Not often do we hear the words ‘chhava’ and ‘chhavi’ in Bollywood films, for these are slang words used by some Mumbaikars on a regular basis, and do not hit the script regularly. Hindi filmmakers, over many years now, have refined their craft, and not many directors these days focus on making a classic, retro-style, masala drama. Gone are the days where slow-motion shots, actors flying during stunts, overtly dramatised sequences are planned in films. While it might exist in some other sections of the Indian film industries; directors in Bollywood have left the path behind and gone miles ahead.
However, one such film, refreshingly good, is Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday starter ‘Khaali Peeli.’ The film gained some traction with the release of the trailer, however, distasteful comments and controversy over the previously titled song ‘Beyonce Sharma Jaayegi’ gave the film, the extra push in the media, even if it was for the not-so-right reasons.
The story begins in Shivpur where the Vijay (Ishaan) and his father (Anup Sonii) decide to loot a jewellery shop, however, the police get to know about the same. They aren’t able to catch him and he quickly plans to escape the town by boarding a train. He reaches Mumbai, becomes ‘Blackie’ and starts working with Yusuf (Jaideep Ahlawat), where he meets Pooja (Ananya Panday) at a young age. With time, they are fond of each other and their liking grows. However, a middle-aged man, Choksi Seth (Swanand Kirkire) expresses his wishes to marry her when she is 18 and asks Yusuf to raise her as a guardian until then. Upon knowing Blackie and Pooja’s affection, Yusuf threatens him to run away. Cut to several years later, and Blackie is now a taxi driver. Blame the circumstances, but on a not-so-busy night, he meets Pooja as a bhaagi hui dulhan, who seeks his help to run away from getting married to Choksi Seth. What happens then leads to a series of chase and escape in his taxi.
One of the best aspects of the film is director Maqbool Khan’s interest in oscillating timelines, where he either shifts the audience’s attention between 10-year gaps or shorter intervals of 35-minutes. Moreover, he has presented the film in a simple yet interesting manner, trying hard to ensure the viewer doesn’t lose interest. His creative itch in experimenting with shots and edits comes across clearly in certain sequences. Often, very few filmmakers take the risk to present such films, thereby explore the quintessential Bollywood drama corner hidden deep within, and Maqbool’s work with slow-motion action sequences and a low-key setting cum presentation, speaks a lot.
Among the other best aspects of the film is the casting. The not-so-new, but yet-to-unleash, Ishaan Khatter shines through the film as Blackie. He is seamless as a taxi driver, and being a Mumbaikar, the accent and attitude required for the role come naturally. He strives and succeeds to impress from the first frame and wins your attention in the due course, by taking charge of the screen.
There is no doubt that Ananya is a good actor and she has the skill to get into the character with ease. As Pooja, she tries to deliver it consciously, but in a good way, without being pretentious. Though she has very few scenes, exclusively for herself, she complements the character well.
Playing characters like Yusuf must be a cake-walk for Jaideep Ahlawat, and he does not disappoint. So does Anup Sonii.
But the surprise element in the film is veteran actor Satish Kaushik, who is present for a few scenes, but definitely makes your laugh. His experience of captivating your attention, through any roles, shows through his role as a lazy police officer. He is a treat to watch.
Overall, the film is entertaining, but one would be hooked, especially in the first half of the film. Post-interval, it falls flat and would seem a tad bit lengthy towards the climax, for it is highly predictable. While the makers fulfill their itch to write and direct a masala-drama, a surprise element especially through plot twists or in the climax would prove to be beneficial, which unfortunately Khaali Peeli lacks.
To sum it up, Khaali Peeli is one ‘masaledaar’ chase. The film is 113-minutes long, and While almost all of it seems senseless, such films serve to be good popcorn entertainment. Amidst the tension and stress, watching this no-brainer is no-harm.