Coolie No 1
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Sara Ali Khan, Paresh Rawal
Director: David Dhawan
David Dhawan at its peak is a difficult act to follow. The master of mad cinema, whose favorite playing field remained farce and ridicule, Dhawan had the extraordinary ability to make every scene tickle the ribs. With the generous help of Kader Khan’s per-minute laughs and Govinda’s nimble comedic timing, you were never given a chance to peruse the script – it wasn’t there – or the lack of consistency. We were ready for the journey and the breathless spontaneity carried you on. It’s that spontaneity you desperately lack in Coolie No 1, Dhawan’s rehash of his quarter-century-ago success. And the original was never a perfect product in the first place, but it was always light on its feet.
Watch the trailer for Coolie No 1
The director’s son, actor Varun Dhawan, is the one who this time answers the call of “Aaaeee Coolie”. Elder Dhawan does not change history, offers no surprises to those of us who went to a single screen cinema to see the original. Instead, he gives his scenery a lick of paint, adds a flashy wardrobe, and voila, a 1995 hit is ready for a whole new audience.
Kader Khan’s Seth Hoshiyarchand is now Goan hotelier Jeffery Rozario (Paresh Rawal) whose only dream is to find a rich, smelly husband for his daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan). For some reason, it is made to speak in rhyme, with the first line “Heaven on the Docks man”. It scratches your ear the first time he says it and it never gets better.
Rozario, in his search for the richest man in the country for his daughter, insults matchmaker Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaffrey, a 2020 version of Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s Shadiram Gharjode) who promises to avenge the insult. Bring a porter from the Raju Railway (Varun Dhawan) to play the wealthy suitor Kunwar Raj Pratap Singh. Blinded by the promise of immense wealth, Rozario marries Raju to his daughter, but soon realizes that everything is not as it seems. To knock him out of the scent, Raju prepares the story of having a twin, adding more confusion to an already overflowing storyline.
Coolie No 1 has some moments, mostly thanks to the enthusiasm and spontaneity of Varun Dhawan. As pimp Raju, he manages to channel his love of sweeping, physical comedy as he apes Mithun Chakraborty, complete with pelvic thrusts. It’s like the stiff Raj that you wish he had stopped camouflaging veteran actors. He is surrounded by familiar faces; as well as Paresh Rawal and Javed, Johnny Lever, Rajpal Yadav and Sahil Vaid also appear. Women, like most of David’s films, have little to do other than show up for songs and act supportive. Sara Ali Khan is adequate when duty calls.
Although the suspension of disbelief is part of watching a David Dhawan film, the plot of Coolie No 1 is hopelessly out of sync with today’s weather. Men are affected by the gonads and women are victims of occasional sexism. Speech impairment is undermined by laughter, as is the burden of people. The coronavirus is also not spared as it is used in a rather tasteless and not very funny joke.
Then there are the crater-sized plot holes. While everyone carries smartphones and takes selfies, nobody bothers to Google this Richie Rich before vows are taken and weddings are arranged. You fidget in your chair as the greedy father throws his daughters at the wealthy suitor, forgetting that we are living in a different century than when this was originally written. Things reach a point too often in Coolie No 1 where that madness is too much to swallow, especially when no giggles follow.
The VFX sequences in the movie can be an introduction on how not to use CGI. They are of such poor quality that you can actually tell where the green screen was used.
Read also: Best actors of 2020: Taapsee Pannu, Nawazuddin, Jaideep Ahlawat prove that less is more; Tripti, Pratik emerge as emerging stars
David Dhawan has proved beyond doubt that it is impossible to model David Dhawan. With the crisp writing and editing missing, Coolie No 1 is just a poor facsimile of the original. While the jokes end with a thud, we’re only left with the songs and even there, the OGs clearly win. For those asking you not to compare the 1995 hit with the 2020 product, my one-line answer is that the manufacturers shouldn’t have given us a copy in the first place. This isn’t a reboot, it looks like a parody and it’s best not to tamper with the nostalgia.
Follow @htshowbiz on Twitter