Coolie No 1 Review: A Tiring And Offensive Remake Of A Film That Was Better Left In The Past

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Coolie No 1, starring Sara Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan, is now streaming on Amazon Prime and let me warn you beforehand – it is as insufferable as it gets. A remake of the 1995 Govinda and Karishma Kapoor starrer-of-the-same-name (which itself was a remake of a Telegu film starring Tabu), the film is directed by David Dhawan and produced by Vashu Bhagnani, the men who were behind the making of the former film as well. For someone who has never been never a fan of the original film, I’d still give it one for standing light on its feet. Or maybe it was entirely Govinda’s comedic genius that carried the 1995 film forward. Regardless, the 2020 version of Coolie No 1 struts forward without an iota of originality, and is replete with stereotypes so offensive, that it becomes a task to sit through the entire thing.

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An Un-Original Plot

Like the earlier film, Coolie No 1 is about a marriage broker Pandit Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaaferi) hiring a coolie Raju (Varun Dhawan) to avenge an insult from his former client Jeffery Rozario (Paresh Rawal). Raju is promised a large sum of money by Jai Kishen, who has now disguised himself as a South-Indian man named Jackson, in exchange for pretending to be the son of a wealthy man and make Jeffery Rozario’s daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan) fall in love with him. Jeffery is adamant in getting his daughter married to a billionaire and this desire blinds him to an extent that he instantly falls into the trap and marries Sarah off to Raju. But truth soon peeps its head round the corners and to now save himself from Jeffery’s rage, Raju cooks up a tale of having a twin, adding more confusion to the already exasperating excuse-of-a-plot.

The Verdict

Apart from having asteroid-sized holes in the storyline, the film is also an outrageous attempt at comedy itself. Panjit Jai Kishen aka Jackson is as classist and casteist as it gets while Raju is constantly seen cracking fat jokes and dressing up in drag to elicit laughter from the audience, unfailingly so if I may add. There lurks a tone of self-importance as the film tries to parade itself as a tale of working-class men, of a coolie and a driver, but ends up mocking the very professions it sets out to valorise.

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The dialogues are as nonsensical as they are inconsequential; Jeffery Rozario is made to talk in rhymes, with the first line every time being ‘Heaven on the Docks man’ and Raju keeps uttering racist gibberish to prove that he is from Singapore. And trust me, hearing it for the umpteenth time in the film will make you want to pull out your hair, even if you have god-sent patience.

As for the casual sexism and rampant misogyny portrayed in the film, where does one even begin? It wouldn’t be the first time that women are represented as mere props in a Varun Dhawan film, but Sara Ali Khan dancing in a railway station surrounded by men who call her bhabhi even before she gets to utter a single dialogue in the movie is surely a new low even for a Dhawan-entertainer. That, added with the remakes of the songs from the earlier film, makes up for quite a distasteful soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that songs like Husn Husn Suhana have their own charm, but they belong to bygone times and bringing them, and the sexist themes inherent within them, back again in the 21st century does nobody any good.

What’s even sadder is that neither Sara Ali Khan’s acting range, seen previously in Kedarnath, nor Varun Dhawan’s versatility, for those who have watched him in October, is put to any good use. The film is a waste of acting talents as well as a waste of a remake. And it most definitely is a waste of time to give it 135 minutes of your day.

Views expressed are the author’s own.