The moral – not the story – of Freaky Ali is this: don’t fall for promotional material that calls it a sports-drama. Not when it’s directed by Sohail Khan, stars his brother Arbaaz Khan, and is produced by his superstar brother Salman Khan.
Even if it features a stalwart like Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
The film’s attempt at popularising an arguably elitist sport like golf is nothing but an excuse to try making Arbaaz Khan relevant again, at the expense of Nawazuddin. And even Nawazuddin cannot save Freaky Ali, a film that resembles a Lagaan spoof, and a spoof of every other underdog story in Bollywood.
Freaky Ali is about Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a 40-something orphaned Muslim boy, who has been raised by a devout Hindu woman. He runs an undergarment shop. For some reason, that’s a joke. It’s earned him the derogatory term sadak chaap (road stamp).
Nevertheless, Ali is the champ of his chawl. He is known for hitting innumerable sixes in gully (street) cricket. Ali’s hidden golfing talents are noticed by the chawl‘s only golf enthusiast when Ali wields a golf club by chance. Soon, Ali qualifies for tournaments, and faces his nemesis, Vikram Singh (Jas Arora), a menacing prince with the most animated moustache. Can Ali beat the odds and rise to the occasion?
Of course he can. It’s a generic underdog story after all.
The story follows the template set by Bollywood’s hero-centric sport dramas: Daulat, Shauhrat, aur Aurat (Money, Fame, and Woman). Jokes from junior high are consistently rehashed, laden with unforgiveable puns. The only way to make this even worse is to get the timing wrong, and Freaky Ali does that. “Yeh galatfami nahin, galat family hai (This is not a misunderstanding, it’s the wrong family)” is the line, during a serious scene when a broken engagement is announced.
Kapil Sharma would have been happy with the sexist and homophobic jokes that are dished out at regular intervals, and bear an uncanny resemblance with the ones on his show.
The humour is bad, but scenes featuring an awkward Arbaaz Khan as Ali’s friend Maqsood are even worse. Khan, sporting a deadpan expression throughout, simply looks uninterested. It doesn’t help that his character lacks consistency: Tasked with ruining Ali, he betrays him. When Ali finds out, he immediately caves. Then goes back to ruining Ali. Then caves again. On and on until all we’re left with is an actor being fed random dialogues by a benevolent director and brother.
This extravagant importance given to an otherwise spineless character heavily contributes to the film’s spoofy feel.
Amy Jackson plays Megha, the beautiful manager who falls for Ali. Jackson doesn’t ham her dialogues, and appears far more comfortable than Khan.
The problem though, is the voiceover. This is not on Jackson, who routinely praises her dubbing artists and says they add personality to her character. She even strives to improve her command of Indian languages. (In fact, Sohail Khan said at a recent promotional event that Jackson would have dubbed for herself had her Hindi improved sufficiently.)
The problem is that Bollywood has a preference for casting ‘fair-skinned’ actresses, in its own desi version of #OscarWhitewashing. Which is how we have a blue-eyed, auburn-haired actress playing a mainstream Indian heroine. So, when the ‘proper Indian’ accent rolls out with mismatched lip syncing on half the dialogues, it is a little cringe-worthy.
Result: Another layer of unintended farce.
And then there’s Jas Arora, the handsome model who featured in several ‘90s music videos. He finally gets a significant role with Freaky Ali. But it’s awkward, when all his character does his twist that loud moustache and grit those menacing teeth.
Nawazuddin is brilliant, but out of place. Around him actors excessively rant or cry, and Nawazuddin steals every scene. But one wonders, was the Gangs Of Wasseypur actor under duress to take up a snooze fest like Freaky Ali?
Freaky Ali is a bundle of recycled, old jokes coupled with some background noise. Interspersed with that is awkward acting and faux emotions on display.
The Freaky Ali review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.