Tennyson wrote ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’. What he did not mention is that some men think that it is eternally spring and that they are eternally young. And, of course, they have their own interpretation of what ‘love’ means. The title BaDe Miyan Deewane which means "old chap’s gone crazy" harks back to a popular song from the movie Shagird.
Meer Sahib is one of those ‘young men’, an octogenarian with a leg or two in his grave. He has been limping along in the journey of life with his body firmly supported by a couple of tawaifs Gulab and Heera. And suddenly, he takes a fancy to his neighbour’s young daughter Suraiya. He thinks it is time to move from the tawaif to a wife. The tawaifs are, of course, flabbergasted at losing a steady source of income. Having invested their past on Meer Sahib, they want a share in his future. Though mutual rivals, they decide to form a partnership in an attempt to thwart him from marrying Suraiya.
Suraiya’s father Sheikh Inayathulla is rightly indignant when he approaches Meer for assistance in looking for a suitable groom for her, and finds old Meer proposing his own name. Sheikh and his wife discuss this horrifying proposal with a choice selection of words and decide to teach the old man a fitting lesson.
Running around as a general messenger is a common friend, Shaukat, a writer often seen at the local chai shop. The Sheikhs see a prospective groom in him and decide to tell him that he would be suitable match for their daughter when he next drops in. The conversation between the Sheikhs and Shaukat is overhead by Suraiya, who has secretly progressed quite far on the path of deedar, guftagu and mohabbat with Tabish, a lawyer.
On hearing that the candidature of Shaukat is being broached, Tabish proposes that they elope, but Suraiya demurs for the time being. Tabish suspects Shaukat is trying to double cross him, by pressing his own suit instead of Tabish’s. Shaukat seems to be well- intentioned and trying to set things on their right course, or is he …?
The light-hearted comedy reminded me of the Muslim social movies like Mere Mehboob, Mere Huzoor, etc. made in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Lots of Hai Allah, Khairiat, and Shabba Khair are thrown in to good effect. The ‘hero’ of the play, Meer Saheb, played by Imran Rasheed, with his rather exaggerated and excessive shaking reminded me of Rajendra Kumar in Arzoo, when he woos Sadhana dressed as a doddering Hakim Saheb. The characters speak neither pure Urdu nor Hindi, but the highly popular hybrid of the two, which goes by the name of Hindustani. Shaukat has some classic lines and one that lingers in the mind is “Dekho miyan, ham murde soongh kar bata dete hai ke kis gham mein mara hai” (Look friend, we can smell a corpse’s scent and tell what sadness killed him) just like the classic lines Raaj Kumar used to deliver in his movies.
Amongst the supporting characters, a mention must be made of Tille Khan and the chaiwala. Tille Khan is Meer Saheb’s manservant, every ready to fetch his hookah, shotgun or tawaifs.
Live music played on the harmonium and percussion accompanies a song Ishq Ishq, snatches of which get repeated a few times as a sort of leitmotif. A mujra presented by the tawaifs is quite pleasant.
In all, another enjoyable play from Rangbaaz of Mumbai, directed by Imran Rasheed. Some members of the cast were the same as in their other play Jungle Book. Some props too looked familiar. The chai shop reminded me of the topical chai pe charcha, while the opium tea on the menu added to the realism.
A promotional video of the play: