Rating: 3/5
A quintessential masala entertainer, Maqbool Khan’s film reminds you of Bollywood of 70s and 80s

Kicking off with the stylish hero (full of tashan and emotion as he himself describes) walking out of a jail, Khaali Peeli takes to several tropes that you’ve seen before. Infact, all those norms which Bollywood masala of Salim-Javed heavily relied on, has been used to advantage here. The famously infamous hero-grows-up-running notion as well.

Watch the trailer here:


The story is about two childhood sweethearts Pooja (Ananya Panday) and Blackie aka Vijay (Ishaan Khatter) get separated due to certain circumstances when they were kids. Pooja, who is now a prostitute, decides to escape the brothel, with a bag full of  stolen money. She bumps into Blackie who is now an eccentric Mumbai taxi driver. He agrees to “drive” her to freedom, in exchange for a hefty amount. This leads to a series of chase and escape – with the goons on Pooja’s trail and the cops on the goons’ trail.


Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani’s writing caters to the fans of masala genre. And only and precisely to them alone. Right from the first sequence to the last one, the film sticks to its genre, strictly like horses’ blinkers.

One notable thing about the narrative. Since the film runs back and forth in time (a technique most frequently used in the film), it gives an image of it containing more than it actually does. The story is a simple one liner. What the makers have resorted to makes it look to have layers. Smart of them here.

Khaali peeli, zeeplex, hindi, review, film, 2020
Director Maqbool Khan with Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday on sets (image source: aninews.com)

There is ample amount of heroism- thrown right from the protagonist’s childhood, reference to old Hindi films, enough charm and hotness of the heroine, involvement of police and goons alike, doses of humour splashed, emotions in the form of back stories, and on top of it all- the love story that forms the crux. It’s a daunting task indeed to give justice to all of them in one single film, in limited time frame. The makers do this well.

However, what takes the essence of the film is that it seems repetitive. Nothing seems exciting enough to keep your interests alive. It’s a film that gives you too much in every scene. Be it the first meeting of the lead couple, or how the hero talks to the police and even to the goons- it’s a method done to death already, way back in 70s till the late 80s. You know how the goon is going to be killed in the end, you know how the fate of the lovers will be, and you know what course will be taken.

It may seem enjoyable for a casual watch. But things are way too repetitive, the moment hero introduces himself in the first scene in a voice over.


Ishaan Khatter is a definitive charmer. It is majorly because of his effortless ease in the role that the film becomes attractive. He not only exudes boyish charm but also speaks his dialogues in a way that connects smoothly. Totally in the shoes of the character, he acts with his body a lot. A very good act.

Ananya Panday also works well within the limits of her character. She has shades and she does well. She suits in the role and you do like her on screen.

Khaali peeli, zeeplex, film, review, hindi, 2020
On sets of the film (image source: instagram.com)

Annup Sonii is decent in a special appearance. Satish Kaushik reminds you of a sidekick in early Hindi films who were kept only to make audience laugh and didn’t contribute much in the main scheme of things. He does fine.

Jaideep Ahlawat has been given considerable screen time but his role hasn’t been written with good thought. It’s a character that proclaims he is devilish, but doesn’t come across that way, as although you see him a lot, you don’t actually relate to his character. Ahlawat however gives his best to highlight the nuances of the character.

Zakir Hussain is just okay; underutilised.


Music by Vishal Shekhar is no good. Not at all. No memorable number. Also, no song does any good for the narrative. The songs that appear in background are still fine, but two of them who consume the screentime give you a real tough time watching them. The choreography is also not new. Same old archaic. The background score by Sanchit and Ankit Balhara is rooted as per the genre and does the needful.

Adil Afsar’s cinematography is good, if not great. The portions shot in the car are exciting and the way camera movements are blocked is very appealing. The colours and lights, for the night shoots is also very intelligently placed. Production design by Durgaprasad Mahapatra works well for the plot. Since the sets are mostly outdoors, there is a good vibe about the drama. Had there been more thought in making Mumbai an integral part, it would have made more sense.

Rameshwar S Bhagat’s editing is the most noteworthy aspect of the film, which it relies on big time. Some may like it. Some may not. But it definitely brings an element of surprise in an otherwise plain narrative course. Very intelligent of Bhagat to have planned the film in this manner, giving it an edgy feel.

It’s a good decent watch. A big lot from the audience will like it. If not, only because it’s something attempted, shown, seen, accepted/rejected umpteen times.


Rochak Saxena

Rochak Saxena a Mass Media Teacher, former journalist at DNA and an ardent lover of Hindi films - literally. The blog derives its name from the popular term ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, most commonly used in the world of literature and cinema. Meaning to immerse yourself in an unreal world (where you know what you see on screen is fake) with a self-proclaimed/declared belief/wish to consider it real, the willing world becomes magical. It’s the same magic every Friday that drives Rochak to share things in the perspective that it needs to be observed with. Every film is different. And the difference needs to be cherished.

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