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Freaky Ali review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes film watchable

The film is a light-hearted entertainer which goes downhill in the second half and is only saved by Siddiqui's bravura performance.

Keyur Seta

Film: Freaky Ali (U/A)
Rating: 2.5/5

Hindi cinema’s love affair with the underdog is decades old. Such films keep cropping up every now and then. But in this genre it is extremely important to leave the cinema hall with a heart-warming, triumphant feeling. Unfortunately, after an interesting first half, director Sohail Khan’s Freaky Ali goes downhill, and is saved somewhat only by its lead actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s lovable antics.

Freaky Ali tells the story of Ali (Siddiqui), who hails from the lower strata of society in Mumbai. He was adopted by a kind-hearted Hindu woman, Sulbha (Seema Biswas), with whom he shares a deep bond. His business of selling undergarments isn’t doing too well, so he resorts to hafta-vasooli (protection money collected by goons) to make ends meet. His partner in crime is his best friend, Maqsood (Arbaaz Khan) and their gang is headed by Danger Bhai (Nikitin Dheer).

One day, out of the blue, Ali gets a chance to try his hand at golf, a game typically seen as accessible only to the rich. His aptitude for the game pleasantly surprises Ali and his audience. Kishan Lal (Asif Basra), a man from his locality who works at a golf course, encourages Ali to take up golf as a career. This grand plan isn’t entirely digestible to Peter (Jas Arora), a golf champion, who feels threatened by Ali’s talent. Ali is also romantically drawn toward Peter’s manager, Megha (Amy Jackson). 

Freaky Ali is a light-hearted entertainer, and this quality makes it watchable. The tapori (street-urchin) qualities of the quirky characters make for most of the humour in the first half, barring a few situations where the attempt seems forced. Ali may be a criminal, but his innocence makes you root for him (Munnabhai, anyone?). You are even willing to forgo the absence of logic in some of the sequences. 

However, this is yet another Hindi film that suffers from the proverbial second-half syndrome, as the build-up goes downhill. The story development and twists in this half hardly make any impact due to poor writing and execution. The act of a few characters is questionable (not possible to reveal details here to avoid spoilers). As if this weren't enough, the climax and incidents leading up to it fail to create an impact, making sure you don’t leave the hall with much satisfaction. Moreover, unless you are a golf freak, you are certain to have had enough of the golf scenes by the time the film draws to an end. 

The film’s music isn’t memorable, except for the fusion track on Hinduism and Islam. Surprisingly, the song wasn’t publicised at all before the release. While the background score could have been more impactful, the editing and camerawork are pretty sharp. 

Siddiqui is known as the face of India’s off-beat cinema. Barring films like Kick (2014), he is mainly associated with seemingly dark films. In Freaky Ali, he gets a chance to play a typical 'Bollywood' hero who dances and romances his love interest. He, obviously, grabs the opportunity with both hands. His hilarious antics are lovable. His acting talent has been written about a lot, and there has been no doubt about it. He delivers a fine performance in serious and emotional sequences as well. Like we said before, he makes Freaky Ali likeable even when all else is going against it. 

Biswas as Ali's foster mother and Basra as his friend impress. Arora hams his way through the film and his character and performance remind you of his last film, Ek Paheli Leela (2015). Arbaaz Khan supports Siddiqui’s character well, while Jackson could have been given more screen time. Dheer’s Danger Bhai is more of a caricature than an actual character. We cannot blame Dheer for failing to do much with it. 

Overall, Freaky Ali barely lives up to the hope it engenders in the first half. As the film has not been marketed well, it is likely to suffer at the box office. 

Director: Sohail Khan
Producers: Salman Khan Films
Writers: Sohail Khan and Raaj Shandilya
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amy Jackson, Arbaaz Khan, Jas Arora, Seema Biswas, Asif Basra, Nikitin Dheer
Music: Sajid-Wajid
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 120 minutes