Subscription Subscription
Home > News > Opinion News > Article > Mixed doubles

Mixed doubles

Updated on: 14 April,2024 05:37 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Paromita Vohra |

There is no confusion of seeing your own face reflected in the enemy’s face if he is masked. Self and others are poles, not a tangle

Mixed doubles

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraWhen the posters for Bade Miya Chhote Miyan came out, I was puzzled. It recalled David Dhawan’s 1998 film of the same name, but looked so different. All too meta, since David Dhawan’s film was a comedy of errors about lookalikes—Amitabh and Govinda (in a pair of double roles) play two ramshackle cops muddled and befuddled by two crafty crooks who are their dopplegangers. The 2024 version starring Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff, is an action-comedy-ish film sans look-alikes where two different people declare one identity—“hum hain Hindustan” and the villain is masked or faceless.

When I discussed this with a friend, he told me, “One Gen Alpha (bole toh born after 2010) said the 2024 film is a version of SWAT Cats (a cartoon about cat-soldiers).” We both laughed, but uncertainly. Popular culture is a round robin of myths and metaphors, interpretations and parallels, a hall of mirrors where we see our times reflected back at us in different ways. 

When David Dhawan ‘s film was made, the title of a film still appeared with fanfare in the script of three languages: English, Hindi and Urdu. A world where the audience was imagined as plural, and doubles and look-alikes were popular tropes of Bombay cinema. Identity could be a source of tragedy —the look-alikes infused with the psychic meaning of social and historical violence, like Partition. In comedies, identity could be a source of irony and amusement. Someone could look/seem just like you, and be completely different. In Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan (1998), the cops could be robbers or vice versa. In the end, in fact, the robbers are made police officers, and the “original” cops are demoted to traffic police. Gender is mixed up. Virtue may not always be rewarded, or even right. No meaning, identity or relationship is very absolute. Where chor and police are mixed up, the citizen is not completely identified with the nation, but has many ongoing versions of their identity. Doubt and ambiguity create a kind of anarchy, but also freedom. 

David Dhawan himself was named Rajinder by his family, but David by Christian neighbours in Tripura. David is the name he goes by, though it may or may not be the name on his Aadhar card. To exist as many selves without contradiction—to be our own doubles in a sense—was possible, in this emotional metaverse and that cultural context. 

The 2024 Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan, replaces the bumbling cops—janta ke rakhwale—with “elite” soldiers—desh ke rakhwale, who are unified by one identity—“hum hain Hindustan”. There is no confusion of seeing your own face reflected in the enemy’s face if he is masked. Self and others are poles, not a tangle.

Perhaps that’s quite suited to a time where identity is constantly made literal. We are our Aadhar card numbers and our social media utterances. Both are used as verifications of identity—and both can also be used to impersonate identities.  Hence, Kangana Ranaut can utilize the look-alike of a fact to perform an act of strategic self-delusion—convincing you that she is convinced that Subhash Chandra Bose was India’s first prime minister. And you may respond literally with virtuous despair at her stupidity—both sides in a loop of verifying left and right identities. When lookalikes cannot catch their reflection in each other, where’s the room for reasonable self-doubt?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK