Freaky Ali review by Deepanjana Pal: Nawazuddin to the rescue
Director: Sohail Khan
Actors: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amy Jackson, Arbaaz Khan, Jas Arora, Asif Basra
Rating: 2 / 5
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t answer your prayers? Blame it on Bollywood.
At one point in Freaky Ali, in the age-old tradition of the desi filmi mother, Seema Biswas glares at an idol of Ganesha and says, “If tomorrow my Ali isn’t able to play, it won’t be his failure, but YOURS!”
Cut to a prayer session that’s meant to warm the cockles of the Nehruvian heart: on one side, qawwals sing, and on the other, there are bhajans. Meanwhile, up in their heavenly abode, one imagines Ganesh waddling up to the Ali at whose dargah the qawwals are singing and asking, “Any idea how we got involved in this? Also, this chap we’re supposed to help? He’s attacking his plaster like a hyperactive dog with a bone.”
Because really, what is a deity or a messiah to do in a film written and directed by Sohail Khan?
The person that Seema Biswas is praying for is Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), her adopted son who is a failed seller of chaddis and is gifted with an incredible talent for hitting balls out of the park. His other gift from God is Arbaaz Khan, who appears as the answer to Ali’s prayers (literally) and is a small-time gangster.
Ali’s skill is spotted by a caddy named Kishan Lal (Asif Basra), who figures that this is as good a reason as any to turn Ali into a golfer. Defying logic — because surely you weren’t expecting that in a Sohail Khan film — Ali strides on to the golf course with a swagger that’s endearing only because Siddiqui’s real acting talent is as phenomenal as Ali’s reel-life sporting abilities. Predictably, Siddiqui is the best part of Freaky Ali.
Few would expect cinematic skill from Freaky Ali and there are no surprises on that front.
However, Sohail Khan deserves a round of applause for spoofing himself, having no pretensions to talent, and getting the golfing bits right. Khan and co-writer Raaj Shandilya decided not to waste time explaining the game, but they didn’t compromise when it came to ensuring the swings and putts were on point. If only we could blank out Jas Arora as a snotty, aristocratic golfing champion, Freaky Ali would have a chance of being enjoyable.
Barring Siddiqui, Biswas and Niketin Dheer (as an idiot gangster named, wait for it, Sohail Khan), most of the acting in Freaky Ali is stilted to the point of being painful. The screenplay is filled with tropes and empty of nuance or complexity, despite containing potentially interesting themes like how sport helps level the uneven playing field that is life.
The film tries to disguise its predictability with wordplay in the dialogue (“Duniya rokre peh chalti hai, chaahey woh undergarment se ho ya underworld se”), but that only works when those delivering the dialogue have a smidgen of talent.
Freaky Ali isn’t a satisfying film by a long shot, and that’s a terrible shame, given that the plot is good. Still, it elicits a few laughs and its heart is in the right place. Thank God for that at least.
(Deepanjana Pal is managing editor of NewsLaundry)
Watch the trailer for Freaky Ali