Every time a film maker thinks of going back to the 90s, a politically incorrect volcano erupts somewhere spitting out awful, racist and derogatory content that was rightfully buried in the deepest recesses. Coolie No. 1, a rehash of the Govinda hit from the 90s, is one such volcanic eruption of mindless lines leading to a catastrophic famine of entertainment.
It is David Dhawan making a parody of a David Dhawan movie. The original was not exactly a case study in progressiveness but then neither was much of the 90’s. Govinda and Kader Khan’s comic timing and lower expectations set for the audience made Coolie No. 1 a bona fide hit. It should have been left behind on the road where it might have attracted sporadic nostalgic glances in the rear mirror. Instead, the remake has now placed it in the unenviable position of a regressive deer caught in modern day headlights.
Maybe in the case of certain remakes it also matters where you take it from. The content of the movie is not millennial-friendly by any stretch of imagination. Jokes about lisps and overweight people that died woke deaths at the beginning of the decade have been painfully resuscitated, along with a resuscitation scene that is just written in bad taste. At one point a ‘so fat’ joke is so rude that even the character in the movie takes offence (before shaking a leg to Husn hai Suhana). Expecting dialogues that talk about dignity of labour is a lot to expect from the universe that the movie is set in, but the dialogues do not even attempt any correctness. Paresh Rawal’s signature line, ‘Heaven on the docks man, whisky on the rocks man’, is repeated so often in the movie that it might drive Single Malt connoisseurs to AA meetings. Why does his character speak occasional English? Because he is Rozario from Goa and that is another reference to a dead decade. By the time I heard a character in Goa say ‘Port bana rahe hain ki Portugal bana rahe hain?’, I half wished for a Portuguese reinvasion.
Varun Dhawan as the titular coolie is also lifting the baggage of Govinda’s portrayal in the original. This burden weighs heavy on his shoulders and is enough to bring down his performance. For Sara Ali Khan this is just an outing of fashion, with practically no scope to act. Jaaved Jaaferi’s character has been given an accent that is confused about who it targets to offend (the targets shift from Borat to South Indians to Chinese). Paresh Rawal is a fine performer, but Kader Khan’s comic shoes are too large to fill especially when he has not been given any funny lines.
This is an offensive, politically incorrect and dated baggage that no forklift could handle. The movie ends at an organ donation camp. What we need is a donation camp of 90s Bollywood paraphernalia along with a declaration signed in blood to never go back to the 90s.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.