Freaky Ali is Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Happy Gilmore

Sohail Khan's golf comedy with Nawazuddin Siddiqui arrives on the 20th year anniversary of Happy Gilmore, the cult comedy set against the backdrop of golf, starring Adam Sandler. 

Shriram Iyengar

The first trailer for Sohail Khan's Freaky Ali is out, and it is all about Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The talented actor finds himself carrying a film about a part-time extortionist who takes up the elitist game of golf.

In an age of sports biopics, it is no surprise that Hindi cinema has finally woken up to the golfing phenomenon. The game, though not very popular in India, has launched world superstars like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and recently, Rory McIlroy.

Freaky Ali falls smack in the middle of the genre of sports comedy, and has shades of Adam Sandler's 1996 cult comedy, Happy Gilmore. Happy Gilmore was the story of a dishonoured ice hockey player who finds a new lease of life in golf due to his ability to hit the ball impossibly far. Like Happy Gilmore, Siddiqui's Freaky Ali is a man from the masses. A slacker, he has no professional interest in the sport, except for his ability to hit the ball really really hard. While Sandler's character was a hockey player, Siddiqui is shown as a wannabe cricketer. If the plot feels similar, the posters are not too far off. The shot of Siddiqui with a golf ball in his mouth is very similar to that of Adam Sandler goofing around in the film. 

In addition, Freaky Ali seems to have similar supporting characters as Happy Gilmore. There is the obnoxious rich golfing star, played by Jas Arora. Then, there is Amy Jackson playing the role of the doe-eyed rich girl who falls for the rustic hero. The film's trailer also gives an indication to the brusque low-brow humour scattered over the heroic arc of Ali's rise through golf. Siddiqui's persona fits in with the character who does not fit in the system.

What works for Freaky Ali is the setting. Sports melodrama is a genre that has grown popular in Hindi cinema over the last decade. With films like Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag doing well, and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story scheduled for release later this year, it seems a good time for Hindi cinema to experiment with the golf comedy. In addition, Hindi cinema audiences are quite partial to the story of an underdog from among the masses standing up to the rich, elitist class at their own game. The magic of the chameleon-like ability of Siddiqui, and his delivery of one-liners a la Salman Khan, are refreshing. 

As a trope, the poor golfer has been used in Hollywood several times. Bill Murray's role as the crazy groundskeeper in the classic Caddyshack (1980) became a hallmark. Adam Sandler, Shia LaBeouf, and even Matt Damon have played underdogs who go up against the elite in the game of golf. We do hope that Freaky Ali has enough original content to stand on its own. 

In India, golf remains an esoteric game with few people familiar with its rules. Looking at this, Siddiqui seems like the perfect actor to walk in and shake up the system. 

Sohail Khan's film will depend on Siddiqui to do just that.