With the passage of time, people’s taste and preferences change and it is necessary for us to keep up with the change, otherwise we may fall behind. What audiences loved 25 years ago, it is not necessary that they will welcome it with open arms several years later, but Coolie No 1 director David Dhawan seems to be unfussed about it. Few minutes into the film and you will know that the Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan-starrer film is still stuck in the 90s. Despite a formidable cast taking the centre stage, filmmaker David Dhawan does little to bring novelty to his story telling. You can breathe a sigh of relief because yes, Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No 1 is not a frame-by-frame copy of its original version, but it borrows the premise from the Govinda-starrer 1995 super-hit film. The script has been redone in parts but most of the dialogues are just cut, copy and paste from the original.
A railway porter or coolie Raju (Varun Dhawan) falls in love with Sara (Sara Ali Khan), daughter of a rich hotelier just by looking at her photo (kahan tha na, still stuck in 90s!). Now, Sara’s father Jeffery Rozaria (Paresh Rawal) doesn’t want any Tom, Dick or Harry marrying is daughters, he wants a suitor so rich ‘jo bhaaji-tarkaari lene jaye toh bhi chartered plane le jaye’. So, when Jai Kishen (Jaaved Jaaferi) brings home a prospective match for Sara, Jeffery insults him and calls him a ‘dalaal’ for bringing home a family not up to their standard. Jai Kishen is enraged by Jeffery Rozaria’s behaviour and seeks to take revenge from him. When he comes across Raju at the railway station, he hatches a plan to get him married to Sara and in the process teach Jeffery a lesson. Raju and Jai Kishan convince Jeffery Rozaria that the former is a billionaire and marries Sara, but mind you, that’s just the beginning of all their problems.
David Dhawan’s Coolie No 1 is marred by some unconvincing sequences that make no sense at all and could have been done away with; making room for some fine moments on-screen. Just to give Raju a hero-like attribute in the film, an unnecessary railway station sequence has been employed. A kid suddenly gets down on the railway tracks to grab a toy and then there is an approaching train. What you witness next is Varun Dhawan, who is several meters away, jumping and running at a lightning speed to save the toddler. In a crowded railway station only one person spots the kid on the track and that’s our hero, Raju, Coolie No 1. Another question that popped up was, how is it so easy for a humble coolie to find the resources to convince someone that he is a billionaire? To top it all, you also make mistakes like see a man in a driver’s dress and still confuse him for a plumber, like how?
David Dhawan’s Coolie No 1 is old wine in a new bottle. Much of his effort went into keeping the film relevant for today’s generation by making changes to the location, keeping up with the trends (Instagram obsession), make-up and costumes, but the essence of the characters was lost somewhere (wahi khadoos ladki ka baap, no woman taking charge in the film and that typical 90s villain). The film is replete with stereotypes from the 90s. Much like the original version of the film, Rumi Jaffery has penned the screenplay of Coolie No 1 as well. Much of what you witnessed in the 1995 film has been retained. There isn’t any prominent change in the story telling except for a twist or two here and there. Farhad Samji holds the credit of writing the dialogues for the film. The dialogues are dreary, much of what you have heard before (in Govinda’s Coolie No 1). Don’t get us started on the one-liners, please.
Remaking a film has its own share of complexities, more so when you are revamping a classic. The makers and the actors have to deal with constant comparisons with the original version. Varun Dhawan is a brilliant actor and we have been a witness to his incredible acting prowess over the years, but is this his best shot till date? Well, we have seen better. Varun is charming and energetic and you can see the honest effort he has put into the film. The audience is sure to draw comparisons between Govinda and Varun Dhawan after watching the film, which is inevitable.
Sara Ali Khan lights up the screen with her presence each time but other than that, she is doing little in the film. Sara looks beautiful and charming and we love her expressions. Having said that, here’s hoping she chooses some meatier roles in the future which gives her an opportunity to standout and make a niche for herself. Much like Karisma Kapoor’s role in the film, Sara got minimal scope to play with her character.
Paresh Rawal and Johnny Lever should be credited for bringing some light moments on screen. Jaaved Jaaferi as the pandit who is bent on taking revenge from Jeffery Rozaria has ample appearances on screen and plays an average part. Sahil Vaid and Shikha Talsania play supporting roles in the film and sadly there’s not even one scene where these actors were given an opportunity to standout. It was unfortunate to witness Rajpal Yadav being reduced to just a caricature of what Shakti Kapoor played in the original version.
Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No 1 frankly doesn’t match up to what Govinda gave us in the 1995 version because it is almost impossible to fill into the latter’s shoes when it comes to his comic timing. If you loved Govinda’s Coolie No 1, this one will definitely not appeal to you because there’s not much happening here that you did not already witness earlier. We're going with 3 stars out of 5 for Coolie No 1.