Coolie No. 1, (Movie 2020), Amazon Prime

Shakespeare had remarked pretty aptly – “It takes a wise father to know his own child.” But “Putra-Moh”, (पुत्रमोह) – blind love for first born male child, is for real. In India, two Hindu epics, (Ramayana and Mahabharat) are based on this.

The common thinking is that, David Dhawan, the father, has money to waste on his son. But David Dhawan may not be using his own money to finance his son’s venture. It seems, David Dhawan enjoys tremendous goodwill among the film fraternity. Despite his other movie failures in recent years, he could raise money to remake two yesteryear’s blockbuster hits starring his son.

In 2017 he made “Judwaa 2”, a remake of a 1997 Salman Khan double role starrer, “Judwaa.” The movie was a crap. Varun Dhawan couldn’t match the star power of Salman Khan. Yet movie earned good money thanks to Theatres. Next, film director David Dhawan upped the ante and remade “Coolie No. 1” which pitched his son against super hit “Coolie No. 1” (1995) and against Govinda, who not only has star power but is an exceptionally good actor. Sadly, theatres are closed. On OTT this movie will tank.

What is the father trying to achieve for his son?

There are many song programmes on TV where participants sing songs sung by well known yesteryear’s movie playback singers hoping they would click too and someone will pick them up for the real thing. There are even dance shows on the same theme where participants dance to old songs also emulating old dancing stars. Again, these are all done to reach for the real thing.

Why is David Dhawan, a successful film director, not giving his son, Varun Dhawan, the real thing? Why is he making video portfolios for his son? Is it intended for other casting directors?

It’s not the first time that David Dhawan is making remakes. He has done this with other stars with lukewarm success. What makes his remakes with his son significantly different is that, sadly, his son Varun Dhawan is not a star material and is a so-so actor. This fact should be obvious to the director who has worked with megastars and exceptional actors in his long career.

Does David Dhawan think that by repeated exposures to remakes of blockbuster movies, his son will come out tops? Is he challenging his son with difficulties which will hone his skills and stardom?

Yes, there are people like Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan who in their initial attempts into movies were washouts. Nevertheless they ploughed on and few failures later emerged as megastars. Will Varun Dhawan be such a find? Can we see the promise now? Will Varun Dhawan surprise us with the remake of “Biwi No.1” (1999) ?

With the coming of several streaming apps – Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, Jio,..- it’s pretty obvious that movie business has changed. And COVID has precipitated changes. It remains to be seen how theater going public react post Covid.

Because, movies like “Coolie No. 1” (2020) if released in theatres will get some opening revenue because of “Captive Audience Model”. At release of new movies, the distributors book all screens all day for days. They only spare one screen per theatres for regional movies. The theatre going public is presented with only one movie option which they have to take at least to enjoy flirting their girls and air conditioning.

Contrast this with streaming apps on smart phones and TV. Here Coolie 1995 resides alongside Coolie 2020 and Judwaa 1997 alongside Judwaa 2017. Also there are many other choices. The competition for attention is immense. Unlike theatres where one pays to watch one show, on the apps, one pays and gets access to watch many.

So, here is a catch. David Dhawan’s many movies are floating on several streaming platforms. These movies are earning OTT lots of revenue. OTT – ‘over the top’ business model works on buying the airing rights of a movie plus more. (Click links) Which means, even though many viewers would have switched over to watch something else within few minutes of “Coolie no. 1” (2020), David Dhawan may still have recovered his cost.

Movie making is a laborious process. And makers do get exhausted. Attentions flag, judgements dim. David Dhawan has had a long and illustrious career. He doesn’t need to make such waste. But it seems that no one else is signing on Varun Dhawan. This implies that he doesn’t have it in him. And this may be a bitter pill to swallow for the father who in his fits of ego is dusting out his old hits, removing old stars, and trying to fit his son into that notch. But the son doesn’t fit but caves in.

Why not go for the real thing!

Coolie No.1 (1995) is on Hotstar and JioCinema. Judwaa (1997) is on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Both are wholesome entertainers.