THUGS OF HINDOSTAN (2018)

  • Release Date: 08/11/2018
  • Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Katrina Kaif, and Lloyd Owens
  • Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan coming together for the first time, a period film, a seemingly cracking actioner on the surface, endless speculations and discussions for years, the presence of the svelte siren Katrina Kaif to light things up, a budget of 41 million and a lot of it spent on the VFX and some practical effects were just some of the reasons that made this film one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Alarmingly, the first trailer made it clear that this film was re-treading previously treaded territories and was “homage – ing” a lot of stuff from films like Kranti and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, that wasn’t enough to make me sheepish about this film which I was convinced would be atleast interesting.

The Britons, led by John Clive (Lloyd Owens) are taking over princely states and in their pursuit of land and power, they destroy a kingdom of which Khudabaksh Jahazi (Amitabh Bachchan) is a royal guard and custodian. He rescues the only surviving heir of the kingdom, Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) and takes her under his wings. Khudabaksh forms his own band of rebels accumulated from the survivors of the attack and they call themselves “Azad”. Azad becomes a problem for the British Empire and in desperation to rid themselves of him they turn to a man, they don’t fully understand. Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan) is like a chameleon shifting sides faster than he changes his clothes. He is hired by John Clive to track down Azad and he does a very good job of that. What remains to be seen is whose side he will end up on and therein lies the crux of the film.

I will start off with the positives of the film. There are two sequences between Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan that really resonated with me. The sequence where Khudabaksh takes Firangi under his wings after a thoughtfully scripted dialog was heartwarming and showed us the heights that this film could have touched in terms of interpersonal dynamics. In a similar manner, another sequence that happens towards the end between the two gives us a foray into all that is best about the two men.

As mentioned before, Thugs was made with an estimated budget of 41 millions of which a large chunk was spent on the visual effects and it shows. It is by no means of Hollywood standards but the visuals and the VFX are consistently charming. Apart from a few fall-offs here and there (like Zafira swaying on a rope shooting arrows looking like an overexposed superimposed image), the visuals do hold their own. The editing in the action sequences is formidable. Having said that, let’s get to my issues with the film.

After a somewhat interesting start where we are made to hate John Clive in the most generic way possible, we are quickly introduced to Firangi who almost instantly starts getting on your nerves not because he is a real thug but because Aamir is overplaying him. Then we meet Khudabaksh and his merry men in an elaborate action sequence that makes it clear that Amitabh Bachchan will be heavily burdened by his age and an even heavier weight of his armor as he limps through some of the most routine moves in an action role. Katrina Kaif makes her first appearance in a poorly choreographed “Suraiyya” number that is more funny than sexy and then she vanishes till the next item number which comes at the end.

By the time Firangi is hired by the British and he infiltrates Khudabaksh’s gang, we have covered a whopping 1 hour and 20 minutes and are almost getting restless for something substantial to happen. The meandering pace at which the story progresses also doesn’t help the cause. Firangi keeps swaying from one side to the other but by now we are used to his modus oparandi and it doesn’t amuse us anymore. Another action sequence in between proves that Amitabh Bachchan cannot move a muscle and the VFX to lets us down in a couple of places.

The film makes it a point to show us the major players walking towards the camera in slow motion with a rousing background music every now and then. This trick is a serious source of irritation. I would go to the extent of saying that if all the slow motions were shown in normal speed, this film would be 10 minutes shorter. Also, we are passed the era of these parlor tricks and it doesn’t help the film in any way when the screenplay itself isn’t working.

I was hopeful with the manner in which the film left us at the intermission point. However, post interval, the film dives nose first into a hole that it had dug for itself in the first half with a kind of urgency that made me feel that its life depended on it.  The director does the grave mistake of luring the audience into believing that something interesting was unfolding and then telling them that it was just not the case. I was shocked by the fact that this film was just so boring. Firangi remains the same throughout the film. There are no major reveals and even the climax could be sniffed from miles. Amitabh has a touring persona and clicks in the emotional and dramatic moments but that’s not enough as he had to prove himself as a warrior which he is unable to.

Fatima Sana Shaikh doesn’t have a line of dialogue for a good hour or so. When she does open her mouth, I wished she didn’t. She looks apt in the action sequences but whenever she has to act, her deficiencies are highlighted. Just look out for her act towards the end when she is being betrayed. What she says made me roll on the floor laughing. Katrina Kaif is there in another song towards the end and vanishes without any substantial additions to the tale. Someone from the team of the film mentioned in an interview that she was integral to the plot of the film. That was a blatant lie. Lloyd Owens is the Hindi speaking British tormentor who speaks with his own men in Hindi even when they are in seclusion and still remarks that he doesn’t understand India. This is the level of intelligence of the writing.

Thugs of Hindostan is peppered with such obnoxious anomalies all throughout and they are so in-your-face that you cannot help but be baffled by them. I wanted to love this film but I couldn’t. Even the biggest of stars cannot make a film work if it fails in its storytelling and direction. For Thugs, even the stars couldn’t pull their weights in terms of performances as their parts were amateurishly written. This film will easily go down as one of the biggest let downs of this year.

Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

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