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Review of Coolie No. 1: David Dhawan’s comic adaptation is more, but not superior

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Review of Coolie No. 1
Review of Coolie No. 1

This Christmas marks a tale of two Bollywoods. Over on Netflix, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane — representing Indian cinema’s modernising side — have created the exciting meta-thriller AK vs AK.

Over on Amazon Prime Video, veteran comedy director David Dhawan can renew the IP rights to Coolie No 1, his 1995 comedy film with Sandwell-born comic Govinda that had tremendous popularity with audiences worldwide, and also look into the “coolie no 1 2020 box office collection” to gauge the success of the recent adaptation.

Review of Coolie No. 1
Review of Coolie No. 1

The 2020 adaptation of Coolie No 1, starring Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan, opened to average reviews but managed to have record viewership on Amazon Prime in India, with approximately 30 Lakh views worldwide. The film was sold as a direct release to Amazon Prime for 115 Crores, making it a financial success.

Fans of the original Coolie would likely acknowledge there was room for improvement; yet Dhawan seems unfazed by that reality. His new Coolie features updated reference points and replaces Govinda with Varun Dhawan – his father’s son – before surrounding him with antiquated players as part of an attempt at erasing 30 years.

The plot – in which Dhawan plays a lowly railway porter hired to woo society belle (Sara Ali Khan) as part of an elaborate plot to disgrace her family – remains familiar and predictable, with only minor variations due to casting choices: Dhawan Jr is too obviously cast as an attractive, cardio-trained leading man looking for easy laughs; his older sibling Dhawan Sr was too busy remembering how best to hit his supporting actors that Dhawan Sr couldn’t even direct anyone; while Khan seems helplessly trapped on balconies waiting while men below determine her character’s fate – making Coolie 2020 seeming so last century compared with what might have been.

Songbreaks with more character than jokes reveal this to be a much bigger film than its predecessor. Dhawan now has access to sunnier locations and more luxurious hotels; clearly designed to give us in the cheap seats a taste of high life – although as with its predecessor it leaves us wanting more than ever with its thin material that passes in one ear and out the other before disappearing in a blur of disjointed entertainment options; in 1995 this might have passed two hours mindlessly enough; by 2020 its streaming premiere may well leave it behind entirely and competition has been fierce against it in 2020 – perhaps becoming its own sort of reality showdown between itself and rivalries over who gets this distinction will likely outstripping both versions in popularity battle for viewers’ eyes when watching both versions are out there as competitors vied for this honorable distinction amongst them both.

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