Review: ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’ (2024), starring Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Manushi Chhillar, Alaya F, Sonakshi Sinha and Ronit Bose Roy

April 13, 2024

by Carla Hay

Akshay Kumar, Alaya F, Manushi Chhillar and Tiger Shroff in “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (2024)

Directed by Suraj Gianani

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, China, and Pakistan, the action film “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (a reboot of the 1998 film of the same name) features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some black people and white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two former Indian Armed Forces fighters and their allies are recruited by the Indian Amed Forces to defeat a mysterious terrorist. 

Culture Audience: “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and action movies that have nothing to offer but loudness and silly fight scenes.

Prithviraj Sukumaran in “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” is obnoxiously loud and mindless schlock that drags on for too long with terrible acting and idiotic scenes. There’s no suspense in this formulaic garbage about military agents fighting a terrorist. If you dare to watch this abomination, you might need to wear earplugs to protect the assault on your eardrums from the movie’s aggressively noisy and deafening score soundtrack.

Directed by Suraj Gianani, “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (which means “big master little master” in Hindi) was written by Gianani and Ali Abbas Zafar. “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” is a reboot of the 1998 film of the same name, with this reboot keeping a few of the story elements from the original film. This bloated 164-minute reboot movie has a ridiculously simple plot that could have been told in a movie with half the runtime. There’s a lot of time-wasting filler scenes that add nothing to the story. The cast members give mostly lousy performances.

In the beginning of “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan,” a military convoy on a northern Himalayan road gets hijacked in a shootout where a “powerful weapon” has been stolen. The movie then shows a scene in a Shanghai cafe, where Captain Misha (played by Manushi Chhillar) from the Indian Armed Forces meets an informant named Chang (played by Kinnar Boruah), who tells her that India has a new friend. Chang adds, “He’s not part of any organization. He desires to change the regime.” Chang then gets shot to death in the cafe, while Captain Misha escapes and returns to India.

It’s soon revealed that this so-called “friend” of India is a mysterious, mask-wearing terrorist named Eklavya (played by Prithviraj Sukumaran), who has been leading a group of other mask-wearing terrorists to wreak havoc in different places in India, China, and Pakistan. Why these three nations? Eklavya’s true identity and motives are later revealed in the movie. Eklavya likes to send taunting video messages before and after he commits acts of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Indian Armed Forces have recruited two former Indian Armed Forces soldiers to help defeat Eklavya. Akshay Kumar as Captain Firoz, also known as Freddy (played by Akshay Kumar), has a relationship like an older brother to Captain Rakesh, also known as Rocky (played by Tiger Shroff), who were both dishonorably discharged from the Indian Armed Forces for insubordination. Flashback scenes show that Freddy (the smooth-talking “big master”) and Rocky (the cocky “little master”) both got in trouble for a mission where they accomplished their goals, but they didn’t follow orders, and more people were killed than necessary. After being dismissed from the Indian Armed Forces, Freddy worked at an oil mine, while Rocky worked as a firefighter.

Now that Freddy and Rocky have returned to working for the Indian Armed Forces, they set their sights on capturing Eklavya, who seems to know these two wisecracking pals and has a personal grudge. Colonel Adil Shekhar Azad (played by Ronit Bose Roy) is the commanding officer for Freddy and Rocky. Also on the mission are Captain Misha, an information technology specialist named Dr. Parminder “Pam” Bawa (played by Alaya F) and Captain Priya Dixit (played by Sonakshi Sinha), who used to be Freddy’s lover.

“Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” is the worst type of action movie because it takes a potentially interesting plot twist in the story and just turns it into predictable mush. The movie’s dialogue is excruciatingly horrible—especially for Pam, who is supposed to be a technology whiz, but she is made to look like a shallow and immature ditz. Things that are supposed to be funny are cringeworthy. You know the rest: Gun shootouts, bomb explosions, stupid unrealistic stunts. The heroes might survive by the end of the story, but some of your brain cells won’t.

