'Coolie No 1' movie review: Varun Dhawan tries to salvage a mirthless remake

The premise is the same. The names are almost the same. Heck, even the dialogues are the same. Coolie No 1 has not a single bone of originality that helps it stand apart from the original.

Published: 25th December 2020 10:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th December 2020 10:26 PM   |  A+A-

Varun Dhawan, Collie no 1. Sara Ali khan

Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan on the sets of Coolie No. 1 (Photo | Twitter)

Express News Service

Twelve years ago, on this very same Christmas day, the Hindi remake of a superhit Tamil film hit the screens and made history. Cinema consumption and valuation was never the same again. That movie was Aamir Khan’s Ghajini, a remake of the Tamil film of the same name. Although both versions of the film were directed by AR Murugadoss, the Hindi version, especially the climax that was co-written by Aamir himself, is widely considered to be the better film. Murugadoss was able to iron out the kinks in the original and deliver a more finished product in Hindi. So, it is but natural to expect that David Dhawan, who made the original Coolie No 1, again a remake of a Tamil film (Chinna Maapillai), way back in 1995, would have used the 25 years that passed to do the same with the 2020 reboot. However, as Paresh Rawal’s Jeffrey Rozario in Coolie No 1 (2020) would have said, “Heaven on the docks man, the banality in the writing is quite the shocks man.”

The premise is the same. The names are almost the same. Heck, even the dialogues are the same. Coolie No 1 has not a single bone of originality that helps it stand apart from the original. Barring the sculpted physiques of the leads, a few kissing scenes, a location change or two, and a change of cast, there is not even an attempt at reinvention in this Coolie No 1. As Jeffrey Rozario would have said, “Heaven on the docks man, 25 years were you living under the rocks man?”

To be fair, this Coolie No 1 does start off promisingly. An animation montage sequence shows the origins of Varun’s Raju Coolie and how one of the most famous cinematic coolies, the one with armband No 786 took care of him initially. But soon thereafter, this iota of originality is traded for a scene-by-scene remake of a film that wasn’t groundbreaking in the first place. The original was a perfect product of its times with a hero who knew how to sell illogical comic capers. It is not like this time around people would be looking for logic in a David Dhawan film. But, a reboot should at least be altered in tune with the times. You see, I have no qualms in believing two grown women, and their father are easily tricked into believing Raju Coolie and Kunwar Raj Pratap Singh (again, Varun) are two different people. I have no problem buying the premise. But, in the age of smartphones, social media, and with a visibly upmarket setting, a few gags could have come from these additions. As Jeffrey Rozario would have said, “Heaven on the docks man, where are the new jokes man?”

Although the writing suffers from a heavy sense of deja vu, the performances manage to liven up the proceedings, albeit in spurts. Actors like Rawal, Javed Jaaferi, Johnny Lever, and Rajpal Yadav start off with the disadvantage of reenacting iconic comic sequences but do their best to add much-needed spunk. Unfortunately, the women in this film, Sara Ali Khan and Shikha Talsania, are offered very little to do. This might not be the best of years for Sara, who began strongly in 2019 with Kedarnath and Simbaa. In Coolie No 1, she is made to oscillate between two modes — a) turn up the chutzpah in refurbished song sequences, and b) put up a lips-pursed face of innocence irrespective of what is happening around her. In a year with some powerful writing of female characters, it is a shame that we have such unnecessary stereotypes and a few more tone-deaf gags that should have been left in the 20th century. As Jeffrey Rozario would have said, “Heaven on the docks man, women aren’t just there to prance around in short frocks, man.”

It is safe to assume there is an entire generation who haven’t watched Govinda do what he does best — entertain with abandon — in the original Coolie No 1. Considering this is the second such remake attempted by the Dhawans after Judwaa, it is clear the elder Dhawan is reworking tried-and-tested formulas to cement his son's stardom. Varun does everything and more that his father made Salman, Akshay and Govinda do in his superhit films. He doesn’t bat an eyelid before doing a god-knows-why-it-exists train stunt that will soon be perfect fodder for memes. In fact, it is a disservice to the talent of Varun that he is often burdened with comparisons to superstars like Salman or Govinda. Perhaps he should say 'no' to his father at times. Coolie No 1 goes to show that stepping into the shoes of a unique superstar like Govinda might just not be Varun's cup of tea… yet. As Jeffrey Rozario would have said, “Heaven on the docks man, Govinda is an entertainer nonpareil, and thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, man.” 

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Sara Ali Khan, Javed Jafferi, Paresh Rawal
Director: David Dhawan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Rating: 2/5


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  • Hemanta munda

    Colle no1 movie chiy
    2 years ago reply
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