Synopsis – Khaali Peeli is an action drama wherein a taxi driver picks up a girl on the run and what follows isa crazy, roller-coaster of a ride. His past and present circumstances have made him fearless. His taxi always moves in top gear and he will go all the way to get what he wants. She is a bag full of surprises and believes that nobody except her, can decide her future. She may look innocent and vulnerable but certainly isn’t..
My Take – I think it is suffice to say that right from its first trailer it was pretty evident what this Maqbool Khan directed film was going to be like – a true blue masala entertainer that’s packed with all the quintessential elements of a Bollywood flick i.e. a satisfactory dose of action, comedy and drama. Even with the film’s producer Ali Abbas Zafar going all the way to reaffirm its status by calling it a traditional mainstream potboiler in a press release, in case we end up expecting something otherwise.
Like most releases this year, this one too has ended up releasing on ZEE5, an Indian video on demand service which is trying hard to capture the largest piece of the growing market, thanks to the ongoing corona-virus pandemic. A factor which might go against it, as the film has been clearly designed for the single-screen experience.
Much like the title suggests, director Maqbool Khan along with writers Yash Kesarwani and Sima Agarwal do a satisfactory job of assembling its substances by revisiting the crowd pullers of the 80s and 90s, and never asking a lot from their viewers.
Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday too make for an exciting fresh pairing and manage to keep up well with the offbeat and unpredictable scheme of things, and when the film remembers to remain mild on its toes, it’s enjoyable. However it slackens when it tries to carve a new space, while forgetting how it is certainly inspired by Bollywood clichés.
The story follows Vijay Chauhan aka Blackie (Ishaan Khatter), a former underage thief who now works as a conniving taxi driver in the city of Mumbai, which has been his home for the past ten years. But now he is forced to run, as an unwanted skirmish led to the stabbing to a fellow taxi driver, and the cops are hot on trial.
However, he isn’t able to refuse providing lift to a passenger named Pooja (Ananya Panday), a runaway bride with a bag full of stolen jewelry and cash. Unknown to Blackie, Pooja was betrothed to marry a pedophile businessman Choksi (Swanand Kirkire), who also happens to be the business partner of Yusuf Chikna (Jaideep Ahlawat), a fearful gangster with whom he shares history.
From the characters to the story, from villains to sidekicks, this Maqbool Khan directed film may very effectively have been the main product of the 80s and 90s Hindi cinema. There are lengthy misplaced childhood lovers, a chaotic reunion, a lady on the run, a slick blue collar hero, a mob boss who takes a younger boy below his wing, a prostitution racket, and policemen that present comedic aid.
However, in order to add some modernity, director Maqbool Khan meddles with the timeline and unfurls the story in a non-linear fashion, making the plot seem more interesting than it is, despite stretching the run time. But more than often, it is a very breezy ride, even if the film borrows its premise from several known films, especially with its homages, treatment and the fun banter between the leads.
However what brings the film down, in my opinion, is the lack of emotional investment, an aspect which makes the film a quick watch, but never a lasting experience. While the film does provide enough background to the main leads, it is never enough to make you root for them, or to even make their supposed ten year old love believable.
Here, director Maqbool Khan even try to stir the comical level of the film by dropping catchy dialogues and some situations like an item song in which both the leads change their attire and the police never notices them. The makers also worked heavily in constructing chase sequences but none of them were effective.
Thankfully the performances are up to the mark. Following Beyond the Clouds and Dhadak, Ishaan Khatter puts on display yet another side of his multifaceted personality. He exudes a lot of confidence in what is his first alpha male role, where he gets to kick ass and pout one liners, and rather than mimic idols, Khatter invents his style in conformity.
Ananya Panday, looking a million bucks, does well in the role of a street-smart girl. The biggest relief is not seeing her being limited to playing the damsel in distress, and Panday easily makes a stand. The two child actors who play the younger versions of Blackie and Pooja are also very natural.
Jaideep Ahlawat once again naturally embodies the role of the antagonist, and does quite well. In other roles, Anup Soni, Satish Kaushik and Zakir Hussain are delightful additions to the ensemble. On the whole, ‘Khaali Peeli’ is a watchable Bollywood potboiler which lifelessly embraces the grandiose of a two decade old template.
Directed – Maqbool Khan
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 119 minutes