Yash Raj Films released “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on April 10, 2024.

Review: ‘Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life),’ starring Prithviraj Sukumaran

April 1, 2024

by Carla Hay

Prithviraj Sukumaran in “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” (Photo courtesy of Prithviraj Productions)

“Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)”

Directed by Blessy

Malayalam, Hindi and Arabic with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and in Saudi Arabia, from 1993 to 1995, the dramatic film “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with one black person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A working-class man travels from India to Saudia Arabia, with the promise of finding temporary work, but he is instead kidnapped and forced to be an enslaved goat herder.

Culture Audience: “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Prithviraj Sukumaran and well-acted survival dramas and don’t mind watching three-hour movies that could have told the same story in two hours or less.

A scene from “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” (Photo courtesy of Prithviraj Productions)

“Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)”—an intense drama about an enslaved goat herder trapped in the Saudi Arabian desert—shows a lot of cruelty, desperation and hope. However, at nearly three hours, the movie is too long in telling this survival story. Some crucial details are missing, but the cinematography is stunning, and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s acting is above-average. Watching this movie is an endurance test that mostly succeeds in its intentions to be an inspirational story of human resilience.

Written and directed by Blessy, “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” is based on Benyamin’s 2008 novel “Aadujeevitham,” which is inspired by the real-life story of Najeeb Muhammad, an Indian man who was enslaved in Saudia Arabia for three years as a goat herder. It’s the same story presented in the movie, but with some exaggerations for dramatic purposes. For example, there’s a massive sandstorm scene that requires a suspension of disbelief when it’s shown that the survivors who were caught in the thick of the sandstorm ended up having no serious injuries.

“Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” is told in non-chronological order, from 1993 to 1995. There are several flashbacks showing Najeeb (played by Sukumaran) remembering how happy his life was before he was kidnapped and enslaved. These memories help preserve his sanity and give him the motivation to escape any way that he can so that he can get back to his home in Kerala, India. Because the outcome of this story is so well-known, there’s not much suspense over whether or not Najeeb will survive. People familiar or unfamiliar with the story might still be curious to see how Najeeb makes it through his brutal ordeal in the movie.

A series of flashbacks and present-day scenes in “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” show that before he was kidnapped and enslaved, Najeeb (who is in his late 30s) was living a lower-income but mostly contented personal life. He and his pregnant wife Sainu (played by Amala Paul) were living in the same household as Najeeb’s mother Ummah (played by Shobha Mohan), in peaceful and loving harmony. Sainu was far-enough along in her pregnancy for Sainu and her family to know that the unborn child is a boy.

A flashback shows that Najeeb’s personal life is going well, but he is struggling to find work. An acquaintance tells Najeeb that Najeeb that a laborer job in Saudi Arabia is recruiting Indians, who have to pay their own way to relocate to Saudi Arabia. (In real life, Muhammad was enticed to go to Saudia Arabia with the promise of being a salesperson at a grocery store.) Najeeb is initially skeptical because he doesn’t speak Arabic and he has only a fifth-grade education, which could affect his eligibility to get a work visa.

However, Najeeb is trusting and desperate for the salary that is supposedly being offered, so he takes out a mortgage on house to get the money to travel to Saudia Arabia. He plans to stay in Saudi Arabia only long enough to earn the money he needs and then return to India. His wife and mother are concerned about this risk, but they ultimately don’t ask a lot of questions, and they support Najeeb’s decision. A young man named Hakim (played by K. R. Gokul), who lives in the same area as Najeeb, travels with Najeeb for this same job opportunity.

What begins as an optimistic trip turns into a nightmarish trap. At the airport in Saudi Arabia, Najeeb and Hakim are approached by a man named Kafeel (played by Talib Al Balushi, also known as Talib), who says that he is their new employer. Najeeb and Hakim are ordered into the back of truck driven by Kafeel, who refuses to tell them where they are going and won’t let Najeeb and Hakim call their families. Najeeb and Hakim are assaulted and then separated from each other.

