Coolie No. 1 (2020) Review

Synopsis – After being insulted by a rich businessman named Rosario, pandit Jai Kishen teaches him a lesson by getting his daughter married to Raju – a Coolie posing as a millionaire. Soon Raju’s real identity is exposed but he cooks up a story of having a filthy rich twin. One lie leads to another and things start to go out of hand.

My Take – There is no argument of the fact that the Govinda-David Dhawan combo dominated the Hindi comedy genre for a good whole decade of the 90s to the early 2000s, followed by a brief resurgence in 2007 with Salman Khan co-starring Partner. While each of their films were marked as fun no brainers, the sheer simplicity with which they were presented turned most of their 17 collaborations into commercial successes, and most importantly cult classics.

However, since their falling out, it seems like director David Dhawan has now entered a zone where he believes remakes are is his thing. Though 2013’s Chashme Baddoor was sweet and dumb, his second attempt, Judwaa 2 (2017), an almost scene-for-scene rehash of his own 1997 film, Judwaa, with his son, Varun Dhawan, in the lead, was dreadful at best. But since the film ended up raking in Rs. 227.59 crore worldwide, business wise it made sense that the Dhawan father and son would reunite for another redo.

And like any other Govinda fan, I too was left aghast on the announcement that the 1995 released blockbuster Coolie No. 1, which itself was a remake of a Telugu film, would be their next.

Sure, the 1995 film is not exactly a great film but it still possesses an inherent and very natural funny vibe to it, a Govinda at the height of his comic powers where he only had to open his mouth and audiences would start giggling, and a Kader Khan whose dialogues and impeccable comic timing, turned the silly concept into one hell of an irresistible fun watch.

Unfortunately, Varun Dhawan is no Govinda, and Paresh Rawal is no Kader Khan, once again making a point that director David Dhawan has forgotten he is making a film for a completely different audience that too with completely different sensibilities.

Making this latest Amazon Prime Video release a complete disappointment in almost every department, as it does not contain a single atom of originality and nothing to match Govinda and Kader Khan’s comedic genius that shone through even in terrible films. The former film had such a charm that even Karisma Kapoor managed to shine in an underwritten role, but here, Sara Ali Khan is relegated to playing just a glamorous show piece.

Yes, I do agree, like Judwaa 2, this supposed comedy of errors would have performed better on the big screen, mainly for the single screen section of audience of India, who still tend to appreciate nonsense wackiness with whistles and cheers. But for the streaming audience, director David Dhawan‘s brand of cinema is not the right medium, especially such terrible rehashes.

The story follows Raju (Varun Dhawan), a poor orphaned porter who works at the Mumbai railway station, and desperately wants to settle down. Though he remains dismayed that due to his low status symbol, even a driver refused to hand over his daughter’s hand in marriage, he immediately falls head over heels in love with Sarah (Sara Ali Khan) when her photograph sails into his hands.

And as luck would have it, the photograph belongs to Pandit Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaaferi), a matchmaker, who is looking to get even with Sarah’s father, Jeffrey Rozario (Paresh Rawal), a status obsessed Goan hotel owner, who humiliated him for not bring a billionaire’s proposal for his daughter.

With little coaxing from Jai Kishen and his best friend Deepak (Sahil Vaid), Raju is convinced to pretend as the heir to Mahendra Pratap Singh (Anil Dhawan), a wealthy businessman, all in order to get him hitched to Sarah, and break Rozario’s gold-digging ego, unaware of the obstacles ahead of him.

Obviously, stories in this genre are not meant to be assessed for logic. They require a suspension of disbelief that allows the audience to swallow the possibility that a wig or a new accent or a fake mustache are enough to convince normal humans that you are a different person from the one they earlier met. But with an engaging narrative and excellent actor with spot on comic timing like Govinda or Akshay Kumar steering the ship, some of these kind of films can be accepted as shameless fun. However, this one lacks the spark and falls flat when it comes to the fun vibe.

Here, director David Dhawan has retained the outdated and cringe worthy slapstick humor that it is hard to belief how the film’s script was allowed to be produced and dished out as entertainment. Someone is stammering, someone is lisping, body-shaming jokes are cracked, if this film doesn’t make you sad it definitely will make you angry because laughing or even a weak smile is almost impossible to achieve because of how tedious it is.

The film and dialogue writer Farhad Samji are no match for Govinda’s manic energy and Kader Khan’s rat-a-tat repartee. By now inured to Samji’s rhyming tendencies, I only winced a little when Rawal exclaimed “Heaven on the docks, whiskey on the rocks”, or ”Heaven on the docks, have you packed your small frocks?”, when he’s pimping his other daughter out to what he thinks is Raju’s supposed identical twin. There are four more instances, once again with ‘frocks’ and the rest with ‘box’.

Leaving the most energetic moments in the tedious and needless retread emanate from revisits of the hit numbers ‘Husnn Hai Suhana’ and ‘Mirchi Lagi Toh’.

Honestly, Varun Dhawan isn’t a bad performer at all, instead he has well proved his comedy skills in his father’s Main Tera Hero (2014), but he has to realize he can’t replicate Salman Khan‘s charm or Govinda‘s comedy prowess even though they have worked well in films made by his father. Here, despite visibly earnest effort he is unfunny, and comes out as a terrible impersonator, especially in a scene where he mimics multiple actors.

Sara Ali Khan is a promising actress as evident in a bad film like this year’s Love Aaj Kal, however, she needs to avoid being the kind of heroine who does nothing more than fill the slot of “the hero’s love interest” in a formulaic Bollywood venture. Here, her character is constantly objectified and has no separate arc to her role. Whatever fits the male protagonist, is what she sits to validate.

The supporting cast is filled with the likes of genuine comic talents such as Paresh Rawal, Javed Jaffrey, Johnny Lever, Bharati Achrekar, Manoj Joshi and Rajpal Yadav, however they are given no scope to perform. Also unlike their counterpart roles in the original, Sahil Vaid and Shikha Talsania are wasted here. On the whole, ‘Coolie No. 1’ is an unnecessary remake, a never ending saga of painful comedy and mistimed burdensome cringe-worthy watch.

Directed – David Dhawan

Starring – Varun Dhawan, Sara Ali Khan, Bharti Achrekar

Rated – PG

Run Time – 134 minutes

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