Cast: Ananya Panday, Ishaan Khatter, Jaideep Ahlawat
Director: Maqbool Khan
Congratulations! You have found your way to an actual review of ‘nepo kids’ Ananya Panday and Ishaan Khatter’s Khaali Peeli, amid a sea of 0 star Google reviews by ‘justice warriors’. Unlike what those reviews would have you believe, no, I did not think it is the worst thing to happen to humanity.
Khaali Peeli is a concoction that can only be brewed in the belly of Bollywood. With one chase sequence following on the tails of another, director Maqbool Khan ensures not a single moment is without its adrenaline dialled up to an 11. But it’s quite shocking how easily one can grow bored of craziness as well.
Watch the trailer for Khaali Peeli:
From the characters to the story, from villains to sidekicks, Khaali Peeli could very well have been a product of 80s Bollywood and one would not even bat an eyelid. There are long lost childhood lovers, a chaotic reunion, a woman on the run, a slick blue collar hero, a mob boss who takes a young boy under his wing, a prostitution racket, and policemen that provide comedic relief. Thankfully, it all seems quite deliberately kitschy, which I realised after the boy’s name is revealed to be Vijay Chauhan.
Vijay alias Blackie, is played by Ishaan with a tapori suave that never quite fits him. He tries his best to shoot words like ‘shendi’, ‘kalti’ with the stylish ease of Rangeela’s Munna, but on him, it does feel like a good convent-educated Bandra boy trying look cool to his Borivali homies. He is a taxi driver who plays by his own rule and drives his ‘kaali peeli’ like butter in a hot pan. An opportunist who wouldn’t shy away from scamming miserly husbands of pregnant women in labour, his life turns upside down when Ananya’s Pooja comes crashing in.
Pooja is on the run from a bunch of goons trying to get her married to a 40-something paedophile (played ever so disgustingly by Swanand Kirkire) who stayed ‘virgin’ for her for 10 years. On the eve of her wedding, she robs the party of their cash and gold and her getaway car turns out to be Blackie’s taxi. She, too, is a kid of the streets and, therefore, has to speak the same lingo. From Ananya, the words sound even more alien.
On our hero and heroine’s tails are the police and Jaideep Ahalawat’s Yusuf Bhai. He plays the mob boss with the side hustle of grooming young girls for prostitution. He was the one who broke the lovers apart when they were kids, and makes it his mission to bring Pooja back to her buyer, even if it means paying for it with his own or anybody else’s life. As should have been expected of Jaideep by now, he plays Yusuf with a sinister angst. He can seem gentle when he put his arm around a young apprentice but shows his vile side as he delivers hard blows on an 11 year old’s ribs. Jaideep appears to be having fun with this very staple role as he flicks his long hair around more than necessary.
As for Blackie and Pooja, now reunited as adults, their chemistry truly sizzles when they bicker and fight over the right plan to escape or how to divide the booty among them. Ananya and Ishaan are able to pull off the temperamental scenes, the action and even the lighter moments with ease. However, the dramatic flashbacks, the emotional reunions are ineffective at best. The romance, though mostly negligible, is limited to a couple of bad songs, which thanks to the film being available on OTT, you can skip with a flick of your cursor.
One good diversion from the 80s is Maqbool’s treatment of the heroine. Ananya may be in distress, but she is no damsel in the need of rescuing. Even without help from the hero, she finds ways to outsmart the police, escape the villains, find her way out of sticky situations and break a few skulls, and also save the hero a couple of times. Ananya is charming as the feisty Pooja and holds her own against Ishaan.
Khaali Peeli, much like the title suggests, is a good enough option to while away your time on a couch this weekend. A popcorn-muncher straight from the belly of Bollywood, it’s a movie that will not ask much of you, and sometimes, that’s what we need from our movies.
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