25 years ago, David Dhawan produced a massy hit starring Govinda and Karisma Kapoor. Much has happened in the intervening years but David Dhawan seems to be stuck in a time loop. That can be the only reason why he attempted to remake the film with his son Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan. The film looks and feels as if it was made in the ’90s. The only change is the added gloss.
Raju (Varun Dhawan) the coolie in question, doesn’t work in a bus stand but in a Mumbai railway station. The girl’s father has been transported from being a villager to the owner of a plush hotel in Goa. Jeffery Rozario (Paresh Rawal) wants his daughter Sarah (Sara Ali Khan) to be married to the richest guy in the world. He humiliates the pandit Jai Kishan (Javed Jaffrey) who has brought a prospective alliance to him. Don’t ask us why a pandit is acting as a marriage broker for a Christian family. Jai Kishan chances upon Raju at the railway station while returning from Goa and concocts a plan to get Raju married to Sarah to avenge his humiliation. Again, don’t ask us why Raju, who seems to be a good-natured guy, agrees to this hare-brained scheme of duping an innocent girl. All goes according to the plan, till Rozario catches Raju in the garb of the coolie. Now, he has to pretend to be his own twin brother in order to keep the facade going.
25 years ago, when the audience didn’t have better choices and wasn’t so evolved as now, this kind of over-the-top comedy might have worked but now it all looks jaded. Not that anything much has changed in the plot. It was pretty juvenile then and it remains so now. What kept it going was the total involvement of the ensemble cast in the project. The antics of Kader Khan as the father and Shakti Kapoor as his brother-in-law did make us laugh. Paresh Rawal and Rajpal Yadav, who reprise the roles, are fine actors in their own right but are below par here. Even Johnny Lever, comedy’s Mr Dependable, fails to elicit laughs. All these actors have been doing slapstick since aeons. Perhaps the predictability of their actions is at fault here or it could be that the actors themselves have lost faith in playing stock characters.
Another factor in making the earlier film a hit was the crackling chemistry between Govinda and Karisma. Varun and Sara seem to lack the X factor of the original jodi. Nothing wrong with their individual performances, mind you. Varun, in fact, gives the film his all, mimicking everyone from Mithun Chakraborty, Raaj Kumar to Dilip Kumar. He even indulges in a drag act. Sara too puts her A-game on display here and goes all out to create a likeable character of a good-natured girl who easily forgives her husband for conning her so gloriously. The earnestness and enthusiasm of the lead couple can’t be denied. It’s just that taken together, the movie doesn’t feel fresh enough. Even the reprised versions of songs like Goriya chura na mera jiya and Main to raste se ja raha tha seem pale when compared to the originals.
Films belong to their eras. Not all films can be successfully replicated into another era and that seems to be the case with Coolie No 1 as well. David Dhawan survived because he gave the audience what they wanted but he seems to have misread the changed perception here…