Merry Christmas, David. I always think of you as a Christian. Could your name have something to do with it? I’m so moved that you’ve given your brother AnilDhawan a role in your latest comedy, your 45th farce Coolie No 1. Nepotism be damned.Agar bhai bhai ke kaam na aaye tooh phir kaamyaabi ka kaam kya?You’ve even given your brother(who plays a millionaire in a filmy bungalow which your son Varun describes as, ‘Yeh bungalow nahin Bangaal(Bengal) hai’) a mouth-to-mouth kiss with Johnny Lever. I am sure this is the highlight of Anilji’s career.
But Coolie No 1 is not about your brother. It’s about your son ,Varun . And he has lots more kissing to do than your brother (whose role is briefer than Sara Ali Khan’s clothes, though I am sure the budget for Sara’s clothes must be ten times what you paid your brother).For some strange reason Varun keeps kissing Sara everywhere…in the shower, in the swimmingpool,etc. I stopped counting the kisses.And started admiring your sense of innovativeness. The kiss is your way of keeping with the times. Who knows , in your next comedy Varun may even kiss Rajpal Yadav, if we’re lucky. Here in Coolie No 1 we have the privilege of seeing Varun and his sidekick(Sahil Vaid) dressed as two women named Kareena and Karisma.
What drag act! For the record the Kapoor sisters are not suing.
More for the record, Govinda didn’t kiss KarismaKapoor even once in Coolie No 1. He didn’t need to. He had to resort to no extraneous props to get our attention.Varun , your son, tries every trick in the book to get our attention.In fact he impersonates so many actors that the footage feels like prop-o-ganda(dirty) for the all-time greats , most prominently Amitabh Bachchanwhose Coolie directed by Manmohan Desai is not only an inspiration for Varun but , in the cleverest part of the film, the animation credit titles tell us that BachchanSaab’s Coolie adopted Varun’s Coolie in this film and brought him up as his own.
This, I’m afraid, is the only stroke of inventiveness in the tortuously unfunny 2 hour 14 minute film that has some of the most hideous artwork I’ve ever seen. David. I’m so glad I saw the film at home. To watch the riot of garish colours, unimaginative sets, ditzy itsy-bitsycostumes on the big screen would be unbearable.
The world has moved on since Coolie No 1 first staged its staggering absurdness 25 years ago. The same nonsensical drama staged for today’s audience, specially at time when the OTT platform has opened the doors to a whole new world of cinematic entertainment, is to be caught in a time warp.Nothing has changed since Coolie No 1 in 1995 except that Varun’s gags are longer and Sarah’s dresses are shorter than Govinda and Karisma’s. In fact so awful is their attempt to fill their predecessor’s shoes that audiences will now look back with affection at the old version of the story which was no great shakes either.
While I admit rationalizing your cinema, David, is to attempt the impossible, I still found the new Coolie No 1 impossibly illogical. Sara Ali Khan belongs to a Catholic family. Yet she is shown rushing to the temple with a thali(designer-secularism?). Her father Jeffrey Rozario, played by poor Paresh Rawal(poor, because when next he meets PM Modi how will he explain his presence in something so stagnant subversive and anti-progressive?) keeps telling his mother Bharati Achrekar(in a Amazon-ordered wizened wig) to go light candles .
Presumably that’s all Catholics do.Talent like Paresh, Achrekar(she even scored as just a voice in RiteshBatra’s Lunchbox), Rakesh Bedi(in a 4-minute appearance where he plays a stammerer for laughs), Johnny Lever, Rajpal Yadav is not just wasted but also ridiculed.Tujhko mirchi lagi,indeed.
The vigorous dancing of the neo-Coolie couple is no patch on Govinda and Karisma who were just fantastic on their feet. Varun amd Sara, I am afraid, look like poor copies in spite of trying so hard to be feisty, funny and vigorous. Varun spends the second-half impersonating Mithun Chakraborty. It took me while to figure out that’s what your son was doing. Most of the time I had no idea what he was doing,and why.
Incidentally , I have never so many empty suitcases posing as “luggage” in scene after scene. Empty suitcases to match empty minds?And no, the excuse that intellectualizing your content is doing your cinema disservice, won’t work. Absurdist cinema is not akin to brainless cinema. You can’t slap on a slapstick by pretending to be entertaining the masses. The “masses” have moved. So should you.