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40 years of Coolie

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Roshi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Waheeda Rehman, Shoma Anand, Nilu Phule, Suresh Oberoi, Kader Khan, Satyen Kappu, Om S...

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Roshi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Waheeda Rehman, Shoma Anand, Nilu Phule, Suresh Oberoi, Kader Khan, Satyen Kappu, Om Shivpuri

Coolie was released on 2nd December, 1983 and because of the hype surrounding the film due to Amitabh Bachchan’s near-fatal accident on the set it was a humongous task for the ticket goers to get tickets as most of the tickets were sold in advance. Thanks to a film connection three tickets were managed at Purna theatre Calcutta for the first day matinee show. The crowd was spilling outside the theatre and the black marketeers were having a field day selling tickets at exorbitant rates.

Once the censor certificate showed 20 reels (170 minutes long) there were seetis and clapping by the audience (we loved long films then).

The first 10 minutes into the film and Big B’s entry and ufffh the dialogue: “Bachpan se hai sar pe Allah ka haath aur Allah Rakha hai apne saath, Baazu pe hai 786 ka billa 20 number ka beedi peeta hoon kaam karta hoon Coolie ka aur naam hai Iqbal, jiske sar par haath pade bache na uske sar par ek bhi baal” the audience went into raptures. 

But as the film progressed we saw how senseless the film is. Iqbal (Amitabh Bachchan) along with his pet hawk Allah Rakha did no Coolie-giri (barring the title song sequence) in the film and his only mission in life was to hunt for his lost mother Salma (Waheeda Rehman) who was kidnapped by Zafar (Kader Khan) whose mission in life was to keep Salma with him. During this course, he had killed Julie’s (Rati Agnihotri) father John D’Costa (Amrish Puri in a special appearance with not a single dialogue to mouth) and framed Salma’s husband Aslam (Satyen Kappu) who ends up in jail.

Everyone was separated in the beginning too- Iqbal from his parents raised by his munhbhola Mama (Nilu Phule) who was separated from his wife (Ashalata) & son Sunny (who has a club tattoo and on his right foot and is played by Rishi Kapoor) who is separated from his childhood sweetheart Deepa Iyengar (Shoma Anand).

The villains Om Shivpuri and Suresh Oberoi do their part and get bashed up for their nasty efforts by who else but our towering hero. Rati was reduced to just arm candy though she will be remembered for the famous ‘omelette’ scene, Desai’s nod to Kaalia’s famous ‘anda phod’ scene which had featured Praveen Babi.

Finally, all’s well that ends well when the reunion takes place but not before some atrocious songs (sung by debutant Shabbir Kumar with music by Laxmikant Pyarelal) that became hits (Jawani ki rail, Lambuji Tinguji, Saari Duniya Ka bojh, Mubarak ho tumko aaj, Accident ho gaya, Mujhe peene ka shauq), some forced comedy (though loved Rishi Kapoor as a southern star in the song Lambuji Tinguji), lots of action (they froze the part where Amitabh gets hit accidentally by Puneet Issar who was making his debut) and finally when Amitabh is shot three times point blank by Kader Khan but survives (an afterthought by Manmohan Desai when Amitabh returned from his near fatal accident).

Incidentally, this was the time when Amitabh and Kishore Kumar were not on talking terms which explains why Shabbir Kumar stepped into KK’s shoes for this film.

The film credited as directed by Prayag Raj & Manmohan Desai is possibly the beginning of the end of Manmohan Desai’s career as a director as he started nosediving from this film. This super hit was followed by another atrocious last super hit film Mard in 1985. The master Hrishikesh Mukherjee was the editor of this film. 

Coolie is best remembered for Amitabh Bachchan’s accident and the prayers of millions of cine-goers and well-wishers that saved him from the jaws of death. 

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