Coolie No 1 cast: 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 No 1 rating: One star
Back in 1995, director David Dhawan got his favourite actor to play a happy-go-lucky coolie who falls for a rich girl. Her arrogant papa who wants ‘only prince-no pauper’ for his beloved ‘beti’ is the obstacle, but no Bollywood daddy can stand in the way of true love, and loud comedy and song-dance, can they?
The Dhawan-Govinda-Karisma-Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor combine gave us a film of its times, laden with gags bordering on tastelessness, and dubious lyrics. It turned into one of the biggest hits of the year, which also gave us Rangeela, and DDLJ, because Govinda’s good-hearted man of the masses was spot on. At that time, in his prime, he could carry off pretty much everything— off-colour jokes, crimson-coloured suits, and no one could thrust a pelvis like he could, not even his pretty leading ladies.
But that was a quarter-century back, and it looks like the filmmakers have forgotten that the world has changed. So has Bollywood. When you see Varun Dhawan, who has channelled Govinda in many of his films much better, tread almost the same path, mouthing almost the same lines, there’s no laughter, only despair.
Minor changes do not freshness make. The earlier film was set in a village: Karisma was a ghaghra-clad gaon-ki-gori, Govinda wanted to set up a cement factory. In this one, the gaon has become Goa. Instead of a factory, it is a port, and Sara Ali Khan is a city girl in flouncy minis and pointy stilettos. But the silliness which was celebrated at its highest pitch, and the rat-a-tat speed with which the whole thing was executed, something David Dhawan used to do so well, is missing.
The time for constructed-on-paper-plots has long gone. It’s painful to see passable actors go through jerky scenes and terrible laugh tracks. Varun and Sara dancing to the still popular songs (“Tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karoon”) take you straight back 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. His heavy-handed papa uses a light touch, which is exactly what’s needed in this kind of brainless comedy. Dhawan Jr has done much better under his papa’s baton. And sadly, the sprightly Sara Ali Khan is as vacuous as the script.
We can do with laughter in these dark times, but not like this, with zero wit, no flair.
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