This isn’t the first time that a rags-to-riches story has been clubbed with comedy in Bollywood. But, this seems like a first to have combined a fair amount of an underdog story with comedy and a sport—golf—that even today many Indians may not be aware of. Or, has the presence of Indian golfers in the international scene put golf at the forefront? After all, the recently concluded Olympics where golf made a comeback after 112 years, it saw three participants from India, including one in the women’s event as well. Well, we would leave that discussion for another day. At the time being, it’s not bad for a country that has always been known as a cricket-loving nation to have made a film on a sport that is lesser known.
In Freaky Ali, Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), too, loves cricket. In a gully cricket match, he hits four sixes in four balls to take the team to victory. That, too, after he has lost his job as an undergarment seller and has been led into an extortion racket by his best friend, Maqsood (Arbaaz Khan) in which he is pathetic.
During one of their mis-adventurous extortion trips to a golf course, the two discover that Ali is naturally good at the sport. Even when Ali has been told that “it’s a rich man’s game”, when support comes from Asif Basra, referred as Old Monk throughout the film, he doesn’t mind giving a shot at it. Whether it’s his dialogue as a chaddi seller, gully cricketer, novice hooligan or a golfer, Siddiqui, like he does often, has done full justice to the role.
While I was in the middle of the film, I got a call from my mother, who lives in a small city in Bihar. I tell her, “I am watching Freaky Ali”. “Is it the same film in which that Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Manjhi (a reference to Manjhi: The Mountain Man) actor is selling chaddis... laal, peeli chaddi lelo,” she asks. I respond in affirmation. “That guy was good in Bajrangi,” she tells me.
After the film is over, you know that Siddiqui, with the variety of roles that he has done across genres, has created a considerable reputation for himself. With this, he just takes it a bit ahead. And when you hear a dialogue from the film from a woman who isn’t hooked to the television set like most of her counterparts, you also know that the promos have left an impression.
Unfortunately though, the fun that the promo promised remains limited to the trailer. Most of the funny dialogues (written by Raaj Shaandilya) are either the extension of what you have already seen in the trailer, or so mediocre that you don’t know if you want to laugh at them.
The surprise, however, is how well director Sohail Khan has captured some golf shots. The overall screenplay, written by Khan and Raaj Shandilya, is justifiable, too, as the characters are well etched out. Arbaaz Khan does justice in a supporting role. He doesn’t hog the limelight though it’s his brother’s production, giving Siddiqui the space to flourish. Seema Biswas as a foster mother to Ali does a good job, so does Basra as a caddy. Amy Jackson is just limited to adding some chutzpah with her good looks. Jas Arora as the reigning golf champion, is over the top at times, so is Niketan Dheer as the leader of the extortion gang. Jackie Shroff, in his cameo, is unimpressive.
However, the film is a fresh take on an underdog story. The newness is also in the form the little details of golf has been covered. As the amateur Ali learns the tricks of the game, the audience, too, gets clued in. A light-hearted film, it can be watched for Siddiqui’s honest performance and for a game other than cricket.
Film: Freaky Ali
Director: Sohail Khan
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Arbaaz Khan, Seema Biswas, Jas Arora