Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (2024)

Rating: B

Di: Ali Abbas Zafar
Star: Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Manushi Chhillar

One of the most expensive Indian movies of all time, though at under $50 million, that’s relative.In a world where mediocre Hollywood projects like Godzilla x Kong has a $135 budget, this seems positively cheap. To my surprise, this flopped dismally at the box-office there, taking in barely a quarter of its costs. It’s a shame, because I found it a real hoot: ludicrous, excessive and without a single thought of note in its pretty little head. In other words, pretty much everything I want from a Bollywood movie. At a not untypical length of 164 minutes, it feels like it would be a test of stamina, but I barely noticed. Certainly less than GxK, which is fifty minutes shorter.

The plot is your typical nonsense, not dissimilar to a GI Joe film – a name specifically referenced more than once. Save the world (or, at least, India) from a megalomaniacal masked madman, who really needs to clear his throat. Here, said villain (Sukumaran) wants to dismantle the ‘Iron Dome’  protecting the nation from missile attacks, which would allow a joint invasion by China and India. To this end, he steals the “human hard-drive” who has the project’s code embedded in her head. The authorities bring back Firoz (Kumar) and Rakesh (Shroff), soldiers who were dishonourably discharged for persistent failure to obey orders. They need to stop the bad guy, while exchanging the contractually obligated banter and, in Firoz’s case, perform a pretty convincing Freddy Mercury impersonation. Which helps explain why this sometimes feels gayer than a Village People reunion.

The title, taken from a 1998 Indian film to which there’s otherwise little relation, translates as “Big Master, Little Master”, and likely describes the tone here better than I could. It’s largely predictable: when Firoz declines the offer to go on the mission, I immediately knew he would show up to rescue Rakesh at some moment of peril. Similarly, it’s no surprise when the villain turns out to have a personal grudge against the pair, with a major plot-thread heavily inspired by Universal Soldier. The requisite glamour is provided by competent agent Misha (Chhillar), and ditzy British geek girl Pam (Alaya F, in a rather endearing performance).

For a good chunk of this takes place in London, in particular a heist from a vault below Waterloo. It’s the action like this where the film shines, delivering all the bombast and giant fireballs you can eat, with a large portion of leftovers for your Tupperware. Despite occasions when the green-screen work is a little obvious, a lot of it feels refreshingly practical, in a Fury Road sort of way. The imagination on view is certainly impressive, with motorcycles becoming guided missiles aimed at helicopters, and an escalating sense of momentum toward the final battle, with foreign armies on both sides ready to rush in, the moment India’s defenses are down. It would all likely collapse like a house of cards if given a moment’s serious thought. So, don’t: just enjoy it.