Cast: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Sana Fatima Shaikh
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
In one of the scenes meant to bring intensity to Thugs Of Hindostan, Amitabh Bachchan tells Aamir Khan, “Baat suna ke hi maaroge ya koi hathiyar bhi laaye ho (Have you brought weapons too or you’re planning to kill me by words?)” To this, Aamir simply smiles. Well, this is what happens in most of the film. The actors are so obsessed with their characters that they forget the audience is waiting for engaging content, a spectacle they haven’t ever seen before. However, all they get are characters with a penchant for smiling.
It all begins in Raunakpur, which literally means a place full of wealth and glitz, full marks for imagination. Local king Mirza’s (Ronit Roy) voice-over introduces us to English Captain Clive (Lloyd Owen) and his ruthless tactics. He is out there to conquer India in the garb of a merchant but soon finds himself face to face with Khudabaksh aka Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan), a local rebel. Azaad has an accomplice in super-archer Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the apparent heir to the throne.
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Because the East India Company can’t catch Azaad, they seek assistance from Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), a notorious thug who proudly mouths lines like, “Dhokha swabhav hai mera (To con is my nature).”
So far, so good.
But what happens after this is nothing short of watching an opera by jazz performers. Disguised as the story of a hoodlum who aims to impress everyone with his rustic charm, Thugs Of Hindostan is actually a collage of clichéd sunset shots and plot twists that every second person in the cinema hall can anticipate.
It’s understandable why Aamir Khan chose to do this film though. Firangi’s is a role that must have shown him glimpses of brilliance. And he sure is the best of the lot, bringing quite a lot to the table. He understands the graph, the ups and downs and the trajectory that might have given Thugs Of Hindostan a satisfactory resolution, but the other principal characters totally fail him. One could argue that the absolute focus on Aamir’s ruffian has dimmed everyone else’s scope, however, that aside, Thugs Of Hindostan doesn’t offer anything new either. It is a bad rehash of films we have seen too many times.
And then there is a falcon hovering over all the time. At one point, ridiculous as it may sound, Aamir even starts talking to it. Had the film been stretched longer by even a couple of more minutes, the audience would have done the same. And this is when I haven’t even discussed how Fatima and Amitabh start singing lullabies in the middle of a battleground. Wait, did I mistakenly watch Kranti (1981) again? Or was it Khuda Gawah (1992)?
However, there is one character that shows a lot of promise when it lights up the screen for the first time—Katrina Kaif’s Suraiyya. She is an unapologetic courtesan who talks about her sex life and keeps slapping Firangi. There’s a hint of love between the two, but you already know why she is in the film—to dance. And so she enters, dances her heart out, invokes whistles and fades in the dark only to repeat the drill after a few minutes.
Essentially, Thugs Of Hindostan is all about Aamir’s antics. However, among the few who have some substance left for them is Amitabh Bachchan. But he is also the most exasperating of them all as he delivers dialogues like, “Ab iske pariwar ki zimmedari bhi hamari hai (Now, we have to take care of his family),” after slicing a mole’s epiglottis.
It would have done the film some good had the makers realised that making a film based in the early 19th century doesn’t necessarily mean that you use storytelling techniques as ancient.
For the first few minutes, you are taken into Firangi’s world. He would fill you up with personal anecdotes and thereafter you’re pretty much on your own, left to figure out whether information adds anything to the story. Sometimes it does, but mostly not.
Thugs Of Hindostan builds up a larger-than-life narrative and then loses ground. Just when you begin adjusting to one kind of tonality, it changes into another film. Holding a film together for 165-minutes is anyway a daunting task, but with the stellar star cast, it should have been nothing short of a spectacular party. But it isn’t. Director Vijay Krishna Acharya’s biggest mistake is not utilising the resources.
Thugs Of Hindostan may satiate your need for entertainment this Diwali, but overall, it’s a solid case of great boast, little roast.
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