Coolie No 1 review: Zero wit, no flair

Cast Coolie No 1: Varun Dhawan, Sara Ali Khan, Paresh Rawal, Sahil Vaid, Shikha Talsania, Jaaved Jaaferi, Rajpal Yadav, Johny Lever, Manoj Joshi, Anil Dhawan, Bharti Achrekar
Coolie No 1 director: David Dhawan
Coolie rating No 1: A star

In 1995, director David Dhawan convinced his favorite actor to play a carefree coolie who falls for a rich girl. Her arrogant dad who wants “just a prince, not a pauper” for his beloved “beti” is the hindrance, but no Bollywood dad can stand in the way of true love, and loud comedy and song dance, true?

The combination Dhawan-Govinda-Karisma-Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor gave us a film of its time, full of gags bordering on tasteless and dubious texts. It turned into one of the biggest hits of the year, which also gave us Rangeela and DDLJ, because Govinda’s kindhearted man was perfect. At that time, in his youth, he could take away just about anything: color jokes, crimson dresses and no one could push a pelvis like him, not even his pretty ladies.

But it happened a quarter of a century ago, and it seems the filmmakers have forgotten that the world has changed. So has Bollywood. When you see Varun Dhawan, who has channeled Govinda into many of his films much better, walking almost the same path, uttering almost the same lines, there is no laughter, only despair.

Small changes do not make the freshness. The previous film was set in a village: Karisma was a gaon-ki-gori dressed in ghaghra, Govinda wanted to open a cement factory. In this, the gaon became Goa. Instead of a factory, it’s a port, and Sara Ali Khan is a city girl in mini ruffles and pointy heels. But it lacks the stupidity that was celebrated at its highest level, and the rat-a-tat speed with which the whole thing was done, something David Dhawan did so well, is missing.

The time of plots built on paper has long since passed. It’s painful to see passable actors go through jerky scenes and terrible laughter. Varun and Sara dancing to the still popular songs (“Tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karoon”) take you directly to the OG. The only one who makes a meal of his character, played by the inimitable Kader Khan in the original, is Paresh Rawal. Her heavy-handed dad uses a light touch, which is exactly what is needed in this kind of mindless comedy. Dhawan Jr has done much better under the direction of his father. And sadly, the lively Sara Ali Khan is as empty as the script.

We can do with laughter in these dark times, but not like that, with zero wit, without style.