‘Coolie No. 1’ Review: This is the nepotism we should fight

Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan’s film is an offensive mess!

When you walk into a David Dhawan film, you don’t expect a film like Sara Ali Khan’s own Kedarnath, or Varun Dhawan’s Badlapur. What you willingly walk into is a stupid comedy, and you think you may have fun. That’s the thing about films, they provide an escapism which allows you to leave your brains at home when you have to. There have been numerous examples of good comedies in Hindi Cinema. Look at the Rohit Shetty universe for example. They’re mindless entertainers. And while many may not like that genre of films, I love them! Even Simmba! But David Dhawan’s Coolie No. 1 is not just another mindless entertainer. It sure is mindless, though.

Most of Coolie No. 1 is a lot like Sara Ali Khan’s choices in films: bad.

Coolie No. 1 is the kind of film you’d not want to watch at all costs. It’s beyond dumb. There was not a moment through the film when I didn’t think, “when is this going to end?” I kept seeing how much of the film is left, every ten minutes or so. And I’m not that kind of a person. I look at bad films as I look at the good ones. But there are certain films that really test your patience and Coolie No. 1 is just that. It’s offensive, brutally sexist, fat-phobic and makes fun of people with disabilities. Oh, and the worst of them all, it’s a world where only fair skinned people can make it big. It’s 2020, you cannot get away with that! Since Varun Dhawan plays a coolie, he’s been brown faced (obviously!), but every time he splashes water on his face, he becomes fair? If you’re going to sell us a dark faced coolie, at least get your graphics/makeup in place! Now we’re going to criticise the black facing and the makeup.

I watched Govinda and Karisma Kapoor’s Coolie No. 1 last week to make sure I knew what happened in the original. Watching the 1995 blockbuster in 2020 is problematic in itself. Imagine recreating it, scene by scene, in 2020. We don’t need a film so backward in time anymore. And what shocks me the most is how do actors get onboard such a film? Varun Dhawan has great comic timing, we’ve seen him do comedies in the past and he’s done a decent job, but here, as Raju he just fails. There isn’t enough meat in him to be able to match up to what Govinda did in the original film. And to add to that, his character also tries to be like Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Shah Rukh Khan at various points. Dhawan, a fairly good actor, doesn’t have it in him to bring all these legends together. Even if he did, it’s certainly not possible in this film.

Sara Ali Khan is a Columbia graduate! Imagine being that well read and agreeing to be nothing but a mere flower pot in the film. I’m not saying every Columbia graduate is a well read, aware individual, but I’m guessing they’re aware enough to not play just the hero’s love interest in two back to back films. And honestly, one can’t even tell if Ali Khan is a good actor or not, yet. Well, considering her choices in films, she will be called a bad actor, but both Simmba and Coolie No. 1 don’t allow her to offer anything. She’s just looking good and dancing to peppy numbers.

The conversation around nepotism began when Alia Bhatt made her debut with Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. That a certain actress used the word in mainstream media a while after the release of the film is a different conversation altogether. But the debate had begun much before that. Bhatt’s second film, Highway, shut all the noise around her and her career. Dharma Productions recent launch, Janhvi Kapoor also received similar hate from the anti-nepotism group of people after her debut in Dhadak. She then gave a terrific performance in Sharan Sharma’s Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and, like Bhatt, silenced the noise. What she does after this is something only time can tell. And then we have Sara Ali Khan, who started off great with a powerful performance (in a powerful character) in Kedarnath. But since then, everything has been downhill. It’s like Ali Khan just wants to be a part of 100 crore films, without considering how impactful her role is.

Most of Coolie No. 1 is a lot like Sara Ali Khan’s choices in films: bad. What worked as a blockbuster in 1995 won’t work in 2020 even as an OTT film. Because truth be told, times have changed, so have mentalities and there’s more awareness than ever. With Coolie No. 1 releasing only on OTT, in a year where almost everyone has faced boredom at some level, the possibility and advantage of switching it off in one single click is a curse for the film.

You can watch Coolie No. 1  on Amazon Prime.

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