It is easy, really easy, to challenge masala movies when it comes to sense, sensibilities and logic. However, scratch the surface and you would know that it isn’t really as simple to go out there and make a film that keeps excitement intact for those two hours. At the end of the day, Bollywood is known for the entertainment factor that it brings with it and while offbeat, niche and so-called ‘intelligent’ movies have their own merits, at the end of the day it’s the escapist cinema that has kept the box office going for Bollywood over the decades.
This is the reason why Khaali Peeli turns out to be the kind of film that ensures fun element right through its compact two hours duration. The best part of this Maqbool Khan (Kabootar, Lanka) directed film is that it doesn’t lose pace ever once. Good credit for that also needs to go for the edit pattern that is on the lines of a Guy Ritchie film. There are pauses between the scenes, there are some fast rewinds and fast forwards thrown in, timelines keep jumping in the range of 15 minutes to 15 years, and then there are some clever shot transitions as well which make you munch your popcorn with even more glee.
That said, all such technical nitty gritty can work only if the storyline is interesting enough. Well, for the genre that the film belongs to, which is action-comedy-thriller, it is sufficient indeed. The young man here, Ishaan Khatter, has risen from the streets and graduated from being a ‘black ticket waala’ to now a ‘taxi waala’, all because he didn’t want to pull the trigger as a young teenager on the instructions of a Kamathipura pimp (Jaideep Ahlawat) and instead ‘changed gears’ to ‘change gears’ of his car.
The girl (Ananya Pandey) could as well have had a dark childhood in the flesh market but then a middle aged man (Swanand Kirkire) catches fancy of her as a 12 year old and courtesy his ‘door ko soch’ where he visualises her as a 22 year old Ananya already, he decides to send her to a boarding school so that he can marry her on return.
With a core set up like this, Khaali Peeli could well have turned out to be a dark film. However, Maqbool Khan knew better and decided to take a route different than his last release Lanka which incidentally had a similar plot line of Arjan Bajwa deciding to free a mistress Tia Bajpai from a ‘baahubali’ Manoj Bajpayee. Moreover, one can well imagine producer Ali Abbas Zafar to have brought in further commercial elements into play and as a result Khaali Peeli turns out to be a fun entertainer with a full-on masala film that is reminiscent of the storytelling and characters coming from the films of 70s and the 80s.
The cast is also having a lot of fun here. Ishaan totally changes himself from his Dhadak image and from a gawky teenager, he turns out to be a streetsmart tapori with a definite Anil Kapoor influence coming in. It is good to see him demonstrate a confident persona and the Mumbaiyaa lingo only helps his cause. It is fun to watch him on screen.
As for Ananya Pandey, she is a revelation. She was a teenager in Student if the Year 2, turned into a mature woman in her mid-20s in Pati Patni aur Woh and is now actually playing her real age in Khaali Peeli, and that too in a streetsmart avtar. Given the fact that she comes from an elite background, the sheer metamorphosis that she goes through for Khaali Peeli is worthy indeed.
Of course, and as mentioned early, it is easy to just go out there and diss a performance or even the film as a whole when the chips are down. However the youngsters here show again that in a set up like this they have delivered what was required out of them and have played to the gallery. Yes, had there been a couple of tighter sequences on both sides of the interval point with a running duration 10-15 minutes lesser, Khaali Peeli could have emerged as an even better entertainer. In fact the cop characters played by Zakir Hussain and Satish Kaushik could have been better fleshed out. However, in the larger scheme of things, Khaali Peeli delivers as a whole.
These are stressful times in the current Covid scenario and considering that the film turns out to be a stress-buster, it can be given an easy and comfortable watch. As for the whole (pointless) debate around nepotism, Ishaan and Ananya do well enough to put a lid on that. That by itself is a win good enough.