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Coolie No 1 review: This needless remake of David Dhawan’s 1995 film is not funny

Release Date: 25 Dec 2020

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Keyur Seta

The 2020 film starring Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan simply fails to come out of the 'wannabe funny film' zone.

It is rare to see the writing, direction, performances and every other department rise to the occasion in a madcap comedy, thereby providing wholesome entertainment. That is exactly what David Dhawan achieved in his 1995 film Coolie No 1, starring Govinda and Karisma Kapoor.

But Dhawan's own remake of the film, also titled Coolie No 1 and starring his actor son Varun and Sara Ali Khan, falls flat.

The story of the 2020 movie is the same as the original. Raju (Varun Dhawan) is a porter (coolie) at Mumbai Central railway station. He is struggling to get married because of his profession, which is considered lowly. He finds solace in his mechanic friend Deepak (Sahil Vaid).

Meanwhile, Pandit Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaaferi) visits the rich businessman Jeffery Rosario (Paresh Rawal) in Goa with a prospective groom for his daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan). But Rosario insults and humiliates Jai Kishen and the boy’s family for not being wealthy enough. Jai Kishen vows to avenge the insult.

After Jai Kishen returns to Mumbai, he misplaces Sarah’s picture and it lands in the hands of Raju, who falls in love with her instantly. Jai Kishen hatches a plan to destroy Rosario’s ego by getting Raju, a porter, to marry Sarah through deceit and succeeds.

The new Coolie No 1 goes beyond the original in the initial portion and shows the childhood of Raju in animated form. It is impressive to see the little orphan being rescued and looked after by Amitabh Bachchan’s coolie from his blockbuster hit Coolie (1983).

However, this is the only new addition the remake brings to the screen. Other than this, most of the film contains the same scenes and, on occasion, the same set of dialogues as well.

The sensibility of the narrative is also the same as it was in 1995. To make matters worse, the film is louder, more chaotic and over-the-top than the original.

Varun Dhawan’s antics make Govinda’s acting in the original look subtle. Varun has proved his versatility over the years in various genres. But here he tries too hard to be funny and it doesn’t help his cause. The biggest example of this is when Rosario catches him red-handed while working as a porter.

A major reason for Govinda’s success in the original was his change of voice when he plays Raju’s non-existent twin. Varun, in these moments, is seen doing an ineffectual imitation of Mithun Chakraborty, which becomes too much after a point. And the darkening of his face when he is seen working as a porter doesn’t help. 

The portrayal of women has changed a fair bit even in Hindi cinema in the past 25 years. But the new Coolie No 1 goes further back in time when it comes to the characterization of Sara Ali Khan and Shikha Talsania. They are shown as more regressive, more dumb and more inconsequential than the characters portrayed by Karisma Kapoor and Kanchan in the original 25 years ago.

In this chaos, the only actors who put a foot right are Paresh Rawal and Jaaved Jaaferi. Rawal doesn’t let his performance get affected even by regular repetition of unfunny lines like “Heaven on the dock, man. Beauty in the frock, man.”

Indeed, Varun Dhawan's Coolie No 1 is a lame duck even if you see it as a standalone film, without thinking of the Govinda original. In other words, it’s a needless and worthless remake!

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