The men in white continue to thrill

The men in white continue to thrill

The men in white continue to thrill
The ‘Men in White’, as the brothers are affectionately called by the industry, are back in business, living up to their credo of thrilling audiences. Long ago, the brothers Abbas-Mustan (surname Burmawalla) had promised that every movie of theirs would thrill and have twists, irrespective of genre. They have done that successfully with a romantic family-drama (Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, 2001), a kid-friendly, supernatural drama (Taarzan — The Wonder Car, 2004), and a comedy (Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon, 2015).

Across 19 films now, in an innings that began in 1988 with Agneekaal, they have persistently set their own bar, come super-hit (Baazigar, Race 2), hit (Khiladi, Soldier, Humraaz, Race) or successes (Ajnabee, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Aitraaz, 36 China Town, Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon), or even flops, among which Baadshah and Taarzan now enjoy cult status on television.

Affability and a grounded nature are their middle names, and, but for the common thrill quotient, no one can say that they are not versatile. Machine, an enigmatic title, and a film that introduces Mustafa, Abbas’s son, as the leading man, has released, and is their 20th outing.

About casting within the family, Mustan clarifies, “When we write a script, we never ever think of the casting. If we think of actors at that stage, the script will not develop properly. When the script of Machine was ready, we knew we could not cast a known face. Our nephew, who is our brother and film editor Hussein’s son, asked us whether we had considered Mustafa!”

Mustafa, as a team member of the direction department, had assisted on Players, Race 2 and Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon, and would do script readings for the cast. “In such sessions, there cannot be a flat narration and he had to speak everyone’s lines, including that of the heroine. We arranged such a narration specially for that and looked at Mustafa from that perspective, and then signed him up!” adds the proud father. “And he dedicatedly honed his acting and personality skills by deciding to spend six months at the National School of Drama in Delhi, under the famous N K Sharma.”

Not often discussed about the duo is their predilection for new faces — their discoveries include Shilpa Shetty (Baazigar), Arbaaz Khan (Daraar), Bipasha Basu (Ajnabee) and Kapil Sharma as a hero (Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon), besides giving breakthroughs and the career-first hits to Akshay Kumar (Khiladi), Kajol (Baazigar), Preity Zinta (Soldier), and also negative turns to many prominent lead actors including Priyanka Chopra (Aitraaz). What have they to say about this?

“We are just the tools,” Mustan says humbly. “It is an actor’s passion, dedication and hard work — and his next decisions — that determine his or her success. We offered Arbaaz a meaty comic role with Kapil, though we had introduced him as a dangerous psychopath in Daraar, because we knew that as a person he had this strong streak of humour. He told us, ‘If you even give me a scene of standing in a corner, I will do it for you!’ Kapil too surrendered to us with blind faith.”

From a small political thriller Agneekaal, starring Jeetendra, Raj Babbar and Madhavi, to Khiladi in 1992 until today, how have they managed to stay commercially relevant? “It’s all by the grace of god,” replies Abbas with a smile. “I think that if you give cent per cent to work with passion and keep yourself updated, through social media or otherwise, with what audiences want, there is no reason why your work will not connect.”

What is their explanation of their films Baadshah and Taarzan not clicking initially but later getting cult popularity on television? “Some films may be ahead of their time,” says Mustan. “Or some may belie expectations — like we think the audience wanted a bigger thriller than Baazigar from the Shah Rukh Khan-Abbas-Mustan combination, and felt let down when they found a comic thriller. Then later, when people watch a film on TV, they have no expectations and find that a film is actually good!”

How do they explain their successful obsession with twists in their tales? Smiles Abbas, “When the audience invests two hours in a movie hall, they want to be surprised about what to expect next. If a film script runs from A to Z, all we do is start with M, N and O, and within the same alphabets come up with different permutations of the letters!”

After Race, are there any other films for which they would like to make sequels? Says Abbas, “We would love to make a Humraaz 2 — it is one of our favourite movies. And producers are ever-ready for a sequel to Taarzan. But right now, we are working on two unusual subjects, including an issue-based rustic thriller and a big cast film.” Finally, what’s with their obsession with white clothes? Twinkles Mustan, “Oh, white as a colour suits every occasion. And there is no tension about choosing which colour clothes we should wear daily!”

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