Khaali Peeli

As far as aptness of titles go, the makers of Khaali Peeli wouldn’t be able to find a more fitting alternative. Khaali Peeli, the film, embodies the spirit of every synonym the dictionary throws at it. A quick google search leads me to over 187 meanings that fit the gist of this odd-ball, cliché-ridden enterprise; the film is: without reason, flimsy, groundless and — as one phrase goes — is made for just ‘the hell of it’.

Pirouetting around incessantly repeating flashbacks and flashforwards, we attach ourselves with the hero’s narrative. Vijay Chauhan aka Blackie aka actor Ishaan Khatter has been a smart hoodlum since his early teens. When barely a pup (played by the much better Vedant Desai), he convinces his dad (Anup Soni) to loot a shop. Dad, however, was too much of a scaredy-cat, so Blackie, after successfully evading the cops on his tail, finds a better surrogate father figure: the small-time brothel runner Yusuf Chikna (Jaideep Ahlawat) — a man so fearsome that even family members prefer shooting their heads off if they cross him.

Yusuf takes Blackie under his wing, making him sell film tickets in black at the famous Maratha Mandir cinemas (a place this writer frequented in his youth) in what was then called Bombay. Blackie also falls in love with a recent addition to Yusuf’s brothel: Pooja aka Red Riding Hood aka actress Ananya Pandey (the younger version of the character is played by a much more natural actress, Deshna Duggad).

After a series of vexing flashbacks, we see that the young love birds were always fighting against the odds. In the semi-present (the film actually starts two years after that event), Pooja, who has just turned 18, is on the run from Yusuf’s goons. She bumps into Blackie — only she doesn’t know that it’s him just yet — who has grown up to be a self-serving prick who drives a taxi.

Blackie is superficially written without any redeeming qualities; in one early scene he demands 5,000 rupees fare from the husband of a pregnant woman to take her to the hospital. But at least he has some shallow depth to him. Pooja, other than being hungry, has nothing — even in the acting department.

Did I say that already? Let me spell it out further: we’re talking amateur hour performances here folks, be it the acting, the direction (by Maqbool Khan), the screenplay (Yash Keswani, Sima Agarwal), the songs (the usually dependable Vishal-Shekhar) or the incessantly blaring soundtrack (Sanchit and Ankit Balhara).

In one word: it’s a mess. On second thought, let’s go for two words because Khaali Peeli suits the film just fine.

Khaali Peeli is rated U/A by the CBFC; there’s nothing objectionable, except the way the film is made

Icon reviews two Netflix releases. While the name Khaali Peeli actually suits the first one just fine, Ginny Weds Sunny works hard to be unbearable and badly formulaic

Ginny Weds Sunny

If mediocre is your go-to mode of entertainment this week (and how can it not be, with the recent string of pathetic releases), then you can’t go wrong with Ginny Weds Sunny (GWS), a gender-reverse love story of a girl who can’t seem to make up her mind, and a desperate young man who wants to settle down.

The girl is ‘Princess’ Simran (my, how bad and clichéd), lovingly called Ginny, a smart-alecky Yami Gautam who wants her ex-boyfriend to propose. The ex, Nishant (Suhail Nayyar), is a ‘self-made’ man, whose parents, quite fond of their only child (I’m assuming), gush over their beloved son’s achievements. They only paid one-third of his latest BMW’s down payment… and opened a business for him.

Nishant arrives on every location in a new car, fawns over Simran, but is a commitment-phobe. On Simran’s phone, he is saved with the name “confusion”.

Sunny (Vikrant Massey from the recent Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamaktay Sitaray) works at his father’s hardware store, but dreams of becoming a chef and opening his restaurant. The girl he dates in the beginning of the movie leaves him, because he couldn’t “invest his time” to test drive a relationship. He is desperate to marry, because he wants his father to open up the aforementioned restaurant and believes he will get to know his wife as the years roll by.

Enter, then, the movie’s most enjoyable character: Shobha (Ayesha Raza Mishra), a matchmaker who also happens to be Simran’s mom. Shobha teams up with Sunny and his parents to train the boy to woo her daughter, and so, begins an unusual, light-hearted love story.

That is, you think.

The pitch of GWS sounds like a grand ol’ time, but the succession of events in the story, and the characterisations of the leads, makes it unbearable and badly formulaic. You’ve seen better versions of this story a couple of dozen times — even the role reversal bit.

While Ayesha Raza Mishra, and Sunny’s parents (Rajiv Gupta and Maneka Kurup Arora), do make the story tolerable — especially earlier in GWS, when Mishra appears as figment of Sunny’s imagination, helping him make the right decisions to woo Ginny — GWS, as a whole makes one wish that Netflix’s player in the web-browser had a speed-mode to quickly get through this bad experience (Netflix, if you’re hearing this, add this option; you already have it in your app).

Streaming right now at the top spot in Pakistan (really people, don’t you have anything else to watch?), Ginny Weds Sunny, directed by Puneet Khanna, produced by Vinod Bachchan, written by Navjot Gulati and Sumit Arora, is rated 13+. Arguably, the movie has nothing objectionable by Bollywood standards… unless you factor in almost every filmmaking decision that makes its way on to the screen.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 18th, 2020