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October 16, 1998


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A comedy of excesses

V S Srinivasan
A still from Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Click for bigger pic!

If Shakespeare knew David Dhawan would take birth one day, he might have champed his quill to bits and quoted the most famous lines in Hamlet rather than write his Comedy of Errors.

But David wasn't the first to do it, there were classics like Do Dooni Char starring Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen, and Gulzar's Angoor starring Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma. With predecessors like that, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan would have had a hard time anyway, so David decided not to try at all.

Two friends, Arjun Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) and Pyare Mohan (Govinda), are in the police force. Amitabh's sister Seema (Raveena) is in love with Pyare. Amitabh has no female companion and some pretty crude comments are often passed about his age.

Click for bigger pic!
Meanwhile, the villain Jorawar (Paresh Rawal) kills a cop who tries to pry into his private affairs -- that's smuggling of arms and diamonds. Rawal also appears terrified of the police, but the mood seems to come and go. For when it comes to snuffing one out, he has no problem doing it. Along with the cop, he also gets rid of an eyewitness, played by Divya Dutta in a blink-and-you-miss-her role.

But there's another eyewitness, Neha (Ramya Krishnan), friend of the girl you hardly saw. She comes up to Arjun, confusing him for Pyare, but that's all cleared up in a few song sequences or so. Darned useful, these songs; nice way to get rid of uncomfortable problems.

Anyway, the trouble begins when the villains begin hunting for Neha, just when she's cavorting around with Arjun. Just when the heroes are all ready to go up a notch over the villains, in pop two petty thieves whom even their mothers would confuse for Arjun and Pyare. They call themselves Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan. The plot's in knots.

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Arjun and Pyare are blamed for every crime the crooks commit and things aren't helped when Anupam Kher, the police commissioner, is also thrashed by the doubles.

As if things weren't convoluted enough, the actress Madhuri Dixit (yup, the real thing) seeks police protection, but the crook gets there first and proposes to Madhuri, shooting, incidentally, in a David Dhawan film. Which means you get a glimpse of the director too.

The Kohinoor diamond is brought to India around the same time for display -- we aren't told what the Queen of England thought of that -- and the crooks steal it. A watching camera ensures -- what else? -- that the heroic policemen are the ones to get it in the neck.

Meanwhile, Jorawar also captures Seema and takes her to his haunt. And that's about when the crooks have a change of heart...

The film that's supposed to establish Amitabh's supremacy fails miserably in the effort. For it is Govinda who steals the show.

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The lingo used by the crooks shifts from a dialect reminiscent of UP, then Bihar, to one redolent of Rajasthan. Satish Kaushik does a good job in a cameo as a dealer in Chor Bazar while Anupam Kher forgets the established idiosyncrasies of his character when it comes to the serious scenes.

Kader Khan also does a decent double role, doing both the owner and waiter of a hotel.

Amitabh seems better off trying to carry films on his own shoulders. For the same thing has happened as in Shakti, where Amitabh overshadowed Dilip Kumar; here, it was just Govinda doing the overshadowing.

The portion added to accommodate Madhuri doesn't seem much out of place, but could still have been avoided. A few catty comments thrown in about the lives of film stars are worth a laugh.

David Dhawan proves yet again that he is the king of contemporary comedy, but could have done with a better script by Rumi Jaffrey.

There are too many liberties taken in the film, but when has that ever come in the way of a hit?

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