Kaali Peeli Tales review: More ambient than ambitious, asks for more than it’s willing to give
Combing through almost every episode of Amazon’s Kaali Peeli Tales, you’ll find slivers of goodness. Sometimes, the process bears many fruits and other times, a lone, half-eaten apple. It is a six-part anthology about a handful of sweet Mumbaikars but it asks for far more than it is willing to give. It wants you to sit through bad performances and some not-very-brilliant writing, on the off-chance that you run into something worth remembering. And sometimes, you do.
All six episodes of the series are directed by Adeeb Rais, who also acts in the worst episode of the lot. As many as three stories are a task to sit through and the rest aren’t perfect either. With 25% hit rate, it is difficult to recommend Kaali Peeli Tales. But the sucker that I am for ambient, tonally consistent anthologies, I would suggest you find your way to the good bits.
Kaali Peeli cast interview
The biggest selling point for Kaali Peeli Tales is its absolute unwillingness to tell stories about anyone who is unkind, inconsiderate and unwilling to love unconditionally. In all its six episodes, you will not find a single character who would not make for a great friend. The people here may get momentarily blinded by their trauma or insecurities but none of them is without hope. None of them is selfish or villainous, including the ‘other man’ who comes between a husband and his wife, the gay guy’s disapproving father, the deserter dad or even the selfie-obsessed social media influencer. This dearth of fiendish characters makes Kaali Peeli Tales a more relatable experience and is also the one thread that binds all these stories together, apart from the cab ride that ends each episode— a superficial exercise, mostly to justify the title.
Among the episodes with the least plot holes is Fish Fry Aur Coffee, about two ex-convicts trying to find their way back into life outside prison. The treatment is simplistic yet packed with subtext. One man is ready to begin again but life and circumstances did not wait around for him. The other one cannot put the past behind him, he is still in a prison of his own mind, unwilling to forgive himself even as those around him offer their unconditional love and support. There is heartache in both their stories.
Another half-decent offering is Marriage 2.0, starring Maanvi Gagroo and Hussain Dalal. On its own, the episode doesn't have any life-changing lessons to offer but the lead pair’s charming chemistry might just make it worth your while. Maanvi plays the slightly insecure wife to Hussain’s carefree husband. They are a modern couple in Mumbai, experimenting with the idea of an open marriage. However, they breach the topic with the ease of two people who are friends before they are lovers. As close as their conversations may come to exploding into fights, they never allow it to touch that zone. There are always smiles, laughter and a deep sense of security, perhaps markers of two people who are married and still do not hate each others’ guts. However, once other characters join the mix, things quickly get annoying, exposing Adeeb's unsteady hand.
Sayani Gupta-starrer Single Jhumka, about a woman looking for closure after cheating on her partner, tries to be pensive and complex. However, the race to that cathartic moment makes it seem too unreal to leave any impact. The same goes for Loose Ends, starring Gauahar Khan as a woman whose husband comes out as gay when she is expecting their first child. He makes the big reveal in the afternoon, and by evening, she has already found closure, has put grief behind her and even found the clarity and courage to continue her life anew.
These, however, are not even the worst bits. Those arrive with Soni Razdan-Vinay Pathak's Hara Bhara, which can be an absolute torture to sit through, and Love In Tadoba, starring Adeeb himself and Inayat Sood as an influencer and a blogger on a safari. While Soni and Vinay are actors who deserve far better than the shoddy writing they are left to work with, I can't even say that much for Adeeb and Inayat, who deliver certifiably the worst performances of the series in their segment.
Kaali Peeli Tales has some goodness to offer for those looking for it. But it takes time. Of course, you might end up spending even more time downloading new apps and borrowing Android phones to get access to it anyway.
Kaali Peeli Tales
Director: Adeeb Rais
Cast: Sayani Gupta, Maanvi Gagroo, Gauahar Khan, Soni Razdan and others