To emit: Varun Dhawan, Sara Ali Khan, Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav, Javed Jaffery
director: David Dhawan
Classification: 1 star (out of 5)
Director David Dhawan and Producer Vashu Bhagnani, the men behind the original Pawn No 1, spare no effort to confirm our worst fear: the protagonist of Govinda-Karisma Kapoor 1995 was best left alone.
Twenty-five years have passed since the producer-director duo delivered one of the superhits that defined Govinda’s career as a comic hero. The star is not available to carry the weight of the remake on his shoulders nor is Kader Khan available to animate Rumi Jaffery’s script with his dialogue. However, his absence is not the only reason why this Pawn No 1 it is a pale shadow.
It definitely has more color and shine, but all of its shine is strictly superficial. The new version is more striking and noisy. Clearly, the hope is to cover up and drown out the sheer futility of exercise. But no matter what the director and his son, lead actor Varun Dhawan, try, this coolie is anything but number one. 2020 Pawn No 1, released on Amazon Prime Video, not a patch in 1995 Pawn No. 1.
This film is not an update (the script remains unchanged) but an excruciatingly childish replay that scrapes the bottom of the barrel and finds nothing to justify its existence.
Now that I think about it, in a year in which nothing has gone well for the world, Pawn No 1, had it been reworked with imagination and an acknowledgment of the times we live in, it might have been the harmless fun we needed to get our minds off the lows we’ve been through. Unfortunately, this is the lowest a movie can get (if you don’t consider Laxmii). It is not a good note to end the year.
Varun Dhawan, who slides into the role of Govinda without ever evoking memories of that inspired comic book star twist, is more loot than substance as he makes his way through Coolie No. 1. When Sara Ali Khan joins him in influencing in Main toh raste se jaa raha thha (the song starts with the line ‘Back to the 90s’ as if we need a reminder) and Goriya chura naa mera jiya, original musical pieces are never in danger of being erased from the Bollywood movie tradition.
Everything is updated in the new Pawn No. 1. The doorman now works at a Mumbai train station, not some nondescript bus terminal. The heroine’s father is not a Hoshiarchand from a village, but a bag of money, Jeffrey Rozario from Goa. Of course, he still has a lisping brother-in-law (Rajpal Yadav puts himself in Shakti Kapoor’s place).
And the coolie, who still claims to be an offshoot of the “king of Singapore” to make his way to the inner chambers of Rozario’s house, does not pose as a mere millionaire, but as a billionaire. He is in Goa to build a new port on behalf of his father’s company.
Varun Dhawan resorts to imitating many Bollywood stars – Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Nana Patekar, and even Dilip Kumar – as there is nothing new on offer.
When Raju Coolie’s ruse is about to fall apart, he embraces Mithun Chakraborty’s dialogue delivery style to distinguish the doorman from the young mogul married to heroine Sarah Rozario (Sara Ali Khan). But these tips from the hat to Bollywood of the last millennium are misguided because there is no clear context created for them in the script.
The hero is a proud bearer who always wears a neat, starched uniform. He is a straight and tough guy who hits a rude passenger when the latter humiliates an older doorman. But the poor man’s attempts to find a wife are unsuccessful because of his position in life.
Deepak (Sahil Vaid), Raju Coolie’s friend and mechanic, falls in love with Jeffrey Rozario’s other daughter, Anjali (Shikha Talsania) and, as the character did in 1995, exacerbates things for everyone involved. And like the original, the climax takes place in a hospital, but since we’ve seen it all before, the repetition of the gibberish doesn’t have the desired comic impact.
When Raju lands in Goa, Jeffrey Rozario, slimy as an eel, does his best to please Kunwar Raj Pratap Singh, unaware that this guy is part of a plan devised by matchmaker Jaikishan (Javed Jaffrey) to reduce him to his size. .
What is completely lost in this ill-advised regurgitation is the inspired insanity that made 1995 Pawn No 1 undoubtedly entertaining. Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan do not imitate Govinda and Karisma Kapoor. Parash Rawal, as father of the bride, also does not take a leaf from Kader Khan’s book. Yet the actors are unable to bring freshness to the rework because the script reeks of utter obsolescence.
Pawn No 1 It doesn’t take into account that the world has changed since the David Dhawan-Govinda combo hit hit after hit with his crazy capers. The formula that paid dividends so many years ago no longer does.
At one point in the film, Johnny Lever, playing Inspector Godbole (the role that Tiku Talsania rehearsed in the original but with a different name and personality), says: “Paagal principal ho jaaoonga (I’ll go crazy) “Exactly our point. Pawn No 1 is set to drive the audience crazy and certainly not in a good way.
The workload of dialogue writer Farhad Samji (who has a cameo when a plumber called to fix a leaky shower at a Goa resort, a pretext for the coolie posing as a wealthy businessman to meet the daughter from the owner) is immense. He goes into overdrive in an attempt to inject hilarity into the proceedings.
But the lines the characters say rely too much on puns and profanity (devices Kader Khan once used to great effect but have outlived their usefulness) to be fun. They don’t have the “heaven on the docks” and “out of the box” effect that Paresh Rawal’s character would have us believe.
We are at the end of the twenty-second year of the twenty-first century and we are still being subjected to a film that believes that shaming the body or making fun of a stuttering man (Rakesh Bedi, in a single scene, plays this character) is acceptable.
The performances are so rudimentary and in numbers that it would be useless to qualify them. There is something very wrong with a movie that wants to be a laugh riot, but does not have the wherewithal to capitalize on Javed Jaffery’s presence in the cast. He, like the rest, follows the movements, summarizing a comedy that would have been laughed at theaters if it had made it to the big screen.