimpse of the happening lead pair: Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee. By now, it is known that marquee names like Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Juhi Chawla, Suniel Shetty and Rajpal Yadav also grace the credits. Then there's Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Madhushree and Shreya Goshal rendering brilliant Gulzar lyrics to M.M. Kreem's soulful music. The use of special effects and elaborate sets whips up more curiosity. Which is why viewers do a double take on spotting Amol Palekar's name as the director of the soon-to-be-released movie Paheli! Palekar, the 61-year-old veteran of nine intense, critically-acclaimed Hindi and Marathi movies, probing stark, unconventional subjects and raising uncomfortable questions that make you cringe, squirm and, in a rarity of sorts in Hindi cinema, ponder and think. For those unaware of what it means to push the limits of cinematic narration and widen its canvas, his subjects hold the clue: girl sacrifice, ritual murders, male and female sexuality, birth control when the subject was still taboo, and regressive fatalism. But Palekar himself is amused by all the fuss. "It's a wrong notion that I am averse to working with stars," he says. "I've worked with stars in the past. My stories are not written with stars in mind. But if the story demands them and they fit the role, I'm always keen to work with them." He is also conscious that an impressive star cast can help a movie reach wider audiences. "But one doesn't have to make a senseless film and wither away all the advantages," he adds, in a veiled attack on filmmakers who are all style and no substance. "With Paheli, my aim was to make a sensible, lovely, enjoyable movie." That perhaps explains the film's use of music — a surprise element in a Palekar movie. "I've done films with music and mainstream elements. Ankahi, Anaahat, Daayra, Thoda Sa Rumani Ho Jaaye — all had songs," he points out. "If a story or a situation can be best conveyed through a song, why should anyone have a problem with that? It's not the same as throwing in a certain number of songs — regardless of whether they fit the story — and they turn into item numbers."