Review: COOLIE NO. 1 Has A Premise That Is Outdated And Out Of Touch

Published by Shah Shahid on

I’m one of those people that really don’t mind remakes. I’ve even built the entire concept of my Split Screen Podcast around remakes and reboots. I feel that a remake should add to the original; adapt it, rework it, or completely change it to keep the spirit of the original alive. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with remaking a movie for any reason, really. But all of that relies on self-awareness that is completely lacking here, as I’ll explain in my Coolie No 1 movie review. It’s a movie, with an outdated premise and is completely out of touch for audiences today. Read on for my movie review of this remake of a 1990’s Bollywood movie. 

Remaking Your Own Movie Makes No Sense

Inherently, ‘remaking’ anything implies a sense of wanting to add, change, or do something different. Take a look at any of the great reboots from the last decade or more. Farhan Akhtar’s Don remake completely updated the vibes and story of the original, with even Shahrukh Khan bringing his own version of the anti-hero, instead of imitating the original’s Amitabh Bachchan. Ram Gopal Varma’s The Godfather remake modified the original setting from an Italian family to that of an Indian one, modifying the story accordingly.

But with David Dhawan remaking his own movie 35 years later, he brings absolutely nothing new to the conversation. Similar to his first remake of another of his own movies, Judwaa 2 was basically a shot for shot remake of the original. The remake even has the same recycled jokes from the original, despite none of it holding up. Dhawan does exactly the same in Coolie No. 1. I don’t understand the point of redoing a movie if you’re not going to take into account your own growth, the world, or how cinema itself has changed in the decades since the original. What’s even the point? 

Coolie No 1 Movie Review Points Out The Problematic Premise

Coolie No. 1 is all about a coolie, Raju, played by Varun Dhawan. For non-Indian audiences, a ‘coolie’ is basically a porter at Indian train stations. It’s a job that is highly unionized and a pretty huge industry for the working class of India. However, those aren’t things that Coolie No. 1 bothers itself with depicting or explaining. I wonder how the idea of unionized porters in matching uniforms, treated like crap by the public will come off to audiences not aware of this idea. 

Especially, because the premise hinges on the fact that this is a blue-collar industry, one that the middle-class of India look down upon. The movie shows Coolies’ mistreatment and how others see them as less than, especially when it comes to social settings. Raju has trouble finding a girl to marry, given the stigma of his occupation. This is further exasperated with Javed Jaffrey’s character. 

The movie begins with Jeffrey Rozario (Paresh Rawal), a wealthy man, rejecting a marriage proposal from an agent (Jaaved Jaffrey) by insulting him. The marriage agent then vows to take revenge by finding the poorest husband for Rozario’s daughters. And so he finds Raju. So the entire premise is buying into the fact that Raju is a bottom tier member of society, so Rozario’s daughter marrying him is an insult to him. And everyone is totally cool with it. Including Raju, who apparently has no self-respect. 

The Coolie No 1 Remake Has Amazing Songs Though

At the end of the day, you don’t really watch Coolie No. 1 for any kind of semblance of logic or story. It’s honestly attractive people in gorgeous locations being silly and jokey in a way that makes no sense. Varun Dhawan is capable of so much more, obviously, but he wastes his talent here in a role that is basically a culmination of impressions of other Bollywood stars.

This is my first official Sara Ali Khan movie, and she’s definitely decent in, maybe, 3 out of the 7 scenes she’s in with a speaking part. Paresh Rawal is pretty on par with his comic timing and deliveries. Everything else is forgettable. The updates to the original songs are the only thing worth discussing, but those are on YouTube. So spare yourself, unless you want to watch this in a group setting, more to laugh at the movie, than with it. 

Coolie No 1 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

Did you enjoy Dhawan’s Mithun and Amitabh impressions? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

Featured image via Amazon Prime Video. 

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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