Abbas–Mustan – The real masters of suspense thrillers in Bollywood

Famed film directors Abbas Burmawalla and Mustan Burmawalla, best known as Abbas–Mustan are known to be the best filmmakers of suspense thriller genre in new generation Bollywood. They are real life brothers. Since early 1990s they have directed many hit suspense thrillers of Bollywood, which played magnificent roles in establishing the careers of Bollywood superstars – Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar. They have also given hit films to the careers of Bobby Deol, Akshay Khanna, Saif Ali Khan etc. Their second and third releases – Baazigar and Khiladi are regarded as landmark movies of Bollywood. Other blockbuster hits include Soldier, Race, Race 2, Aitraaz and Humraaz. They are known for making some of the stylish ‘retro style’ films of Bollywood, and have rarely attempted rural themes. With their trademark ‘sudden twists’ in the film script, the directors have woven some of the best thrillers of Bollywood in the past three decades. 

Abbas Burmawalla in the left and his younger brother Mustan Burmawalla in the right

Burmawalla brothers – Abbas Burmawalla and Mustan Burmawalla are of Gujarat origin. Abbas is four years older than Mustan. They started off with Gujarati films and also worked under directors of Punjabi and Rajasthani. They ghost direct a few films which became hits and later directed one Gujarati film, where they were credited. They marked Bollywood debut with less-known film, Agneekaal in 1990. Very soon they switched to suspense thrillers and Khiladi in 1992 was the first film belonging to this genre. Inspired from Khel Khel Mein of 1970s, the film was a major hit, and also earned Akshay Kumar the name, Khiladi.

It was followed by Baazigar in 1993, which established the careers of both the directors and the lead actors. It was followed by three more suspense thrillers in the 1990s, before the directors briefly shifted to romantic dramas through Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which fared average at box office. After that the duo did only thrillers, the only exception being Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon in 2015 which was a box office hit. Some of the flop films of their career include – Players, Naquab, 36 China Town, Taarzan: The Wonder Car etc. They have launched their own production house called Burmawalla Partners.

Abbas–Mustan – Some interesting and less-known facts

mehfil mein baar baar

‘Mehfil Mein Baar’ from Soldier – A duet of Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik. The duo frequently worked in the directors’ movies

1. Their grandfather was born in Burma, where he ran a furniture business. Later he migrated to India. His father later ran a furniture hiring business in Colaba.

2. Their paternal uncle cheated their father in business, which brought financial troubles to the family. Abbas left studies at class 9 and Mustan studied till college. The duo had to work then, to financially support the family.

3. When they directed the first Gujarati film in 1985, their parents were not alive.

4. Abbas is married while Mustan is a bachelor. Mustan though fell in love several times, stayed away from marriage, as he doesn’t want to stay away from his brother, as requested by girls’ parents.

5. The brothers lived in a chawl for many years and shifted to a larger apartment in Lokhandwala a few years after Baazigar happened. Mustan slept in a small room arranged in the balcony facing road, while Abbas stayed with his family in a big hall of their apartment.

6. Soon after SRK and Anu Malik received their first Filmfare awards for Baazigar, instead of going home they visited the directors at chawl and got very much surprised to see them living in a one-room hall with balcony. It was an early morning and SRK greeted more than 2000 people assembled there, from the balcony. He has just turned a star with Baazigar’s release and people gathered there to see him, after they saw his car parked below.

7. Their maternal uncle was a film editor, and as kids they used to spend holidays in their uncle’s studio. It was their uncle who suggested them to do editing before moving to direction.

8. Sajan Tara Sambharna (1985) was the directorial debut of Burmawalla brothers. They accepted the film after Govindbhai Patel, under whom they worked as assistants, rejected to do the film. The film was a hit.

9. They were movie buffs since young, and used their pocket money mostly to watch films.

10. Till 2017 they directed 17 Bollywood movies, of which first 16 were inspired from Hollywood and other language films. Machine released in 2017 is inspired from his debut and masterpiece work – Baazigar.

11. Abbas’ son Mustafa Burmawalla marked his screen debut with Machine released in 2017.

12. The directors are credited to giving early hits to Shah Rukh Khan (Baazigar) and Akshay Kumar (Khiladi), which helped both to rise to the league of mainstream actor.

13. Khiladi was one of the early Bollywood films to have a franchise. Till now 7 ‘Khiladi’ movies starring Akshay Kumar have been released, and all were box office hits. Most interestingly Abbas–Mustan never became the part of these seven sequels. However the duo directed the sequel of hit film, Race which was a box office hit. Its second sequel starring Salman Khan, not directed by the duo was panned by critics and failed to meet expectations.

14. His iconic film – Baazigar was rejected by almost all lead actors before Shah Rukh Khan accepted it. In fact many cine actors advised Shah Rukh Khan not to accept the role, believing that anti-hero role might ruin his career. But SRK proved it wrong, and the film gave him a major breakthrough and he never struggled in the industry later.

15. Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty marked her film debut with Baazigar in 1993. Sridevi was supposed to play both female roles as its original version. But the directors felt that the audience will not be able to sympathize with the hero if he kills such an iconic actress though it’s a fact of fiction.

16. Apart from Shilpa Shetty in Baazigar, he launched Preity Zinda with Soldier (though Dil Se had early screen release same year) and Bipasha Basu in Ajnabi. Preity Zinda and Bipasha Basu were successful models then. He also launched Arbaaz Khan through Daraar.

17. Ayesha Jhulka with Khiladi, Shilpa Shetty and Kajol with Baazigar, Amisha Patel with Humraaz, Preity Zinda with Soldier, and Deepika Padukone in Race 2 – even after giving hits, they rarely casted their hit heroines for next projects, while they repeated male leads. Twinkle Khanna in Baadshah, Juhi Chawla in Daraar, Ayesha Takia in Taarzan: The Wonder Car, Urvashi Sharma in Naquab etc are a few more instances. A few rare exceptions are Preity Zinda for Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (not belonging to suspense thriller genre) after Soldier, Kareena Kapoor in Aitraz and 36 China Town after Ajnabee, Bipasha Basu in Race after Ajnabee and Ameesha Patel in a supporting role in Race 2.

18. In 2012 the director brothers commented that they haven’t spent a single day apart in 54 years. Interestingly they used the same cell phone, and live in the same residence. They have a habit to each other first every morning.

19. The directors mostly wear white costumes. Interestingly their films too have minimal night scenes.

20. They have been nominated in best director category at Filmfare awards twice for the movies – Soldier and Humraaz. Despite having many hit films to their credit, they have never received Filmfare awards.

21. Most of his film songs were huge chartbusters, and it included both romantic and fast tracks. His films like Baazigar won Filmfare award for best music, while Soldier and Race received nominations.  

22. During early years they frequently worked with Anu Malik in the 1990s, followed by Himesh Reshammiya since early 2000s and Pritam since 2007. Jatin-Lalit gave music to the hit tracks of Abbas-Mustan’s first hit – Khiladi. But they never worked together again.

23. Jain Brothers of Venus Records & Tapes frequently collaborated them for many projects, mostly action thrillers. After giving the duo the big break through Khiladi, Jain Brothers collaborated with the director duo for Baazigar, Badshah, Humraaz etc. Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh became a part of their projects. Needless to say, Baazigar and Khiladi which gave first big breaks to Bollywood superstars – Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar respectively were the first two collaborations of director brothers with Jain Brothers.

Most popular songs of Abbas–Mustan’s Bollywood films

baazigar title song

The title song of Baazigar

1. Wada Raha Sanam from Khiladi (1992)

2. Khud Ko Kya Samajhti Hai from Khiladi (1992)

3. Baazigar, O Baazigar from Baazigar (1993)

4. Chhupana Bhi Nahi Aata from Baazigar (1993)

5. Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein from Baazigar (1993)

6. Kitabein Bahut Se from Baazigar (1993)

7. Aye Mere Humsafar from Baazigar (1993)

8. Deewana Deewana from Daraar (1997)

9. Soldier Soldier from Soldier (1998)

10. Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye/ Meri Saanson Mein Samaye from Soldier (1998)

11. Tera Rang Balle Balle from Soldier (1998)

12. Mere Dil Jigar Se from Soldier (1998)

13. Mehfil Mein Baar Baar from Soldier (1998)

14. Hum To Dil Chahe from Soldier (1998)

15. Hum To Deewane Hue Yaar from Badshah (1999)

16. Woh Ladki Jo from Badshah (1999)

17. Mohabbat Ho Gayee Hai from Badshah (1999)

18. Chori Chori Chupke Chupke from Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001)

19. Mehbooba Mehbooba from Ajnabee (2001)

20. Meri Zindagi Mein Ajnabee from Ajnabee (2001)

21. Mohabbat Naam Hai from Ajnabee (2001)

22. Kaun Main Haan Tum from Ajnabee (2001)

23. Bardaasht Nahin Kar Sakta from Humraaz (2002)

24. Sanam Mere Humraaz from Humraaz (2002)

25. Tune Zindagi Mein from Humraaz (2002)

26. Gela Gela Gela from Aitraaz (2004)

27. Aankhen Bandh Karke from Aitraaz (2004)

28. Nazar Aa Raha Hai from Aitraaz (2004)

29. Aashiqui Meri from 36 China Town (2006)

30. Ek Din Teri Raahon Mein from Naqaab (2007)

31. Zara Zara Touch Me from Race (2008)

32. Pehli Nazar Mein from Race (2008)

33. Race Saansom Ki from Race (2008)

34. Lat Lag Gayee from Race 2 (2013)

35. Party On My Mind from Race 2 (2013)

36. Be Intehaan from Race 2 (2013)

37. Tu Cheez Badi Hai from Machine (2017)


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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