Based on an Adam Sandler movie called Happy Gilmore, the idea in ‘Freaky Ali’ is that the natural golf swing is a rare commodity and is best imported from other sports. So like Gary Sobers and Kapil Dev became top class drivers of the ball when they retired from cricket, Ali, an ace ‘galli’ batsman, knows exactly where to place it.
He comes across this strange sport when, one fine day, he is at the golf course to extort money from a businessman who asks him to wait while he finishes his round. This inconsistently funny comedy about debt collector Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his freaky skills is amusing for the first one hour. Then it becomes the usual sports thriller about the underdog – a street under-garment seller turned hafta collector – who dares to break the grass ceiling and putt his way to glory in a rich man’s game.
It is a delight to see Nawaz centre stage. An actor with an extraordinary range, it is astonishing to have watched him play the serial killer Raman Raghav, then, and now, to see him deliver one laconic line after another that has us in splits. What distinguishes actors like him, apart from their ability to impersonate characters, is their command over Hindi. The convent school educated actor, from an industry background, has to memorize his lines in Hindi, including accent and intonation, and focus on his performance at the same time, an effort that always shows. With someone like Nawaz, his gestures and the expressions come naturally from the content of what he speaks. Everything is in sync, and he instantly stands apart from his co-actors. The jokes he cracks sound like he has composed them himself.
The problem with the comedy is that the makers forget their greatest asset mid-way through. They switch track to a host of supporting actors, playing assorted members of Ali’s old debt collector gang. They may pass as funny, but are actually slap-stick actors, with no linguistic skill. This is particularly true of Arbaaz Khan, who plays Ali’s sadak chaap partner, Maqsood. Once the puns and alliterations, that were delivered with so much grace and panache by Nawaz, are abandoned, in favor of a raucous insult exchange between the privileged and the underclass on the golf course, the movie loses you completely.
So ‘Freaky Ali’ is a lost opportunity to showcase the comic timing of a fine actor at the peak of his form. It is disappointing how this movie, with such a promising start, descends into cliches of the typical sports film.