Freaky Ali has the ideal premise for a commercial film. Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a man from the slums with an uncanny talent with cricket bat, finds that he’s a natural at golf. It is a great “what if" scenario—and with golf’s reputation as a sport for the elite, it has an interesting social angle. But director Sohail Khan isn’t interested in exploring this aspect of the sport. He squanders the dramatic potential of the plot and ends up with a puerile comedy involving dons, puns and women as eye candy.

Going by what the trailers had promised, we don’t walk into the film expecting much else. Thus, there are surprises in the random but effective touches that we associate with another era of Hindi cinema: a Hindu mother who raises a Muslim son, the prayers for a miracle on the night before Ali’s final game. But the plot follows the broad arc of an underdog sports movie, and its contrivances are too silly. For instance, in order to introduce conflict when Ali seems invincible on the field, he’s given an injury. How does one get injured in a low-impact sport like golf? The film makes him go for a drink with his arch rival the night before the match and gets beaten in a secluded parking lot.

Yet, how seriously should we take a film that doesn’t take itself seriously at all? To its credit, Freaky Ali never gets sentimental; whenever there’s a potentially heavy-handed situation, it’s defused with a pun. Sometimes one ends up laughing, even if isn’t clear that this is what the filmmaker intended. When Ali’s mother fiercely defends her son in front of his future in-laws, the tension is dispelled by their response: “Hum logo ko galat faemy nahi, galat family mili hai."

We’ve seen Siddiqui, who last appeared as the psychotic serial killer in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, play to the gallery with abandon and glee in supporting roles in Kick and Bajrangi Bhaijaan. But this is his most commercial film in a lead role. It is quite something to see him invoke the kind of audience reactions we associate with the top stars.

Freaky Ali released in theatres on Friday.

Close