When Iqbal gets separated from his mother and brother by a flood, he becomes a coolie at Mumbai railway station. He then fights for the coolies rights and faces challenges from a businessman... Read allWhen Iqbal gets separated from his mother and brother by a flood, he becomes a coolie at Mumbai railway station. He then fights for the coolies rights and faces challenges from a businessman.When Iqbal gets separated from his mother and brother by a flood, he becomes a coolie at Mumbai railway station. He then fights for the coolies rights and faces challenges from a businessman.
Most Bollywood films are fairly easy to follow, since the producers know what their audience wants, and time and time again recycle the same story elements (examples being "Mother India"  and "Deewar" , two very different films on the surface, but with almost identical story lines). Although Coolie contains many of the classic thematic elements of many Bollywood movies (absent fathers, a quest for revenge, the "little guy" standing up against a powerful villain), it also differs from the norm in many ways. The plot is much more complicated and difficult to follow than most Bollywood movies (there are about five story lines happening at once), but the action set pieces and musical numbers help distract from that minor problem.
Indeed it is the action scenes that are the major attractions of "Coolie". These have to be the most surreal, artfully constructed action scenes I've ever witnessed. In many other Bollywood films, the action is kind of slap-dash, with actors running around hitting each other randomly, while the camera doesn't seem to know what to shoot. Although of course in "Coolie" the action scenes are fast paced and energetic, the directors Manmohan Desai and Prayag Raj infuse smooth tracking shots, slow motion and freeze frames. This could threaten to turn the action scenes into cheesy John Woo style set pieces, where the action scenes look more like a karaoke video, but Desai and Raj wisely keep a sense of humour to the proceedings. Possibly the strangest and most striking action moment comes towards the end. At one point Amitabh Bachchan is thrown against a table. Suddenly, the frame freezes. A title appears on the screen: "Amitabh Bachchan was seriously injured during this shot". The freeze frame ends, and the scene continues as if nothing had happened! Apparently there really is something for everyone, action, music, and even news!
Unfortunately, it's impossible for me to explore the film as deeply as I would like to here, but I wouldn't want to finish before briefly discussing Amitabh Bachchan's star persona. I understand why he is a legend in India. He absolutely commands this film. From his introduction (a hawk lands on his arm, and the camera slowly pans to reveal his face), even those not familiar with him know they are in store for something special. Bachchan proves himself to be adept at not only fierce action, but comedy as well, as evidenced by a goofy but funny scene where his female captive tricks him into getting his legs stuck over his head. Now I'm not trying to say that Bachchan is God's gift to the art of acting, but he does what he does well, and there is no denying that, regardless of your usual cinematic tastes (I'm more partial to Ray, Ghatak, and Sen films myself), Coolie is superior entertainment.
- Aug 20, 2002