Najeeb soon finds out that Kafeel has kidnapped him and is forcing Najeeb to work as an unpaid goat herder in horrible conditions in the Saudi Arabian desert. Najeeb is frequently physically assaulted and starved during his enslavement. Najeeb is always being watched by Kafeel or one of Kafeel’s underlings, including Kafeel Jr. (played by Rik Aby), but Najeeb tries to escape a few times anyway. Najeeb is severely beaten when he is caught.

Most of “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” shows Najeeb’s suffering. And many times, it becomes very repetitive. There is no voiceover narration that tells viewers what Najeeb’s inner thoughts are throughout the movie. It’s the correct creative decision for this film. By not hearing his inner thoughts, the movie puts an emphasis on the loneliness and isolation that Najeeb feels. This absence of inner-thought narration also leaves it open for viewers to speculate what Najeeb might be thinking.

However, because there isn’t much talking in the film, it leads to monotonous stretches where there are too many scenes of Najeeb trudging pathetically through the desert with not much happening to further the story along. Thanks to the impressive cinematography of Sunil K.S. and the emotion-stirring musical score of A.R. Rahman (the Oscar-winning composer of 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire”), these filler scenes can maintain enough viewer interest, depending on how alert a viewer is when watching the movie. Some of the scenes are quite boring and can induce drowsiness.

Najeeb is compassionate to the goats he has to herd. And he gets somewhat emotionally attached to them as their caretaker. But he also knows that his freedom and going back home are his biggest concerns. Najeeb often feels helpless and trapped, because there is no one nearby who can help him. Najeeb’s family also doesn’t know where he is, since Kafeel has made sure that Najeeb does not have access to any outside communication.

A well-known part of this story (which isn’t spoiler information) is that after about two years in captivity, Najeeb gets a chance to escape when Kafeel leaves Najeeb alone and unsupervised because Kafeel will be out of the area for a few days to attend the wedding of Kafeel’s daughter. Najeeb is not only left alone, but he’s also left alone without being locked up anywhere. Considering how much Najeeb was under strict supervision and how Najeeb tried to escape before, it’s a lucky turn of events that would be hard to believe if it didn’t happen in real life.

However, “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” bungles this suspenseful part of the movie by showing Najeeb leaving in a way that doesn’t look very believable. He takes time to say goodbye to the nearby goats, but he doesn’t think about taking any of the goats with him in case he needs food or liquids. In fact, all he does before he leaves is bathe himself with some water, change his clothes, and say goodbye to the goats. He’s not shown taking any food or water with him.

Considering that Najeeb has had plenty of time to think about what he would do if he had a chance to escape, the way it’s depicted in the movie looks fabricated for drama, just so Najeeb’s escape will be harder than it needed to be. During this part of the movie, Najeeb gets help from an African immigrant named Ibrahim Khadiri (played by Jimmy Jean-Louis), who experiences starvation and dehydration with Najeeb. The movie makes it look like Najeeb and Ibrahim did not have any liquids for at least four days and not only survived but were also able to still walk through the desert in blistering heat.

There’s a huge gap in logic, because anyone with basic knowledge of human biology knows that people can survive for several days without food but not without liquids. “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” is not the movie to watch to get realistic information about how to survive in a desert for weeks with little to no food and water. At least the movie’s makeup and hairstyling are much more convincing in showing Najeeb’s physical transformation the longer he spends time trapped in the desert.

The ending of the film is somewhat abrupt and doesn’t quite have the payoff that many viewers might expect. And there’s almost nothing meaningful shown about the lives of people whom Najeeb meets in Saudi Arabia. Despite these very noticeable flaws in the movie, Sukumaran gives an emotionally credible performance that will keep viewers riveted for most of the story.

