Khaali Peeli; Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Ananya Panday, Jaideep Ahlawat, Zakir Hussain; Direction: Maqbool Khan; Rating: * * (two stars)
BY VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY
Okay, we get the point. This is supposed to be brainless fun. What was that hackneyed line our filmwallahs love to parrot — about leaving your brains out and all that blah. But Bollywood often forgets even the brainless needs some amount of brains to create, in order to qualify as fun.
To say the film has a wafer-thin storyline would be an insult to the fact that wafers do have texture and taste. These days, when packaging and marketing has become all-important in the world of Bollywood commercialism (more so for star kids), perhaps a cohesive plot was never the priority.
Perhaps the priority was to set up a ‘showcase’ and little else, to underline the fact that Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday can dance and romance, and do the comedy-melodrama-action drill, and look pretty while they are at it, too. Khaali Peeli does well to display that these two budding stars can be what Bollywood loves calling the ‘complete package’.
The functional dose of Bollywood ‘entertainment’ you get is, not surprisingly, the sort that would seem fresh about four decades back. Sample the boxes the film checks: There is no script. There is no logic. The casting of the hero and the heroine is hardly about whether they match their street smart characters. Rather, they have obviously been signed because they look like hero and heroine going by the old-school Bollywood book. They share a lot of the dishoom dose and some random naach-gaana between them. The bad guys think being bad is about swagger and snarl and, cut to basics, you know all along the hero is too smart for the villains.
Oh, there is a Mumbaiyya taxi in all this. A ‘kaali peeli’, as the yellow tops are known as in the city. The vehicle is integral to the action that goes on. So, as Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday get going with their khaali peeli antics kaali peeli in tow, the film gets a title!
Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani’s script casts Ishaan as Blackie the cabbie. One night, he is out with his ‘kaali peeli’ even though there is a taxi strike in town. A chain of events sees Blackie get embroiled in a stabbing incident, so he decides to leave town for a while. Enter Pooja (Ananya Panday). She is on the run from Yusuf Chikna’s (Jaideep Ahlawat) brothel, and she has escaped with a fat load of cash and jewellery. Blackie realises the girl is loaded and quietly devises his get-rich-quick scheme at her expense.
Of course there will be a catch, and it is about a back story involving them that is far from exciting.
The plot, or whatever you may call it, is about letting Ishaan and Ananya play the field through the duration of the narrative, which is one night. After a point, as one chase sequence follows another, the films starts getting tiresome. To make matters worse, there are the song-and-dance gigs thrown in between that only act to impede the flow of a story that is already weak.
Ishaan and Ananya clearly enjoy their all-out masala outing, almost oblivious to the cinematic mess they are thrown into. Despite the utterly formulaic spread, they look good as a ‘jodi’ — never mind that they struggle getting the Mumbaiyya lingo right. The film should help Ishaan particularly, to prove his worth as a complete Bollywood package, if that was the intention. Watch this one for the lead pair if you must, for there is little else to recommend.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at email@example.com)