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 part of the film. Actors are so obsessed with their characters that they forget that the audience is waiting for engaging content, something that they haven’t seen before. They just smile.
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. He soon finds himself on Khudabaksh aka Azaad’s (Amitabh Bachchan), a rebel from Raunakpur, target. Azaad has an accomplice in super-archer Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the apparent heir to the throne.
Because the East India Company can’t catch Azaad, so they seek assistance from Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), a thug by nature. He proudly says, “Dhokha swabhav hai mera (To con is my second nature).”
So far, so good.
But what happens after this is nothing less than watching an opera performance by jazz performers. Disguised as the story of a hoodlum out there to impress everyone with his rustic charm, Thugs Of Hindostan gets reduced to a collage of clichéd sunset shots and twists that every second person in the cinema hall can anticipate.
It’s understandable why Aamir Khan would have done this film! It’s a role that must have shown him the glimpses of brilliance. He is the best of the lot for sure. He has brought a lot on table. He understands the graph, the ups and downs, and a trajectory that might have achieved Thugs Of Hindostan a satisfactory resolution, but he is totally failed by other prime characters. One argument could be that the total focus on Aamir’s ruffian has snatched everyone else’s chances, but at the same time, Thugs Of Hindostan is the recreation of what we have already seen in countless number of films that too with much higher budgets where a blast doesn’t force our attention to its CGI.
And then there is a falcon hovering all the time over us. At one point, Aamir even starts talking to it. Had the film been stretched for a couple of more minutes, we would have done the same. At least, there is someone who doesn’t talk back at slightest provocation. This is when I am not even going where Fatima Sana and Amitabh Bachchan start singing lullabies in the middle of a battleground. Wait, how could I be sure that I was not watching Kranti (1981) again? Or, was it Khuda Gawah (1992)?
There is one character that makes a lot of promise when it lights up the screen for the first time. Katrina Kaif’s Suraiyya 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 know what Firangi does to her in return. He keeps her strictly for dancing purposes. She enters, dances her heart out, invokes whistles and fades in the dark only to repeat the drill after a few minutes.
Actually, the film is all about Aamir’s antics. Among others, it’s Amitabh Bachchan who gets to work out some scenes, but he is also the most exasperating as he mouths dialogue like, “Ab iske pariwar ki zimmedari bhi hamari hai (Now, we have to take care of his family),” after slicing a mole’s epiglottis. Making a film based in the early 19th century doesn’t necessarily have to use ancient storytelling techniques.
For the first few minutes, you are taken to the world of Firangi who would fill you up with anecdotes about him and then you’re left to figure out on your own whether it contributes to the story! Sometimes they do, but mostly they don’t.
Thugs Of Hindostan builds up a narrative and then loses the 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 such big stars were expected to bring the party to us. It hasn’t happened. It may satiate your need for entertainment this Diwali, but overall, it’s a solid case of great boast, little roast.
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