Movie Review: Khaali Peeli

The ‘Mumbaiya’ lingo became famous thanks to films like RANGEELA, MUNNA BHAI SERIES etc. and also the various films based on the Underworld. The lingo has a charm of its own and sadly, very few films have been made of late that are based on the characters mouthing this dialect. KHAALI PEELI attempts to be an exception in this regard. It’s a special film as it marks the debut of SULTAN [2016] and TIGER ZINDA HAI [2017] director Ali Abbas Zafar as producer. The chemistry of the lead actors – Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday – has also got noticed. So does KHAALI PEELI manage to entertain? Or does it fail to entice? Let’s analyse.

KHAALI PEELI is the story of a boy and girl on a crazy night-time adventure. Blackie (Ishaan Khatter) is a cabbie in Mumbai who drives the famous black-and-yellow taxi, also popularly known as kaali-peeli cab. One night, a strike of the taxi drivers is going on. Blackie however comes across a pregnant lady on her way to the hospital. He agrees to take her and her hubby to the hospital in return for Rs. 5,000. While he is on the way, some cabbies catch him red-handed. They inform the union leader (Ashish Varang) who along with some taxi drivers confront him. While trying to save himself from their attacks, he accidentally ends up stabbing one of them. He decides to run away from the city in his cab for a few days till the matter cools down. This is when he bumps into Pooja (Ananya Panday). She stays in a brothel run by Yousuf Chikna (Jaideep Ahlawat) since she was a child. It was at a very young age that one of Yousuf’s customers, Choksi Seth (Swanand Kirkire) had fallen for her and had decided to marry her when she grows up. She, however, is not at all interested in him. She hence steals a lot of money and jewellery from Yousuf and escapes. That’s when she comes across Blackie. Blackie decides to drop her somewhere outside the city and Pooja decides to pay him generously in return. Blackie realizes she has a lot of money in her bag. He has always desired to be rich and hence, he devises a plan to hand her over to Yusuf’s goons. In return, Yousuf’s goon Mangya (Suyash Tilak) promises that he can keep the bag that Pooja stole and he would additionally pay him the same amount as well. The plan is put in motion and Mangya manages to get hold of Pooja. But at that very moment, Blackie realizes that Pooja is the girl who was her first love. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani's story rests on a wafer-thin plot. Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani's screenplay saves the film to an extent from becoming a dated fare. However, the script loses steam in the second half as nothing exciting happens after a point. Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani's dialogues (additional dialogues by Suraj Gianani) are funny and laced with some smart, tapori-style one-liners.

Maqbool Khan's direction is stylised and neat and he tries his best to turn the ordinary script into a watchable fare. And he succeeds to do so in the first half. But how much can the direction help when the content is just not exciting enough? Moreover, there are too many cinematic liberties in the film. Initially, one won’t mind but later, it becomes difficult to digest. And although the film is essentially a masala entertainer, it has a bit of a dark setting. This might go against the film’s target audience.

KHAALI PEELI’s first half is quite entertaining, despite absence of logic. The trademark masala film stamp is visible in few scenes, especially the way Blackie turns from a kid to an adult. The flashback portions keep the interest going and also the fun conversations between Blackie and Pooja. The intermission point is dramatic. The second half is shorter but this is where the film really slips. The back-and-forth narrative gets too much after a point. The track of Inspector Bhim (Satish Kaushik), though funny, is forcefully inserted in the film. The finale is nothing special and is instead long drawn and predictable.

Talking of performances, Ishaan Khatter is pretty confident. He looks every inch a streetsmart Mumbaikar and he also adds to the film’s entertainment quotient. Ananya Panday looks stunning and does much better than her previous two films. She shows promise and looks convincing in her action scenes as well. Jaideep Ahlawat is decent and is letdown by the script. Swanand Kirkire is strictly okay and his track doesn’t reach a logical conclusion. Suyash Tilak is fair. Same goes for Zakir Hussain (Inspector Tavde). Satish Kaushik’s comic timing is spot-on but the character is added in the film just for the heck of it. Vedant Desai (young Blackie) and Deshna Duggad (young Pooja) do very well. Ashish Varang, Annup Sonii (Blackie’s father Ravi), Vaisshalee Thakkar (Khala) and Kasturi Banerjee (dancer) are decent.

Vishal-Shekhar's music is very disappointing. The film ought to have a chartbuster. <em>'Duniya Sharma Jayegi'</em> is okay. <em>'Shana Dil'</em> is played in the background and is forgettable. <em>'Tehas Nehas'</em> is forced but is well-choreographed. Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara's background score is much better.

Adil Afsar's cinematography is stylish in some scenes. But the visuals should have been brighter. Parvez Shaikh's action makes for a nice watch. Natascha Charak and Nikita Mohanty's costumes are glamorous, especially the ones worn by Ananya Panday. Durgaprasad Mahapatra's production design is realistic. Rameshwar S Bhagat's editing could have been slicker, especially in the second half.

On the whole, KHAALI PEELI rests on a wafer-thin plot and is riddled with a lot of cinematic liberties, thus diluting the impact. Moreover, the decision to release the film on a pay-per-view model, that too at an exorbitant price, might go against the film.

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