Like hornets buzzing in an endless loop of roads, crowds and housing, the black-and-yellow taxi—aka the kaali peeli—defined the very essence of Mumbai. It’s a city that never stops, always on the go, and contentedly living the same day, every day. For all we know, it is just a piece of land—a multi-ethnic melting pot that changes texture, colour and flavour every mile by any analogical exaggeration. This awesome embarrassment of riches romanticised to a scandal. And transporting this romanticism is the kaali peeli—quite aptly adopted by filmmaker Adeeb Rais to explore the quintessential Mumbai through an anthology of six short films. The Kaali Peeli Tales explores love, marriage, infidelity, homosexuality, forgiveness, divorce, waiting for acceptance, meaning in relationships, and existential anxieties in a deeply urban Mumbai setting. Rich in symbolism, each tale meanders in a lighthearted way and ends in a kaali peeli cab.
The obvious question is: can so much be condensed into short films. Adeeb feels it works better in a shorter format, and he is comfortable with it too. “It’s so much fun to explore a story within a timeline. When I started this project a few years ago, anthologies were not trending. I am an independent filmmaker and I didn’t have the resources to make a feature film. So, it was one step at a time. We first did one film, then another one. Things fell into place.” Anthologies are getting much traction on over-the-top (OTT) platforms since the pandemic forced humanity indoors, and changed the way they watch a movie or series. “People’s taste for content has changed. It is attractive to go for an anthology for the simple reason that each film is short and different. When an anthology comes up, I am the first person to watch it,” says actress Soni Razdan, who stars opposite Vinay Pathak in Harra Bharra, one of the six in Kaali Peeli Tales. And she makes it clear that the approach to acting doesn’t alter with the format, short or feature. “The only thing that changes is that I need to learn lesser lines. I am so happy about that. Otherwise, both mediums are great.”