The original Coolie No. 1 (1995), a remake of Santhana Bharathi’s Tamil film Chinna Mapillai (1993), was hardly a masterpiece of comedy that a filmmaker would want to remake. Back then, the David Dhawan-Govinda combination was box-office gold; today, the remake only serves to remind us that mainstream cinema was loud and crass and the audiences it catered to had terrible taste.
Meanwhile, our society has taken one step forward and two steps back, so there is still an audience for such films (on an OTT platform anything serves as ‘timepass’), but why do young stars who agree to act in this kind of film, not stop to think how regressive it is? Varun Dhawan is the director’s son, whose career is doing well without help from the family. He did a passable remake of Judwaa No 1, and should have put a stop to this remake train right then.
It 2020, it seems horrific that Jai Kishan, a matchmaker (Jaaved Jaaferi), who is insulted by Jeffrey Rozario (Paresh Rawal) for bringing an unsuitable (that is, not rich enough) match for his daughter, decides to humiliate him in revenge, by—get this—punishing his daughter by getting her married to a poor guy. So he makes a coolie, Raju (Varun Dhawan), pass off as a billionaire and hook in the daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan). He has fallen in love with her photo, so he is happy to participate in the fraud. (In a David Dhawan film, it is not strange that a Hindu Pandit is matchmaking for a Catholic girl). In this social media age, obviously photo shopped pictures of Raju with celebrities are considered adequate as proof of his identity—nobody heard of Google?
To add to the non-PC junk, Sara’s sister Anju (Shikha Talsania) is overweight, so she is not worthy of anybody higher than a mechanic—Raju’s buddy (Sahil Vaid). Their uncle is a lisping idiot (Rajpal Yadav) who is ridiculed by everyone. The only one spared ignominy is Rozario’s mother (Bharati Achrekar), in the original the grandmother was called “budhiya” and told to shut up. Later in the film, when Raju pretends to have a black sheep twin who is the coolie, Rozario actually pimps for Anju by making her go into a hotel with him, so that they can hook up and he gets a second rich son-in-law.
The film was awful and unfunny in 1995, if audiences are willing to forgive it, credit goes to Govinda and Kader Khan (as the greedy father-in-law), who did the most odious scenes either with total conviction or with a wink at the idiocy of it all, so blame the writer and director. (Govinda made lyrics like Tujhko mirchi lagi to main kya karoon, sound like fun when he danced on screen).
Varun Dhawan does not have that kind of chutzpah yet, so he resorts to mimicking Mithun Chakraborty and other stars (a whole roster of them). The others are just unpleasant without an excuse. This Coolie No. 1 is not a tribute — because which director would be vain enough to pay tribute to himself– it’s not a parody of the tasteless of nineties’ popular movies, so why did this travesty with eyesore production values, garish costumes and remixed music even need to be made?