‘COOLIE NO. 1’ | 25 December, 2020

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Pooja Entertainment’s Coolie No. 1 (meant for age group 16+) is the remake of the producer’s earlier Coolie No. 1 (1995) which itself was a remake of Tamil film Chinna Mapillai.

Raju (Varun Dhawan) is a coolie who falls head over heels in love with Sarah Rozario (Sara Ali Khan). Sarah is a rich girl and so her father, Jeffrey Rozario (Paresh Rawal), wants to get her and his younger daughter, Anju (Shikha Talsania), married to very rich boys. To win Sarah’s hand in marriage, Raju pretends to be a wealthy businessman’s son, Kunwar. Raju/Kunwar is aided by a matchmaker, Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaaferi), and his own mechanic-friend, Deepak (Sahil Vaid). The comedy that ensues is what the film is all about.

The story is quite similar to the story of the 1995 film and, therefore, looks a bit dated after 25 years. An entire generation has changed in the two-and-a-half decades and to expect that the audiences will lap up this drama as they did back then is fraught with dangers. The story rests on the premise that all characters in the drama, other than Raju, are idiots who don’t question anything in life and lack basic common sense. Why, they seem to have never heard of con men! Rumi Jafry’s screenplay is hardly engaging or funny. Clichéd and predictable scenes dominate the drama and even they are hardly entertaining. Jafry’s magic of the 1990s is clearly missing. The audiences get the impression that his heart was not in the film which looks more formulaic and an assemblage of incidents rather than a free-flowing and natural drama. In short, the comedy is boring. Actually, what’s often offered in the name of comedy is buffoonery. Therefore, rather than making the viewers laugh, many of the scenes get on their nerves. The kiddish humour is like a red mark in the writer’s report card. The dash of emotions fails to touch the heart.

Farhad Samji’s dialogues are also irritating for the major part. A few dialogues are funny but they pale into insignificance when compared to those that rely on contrived humour. Too much reliance on tukk-bandi, to make the dialogues funny, doesn’t go down well with the audience.

Before talking about individual performances, a word here about the acting, in general. Every actor seems to be competing with the others to show how he/she can overact! Varun Dhawan overacts to the hilt in both the roles. His mimicry of Mithun Chakraborty in the second half and of several other film stars too is unwarranted and definitely does not create the desired humour. Although comparisons are odious, the viewers are bound to compare his acting with Govinda’s in the 1995 film — and that would further underline the fact that his performance is lacklustre. Even Govinda’s grace in dances is clearly missing in Varun’s dancing that seems more robotic and rehearsed than free-flowing. Sara Ali Khan appears to be disinterested. Her performance in the role of Sarah is more mechanical than spontaneous. Paresh Rawal is earnest but because of the poor script, his earnestness doesn’t help much. Sahil Vaid lends decent support as Raju’s friend, Deepak, but he doesn’t stand out in a single scene. Shikha Talsania is okay as Sarah’s sister, Anju. Bharti Achrekar lends routine support. Jaaved Jaaferi leaves a mark as pandit Jai Kishen and Jackson. Johny Lever’s comedy is entertaining. Rajpal Yadav is dull in the role of Sarah’s maternal uncle, Pinto. Anil Dhawan (as the rich businessman) and Manoj Joshi (as his manager) are average. Vikas Verma hardly impresses as Mahesh (the main villain). Shashi Kiran (as the coolie uncle), Rajat Rawail (as the bell boy), Hemant Pandey (as the snacks stall owner) and Rakesh Bedi (as the driver) do as required. Others fit the bill.

David Dhawan’s direction is dated, just like the script. Dhawan is just not in form this time. The effort to anyhow make the viewers laugh is evident in every scene and throughout the narration. Of the songs, the two songs (Anand-Milind) from the old Coolie No. 1 — ‘Main to raste se jaa raha tha’ and ‘Husn hai suhana’ — are the best. The new songs have been set to tune by Tanishk Bagchi, Farhad Samji, Javed-Mohsin and Lijo George-DJ Chetas. Of the new songs, ‘Teri bhabhi’ is fast-paced and well-tuned. Lyrics (Sameer for the 1995 songs, Danish Sabri, Ikka, Shabbir Ahmed and Rashmi Virag) are in synch with the mood of the film. Song picturisations (by Ganesh Acharya) are nothing to shout about except for ‘Husn hai suhana’ which is eye-catching. ‘Tere siva’ has been choreographed by Ranju Varghese. Salim-Sulaiman’s background music could’ve been more effective. Ravi K. Chandran’s cinematography is first-rate. Anl Arasu’s action scenes are okay. Rajat Poddar’s production designing is very good. Production values are rich. Ritesh Soni’s editing is not as sharp as it ought to have been.

On the whole, Coolie No. 1 is a major disappointment. It is nothing compared to the 1995 film of the same name. Had it been released in the cinemas during normal times, it would’ve flopped after a fair start.

Released on 25-12-’20 on Amazon Prime Video.