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The miyan factor at the movies

Updated on: 17 April,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

A non-blockbuster Eid? Imagine how many remained starved of their movie entertainment

The miyan factor at the movies

Stills from the 1998 and 2024 Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, both of which were produced by Vashu Bhagnani

Mayank ShekharGuess why’s the movie Bade Miya Chote Miyan (2024) titled so? I’m guessing you haven’t seen the film. Apparently, there are three TV channels in Afghanistan that play Hindi movies, which is all that everybody watches in the whole country.

Two daredevils (Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff) are being sent on a mission to rescue Indians held hostage in an Afghan hamlet, Shakotabad (some such that sounds like Pakistan’s Abbottabad).

This two-member mission must have a name. They swipe a screen to check which Bollywood picture is on, in Afghanistan. It’s David Dhawan’s Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (BMCM, 1998).

They pick that name for the mission, which is also the movie playing, with terrorists gathered around it, as the heroes hit the villains’ den!

Both BMCMs have been produced by Vashu Bhagnani. Which actually explains the common title, of course. Is there anything else common between the two films?

The old one starred Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, playing double roles of crooks, cops—laying out a comedy of errors, somewhat along the lines of Gulzar’s Angoor (1982), most recently screwed over by Rohit Shetty with a proper remake.

Bachchan, making a comeback of sorts, as a Casanova-like, eligible bachelor, was 56, when he made the old BMCM. Govinda was 34. 

Akshay Kumar is 56, and Tiger Shroff, 34, when they’ve made the new BMCM. These two heroes, as Indian Army commandoes, have a boss, played by Ronit Roy, 58. They call him “budhau” (geriatric)!

Budhau is happy with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan for the Afghan mission’s name. He anoints his two soldiers, Bade and Chote. That makes it BC, he suggests. This is meant to be funny. The old BMCM, though, was a full-on nautanki comedy, in the mould of ’90s Dhawan-Govinda combo. 

We still encounter online gossip about how the late-lateef Govinda would keep Bachchan waiting on the film’s sets. Which, I suppose, would’ve been in the newly opened, majestic Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad. Old BMCM was apparently the first Hindi movie to be shot there. 

The picture’s playing on my screen, as I write this. My brain switched off in the scene I checked last, where there’s confusion over identities of Bachchan and Govinda’ characters, around their heroines, Ramya Krishnan, Raveena Tandon.

To kill the confusion, or rather end the scene, Anupam Kher (heroes’ boss) looks straight at the audience/screen, says, “Iss situation mein gaane ki zaroorat hai (This situation demands a track)!” 

Everybody breaks into a song. Shortly after, Madhuri Dixit is in a song, though she’s not in the movie. Basically, the two heroes, as cops, visit Dixit on a film set. That song, Makhna, is for a film within this film, where Dhawan is the director. Wut?

I remember watching old BMCM on cheap seats, with schoolfriends, because that’s what we did. I watched the new BMCM, shelling over R1,500 a stub, having earned the right, therefore, to mull over it with greater concern! 

Essentially sitting through a series of climax-like set-pieces, stitched together by the usual, schmaltzy, chest-beating patriotism. 

I came away impressed by the sheer hustling skills of the director, Ali Abbas Zafar, who debuted with the unwatchable Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011), following it up with Gunday (2014), yet landing three giant-budget Salman Khan starrers, straight. Two of them (Sultan, Bharat), decent. One of them (Tiger Zinda Hai), terrible.

Lately, he’s had a release every year. His last film I speed-watched and yet couldn’t get myself to finish, is Jogi (2022), on Netflix—morose, mundane, monotonous recreation of Delhi’s 1984 anti-Sikh riots, as a thriller. The film exposes the role of the Congress establishment in the pogrom. 

This was Zafar’s first film after the third-rate series, Tandav (2019), that got all the unnecessary attention, because the BJP government in UP, sensing religious hurt, sent over cops to Mumbai to arrest those involved with the show. 

Silencing, hence, an entire OTT industry with extreme self-censorship since. Zafar’s last outing, the Shahid Kapoor actioner, Bloody Daddy (2023), went straight to OTT (Zee5).

Still, he lands the biggest release of 2024. I say this, because it falls on Eid. The old BMCM opened on Diwali. Between the two festivals, from a footfall/box-office POV, I reckon, Eid should be potentially bigger.

You’re looking at a vast population that, besides having gone through no food, water, during the day, has lived a life altogether defined by don’ts, if they’ve followed Ramzan’s rules to the T. Don’t: lie, slander, read/hear/think immoral thoughts, be greedy, rude, have sex… Don’t entertain yourself. 

Eid ends that with a roar of return to the movies that I first truly experienced with a relatively unknown pic called Janasheen (2003)—having to score its ticket from a scalper in the back-lanes of Mumbai’s New Excelsior cinema. 

Inside was a sea of men in skull caps, dressed in their Eid best, knocking themselves out, as Feroze Khan blurted some “al-vala-abracadabra’ to his son Fardeen, throughout.

You couldn’t hear the soundtrack in the hooting. There was probably a larger crowd outside Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow than at Mumbai’s cinemas on Eid, 2024. 

The boy before me, while I’m in line for the movie Maidaan, on Eid, asks, “Godzilla mein aur kaun hai? (Who else is there in Godzilla?).” “Monkey, beta,” ticket-seller tells him. He leaves, disappointed.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
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