Khaali Peeli movie cast: Ishaan Khatter, Ananya Panday, Jaideep Ahlawat, Swanand Kirkire, Satish Kaushik, Anup Soni
Khaali Peeli movie director: Maqbool Khan
Khaali Peeli movie rating: Two stars
Can a new film which is a deliberate hark-back to the masala movies of the 70s and 80s, be worth your time? Only if it is smart and self-aware, and never forgets to send itself up, that’s when. Khaali Peeli does an adequate job of assembling the ingredients, and when it remembers to stay light on its feet, it’s fun, but slackens in other parts.
Blackie (Khatter) is a Mumbai taxi-driver. Pooja (Panday) is a girl on the run. Bump. Rubber meets road, goons and cops join the chase, and other wheels begin to grind. That’s your basic story, which we have seen in bits and pieces in many, many films. Glimpses flash by, of Sadak, Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin, Rangeela, and, oh wait, doesn’t that song remind you of Raja and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and so on.
Some of the elements make you smile. A ‘mela’ by the roadside becomes the site of a game of hide-and-seek played by Blackie and Pooja, and those on their tail. On the back of the ‘kaali-peeli’ (the black-and-yellow cabs, such a Mumbai icon) is imprinted the urban legend, Panvel. The taxi segues nicely into the film’s name, Khaali Peeli which pretty much means, without any aim, just like that, a phrase plucked from that era where ‘tapori’ acts were still new in Hindi cinema.
Here, both leads speak the lingo. Or let’s just say, they try, Blackie coming off better than Pooja, though both sound like clean-cut kids caught dialogue-ing. What helps is both are easy on the eye, with Khatter getting a chance to do the whole hero-giri thing—sing, dance, romance, fight, displaying an impressive set of biceps. He’s creating an outline of and for himself: watch out for him in the forthcoming Mira Nair’s series, A Suitable Boy. The best part about Ms Panday is that neither the script nor she herself, takes herself seriously, and that works for this kind of film.
The baddies include Ahlawat playing an old-style goon, and Kirkire his unlikely boss, running an operation which involves prostitution. The good guys are Hussain, a cop hot-footing after the run-away couple, and Kaushik as a lumbering sidekick. All these actors can be excellent when given appropriate parts; here they do their job.
And that’s really what this film does, overall. Khaali Peeli knows that it needs to refresh the tropes it is up against, and manages to do so only some of the time in its two-hour duration. As a pandemic time-pass, it serves. Just about.