If prizes were being given for best mimicry, David Dhawan would ensure that his son Varun was the uncontested winner. For sadly, that’s all he makes Varun Dhawan do in the new Coolie No 1.
David Dhawan was the prince of brainless entertainers in the 80s and 90s. So when he reprises his own 1995 hit which he made with Govinda and Karisma Kapoor, he harks back to his old formula of madcap mindlessness.
The animated opening credits are spirited and tell the story of how Raju became Coolie No 1 which is a neat way to begin.
On a parallel track is matchmaker Pandit Jai Kishen who has been insulted by rich Goan Jeffery Rozario. Rozario seeks a son-in-law who is so super rich that he goes by chartered flight even to pick up groceries. So he calls Jai Kishen a dalal and boots out the middle class matches he brings for Rozario’s daughter Sarah.
The two tracks meet when Jai Kishen swears to teach Rozario a lesson and bumps into good-hearted Coolie No 1 who falls in love with Sarah’s photograph.
And then comes the derailment which is passed off as entertainment.
Raju the coolie is passed off as Raj the tycoon. Rozario the millionaire turns into a buffoon. Sarah swoons over the fake baron, it’s a boon. Oh, please, send this team to the moon. Instead they hurriedly head to the altar for a church wedding before shifting to a chawl in Mumbai. And everybody buys the story that Raj the tycoon is here because he’s suing his rich father.
With screenplay by Rumi Jaffery, the dialogues are the old-fashioned variety where comedy comes from rhyming words. Docks and rocks, isky whisky, Mrs Raju aaju baaju, Gucci sachchi muchi and Jio-Rozario.
Let’s add zany and sanity to the rhymes. It rains zanies as Raju has to be pretend that Coolie No 1 is his twin brother. Since one can’t ask questions in a David Dhawan film, you can’t ask why a rich man like Rozario would come to Mumbai by train and chance upon the coolie.
In the mayhem of a double act topped with Raju cross dressing for a chaotic climax in the hospital, David puts in songs that are placed and picturised like they used to be in his heyday. But is the audience in 2020 willing to sit in a time machine and go back to the cinema they watched 25 years ago?
Most offensively outdated is the improper humour that’s prised out of people who lisp or stutter or are overweight.
Varun Dhawan is energetic and likeable to begin with but David soon reduces him to a mimicry artiste. Varun is made to take off on Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Nana Patekar, Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty.
As if that wasn’t enough, policeman Johnny Lever also does a Mithun act and in the rhyming mood of the film sings lines like, ‘Mera dil deewana bole, Dhople Dhople…’
Sara Ali Khan is comfortable playing a heroine who sings, sways and follows her husband no matter who he is.
And Paresh Rawal as Rozario has the standard line, ‘Heaven on the docks’ which he goes on to rhyme with box and frocks. The problem with the new Coolie No 1 is that the readiness to sit back and enjoy a mindless entertainer peters into restlessness for the bedlam to end.