Most of the movie’s visual effects serve the story capably, but some of the visual effects are obviously fake. Although there’s a disclaimer saying that no humans or animals were harmed during the making of the movie, sensitive viewers should be warned that the movie has scenes of abuse and pain that might be too intense for some people to watch. At the very least, “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” could result in more viewers reading the book on which the movie is based to get more of the story that might not be in the film.

Prithviraj Productions released “Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life)” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on March 28, 2024.

Review: ‘Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire,’ starring Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran

January 5, 2024

by Carla Hay

Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran in “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” (Photo courtesy of Hombale Films)

“Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire”

Directed by Prashanth Neel

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place from the 1127 to 2010, in India, in the United States, and in the fictional kingdom of Khansaar, the action film “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” features an Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two best friends, who were separated in childhood because of the social-class conflicts instigated by the father of one of the friends, reunite as adults in an international battle over Khansaar that has been raging for centuries.

Culture Audience: “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” will appeal primarily to people who are fans the movie’s headliners and action movies about power struggles and tribal feuds.

Shruti Haasan in “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” (Photo courtesy of Hombale Films)

Two best friends since childhood have their friendship tested, are estranged for a period of time, and eventually join forces in an international conflict over the control of a South Asian nation. It sounds a lot like 2022’s blockbuster hit “RRR,” but it’s not. “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” is not as fun to watch as “RRR,” but it’s got plenty of action and intrigue in this saga about two best friends caught up in personal and political power struggles. The plot gets convoluted, but the movie is packed with thrills.

Written and directed by Prashanth Neel, the story in “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” takes place over several centuries, beginning in the year 1127. Most of the action happens in the 20th century and 21st century in India, in the adjacent fictional kingdom Khansaar, and briefly in the United States. There’s a lot of jumping around in the timeline because of flashbacks.

The movie’s opening scene takes place in the year 1985, when best friends Devaratha “Deva” Shouryanga Raisaar (played by Videsh Anand) and Vardharaja “Vardha” Raja Mannar (played by Karthikeya Dev), who are both 10 years old, are living in Khansaar. Vardha’s cruel father Raja Mannar (played by Jagapathi Babu) is the leader of Khansaar and came to power by killing the previous king massacring an entire tribe of people.

Vardha has an older stepbrother named Rudra Raja Mannar (played by Harsh Roshan), from Raja’s previous marriage, who is in possession on a nose ring that can only be worn by rightful heirs to the Khansaar. Rudra tells Deva that in order for Vardha to get the nose ring, Deva must fight an adult man in a boxing ring. It’s set up to be an unfair fight, but Deva wins through some clever strategic moves, although he is badly wounded in the fight.

Rudra reluctantly gives Vardha the nose ring, but Deva and his parents are punished by being banished from Khansaar by Raja. The two friends are separated for years, but Deva vows to stay loyal to Vardha. They don’t see each other again until 2010, when they are both about 35 years old. Their reunion is not spoiler information, since it’s shown in the trailers for “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire.”

The adult Deva, who is nicknamed Salaar (played by Prabhas) has become a fearless mercenary. The adult Vardha (played by Prithviraj Sukumaran) is a power struggle with Rudra (played as an adult by Ramachandra Raju) and older step-sister Radha Rama Mannar (played by Sriya Reddy). There’s also a subplot with a wealthy heiress named Aadhya Krishnakanth (played by Shruti Haasan), who escapes an attempted kidnapping by hiding out as a teacher at the middle school where Deva’s wdowed mother (playing by Easwari Rao) is the principal. Guess who’s going to be Deva’s love interest?

“Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” doesn’t do anything surprising, and the acting performances are adequate. Where the movie stands out the most are in the action sequences, which are typically bonbastic and over-the-top, but are filmed in a way that is more artistic than the typical action film. There’s a very memorable sequence with Deva and machetes that is one of the more innovative aspects of the film. Viewers who can tolerate all bloody violence and the jumbled machinations involving several tribes and armies will find “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” an entertaining action film.

Hombale Films released “Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire” in U.S. cinemas and in India on December 22, 2023.

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