Film: Thugs of Hindostan
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sharat Saxena, Lloyd Owen, Ronit Roy, Ila Arun, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Abdul Qadir Amin, Shashank Arora, Satyadev Kancharana
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Rating: * *
Reportedly, around Rs 300 crores was spent on this clunker top-lining Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan with Katrina doing all of two dance numbers and little else, while the ‘Dangal’ actress Fatima Sana Shaikh plays a princess in exile waiting to grab her throne. That kind of budget could have well bankrolled at least a 100 quality independent features, but obviously, Yashraj doesn’t see it fit to shed the flab and share some of their vaunted booty with young filmmakers having fresh ideas, vigour and purpose. Why else would they bank their prestige on a thankless antiquity that’s a sloppy cross between ‘Dharam-Veer’ and ‘Kranti’ aiming to masquerade as a desi “Pirates of the Carribbean” – at a time when audiences are already beleaguered by inflationary costs of multiplex entertainment?
The film doesn’t come anywhere close to resembling the written word of Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel Confessions of a Thug – so don’t go in expecting it to be a fair adaptation of the same. The script or whatever you want to call it is a mish-mash of mainstream adventure cinema and basically amounts to a mottled concept with little livening-up in the form of thrills, tension or adventure. The CGI/VFX may seem to be of a high standard given the low bar we are measuring it against, but it’s neither seamless nor continuous. In fact Manush Nandan’s Cinematography and the VFX don’t mesh well here. And of the story (or lack of it) there’s little to appreciate.
Forget the historical context – the characters and period enshrined here will not be found in any genuine tome on the history of the subcontinent. They are merely broad outlines with borrowed ideas supplanting grit and truth. It’s 1795, and King Mirza Sikander Baig (Ronit Roy) and his 5-year-old daughter are building a sandcastle right outside their Ronakpur riyasat when John Clive (Lloyd Owen) of the East India Company unleashes the Company’s brute force on the King and his supporters. Luckily for the little girl, Khudabaksh Jahazi Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan) rides to the rescue and ferrets her away to a safe house. Years later, we meet the duplicitous Firangi Malla (Aamir Khan) a thugee who plays both sides to earn his butter. He has been commissioned by the British to discover the hideout of the Azad force for a bag full of gold coins and the scoundrel is more than willing to do the dastardly deed… until he has a change of heart or is it hearts?
The Azad force here is merely a group of rebels (oppressed folk) assembled by Khudabaksh to beat the British at their own game so it’s nothing to do with Subhash Bose’s Azad Hind Sena. The intention is obviously to play the patriotism card and allude to the freedom struggle, but even that is done without any flair or finesse. The story is feeble and uninteresting. The narrative drags on interminably, waxing and waning in tempo while the irritating, drumbeating background score struggles to lend energy and zest to the unimpressive, discordantly spread-eagled action adventure.
The songs don’t have the power to charge you up and the choreography is so pitiful it makes the dances look out of sync and silly. Acharya tries to palm off a stiffly inelegant and ageing Amitabh Bachchan as a valorous fighter able to pull off stunts that his younger counterparts wouldn’t dare take on and its hard-sell at its worst. Aamir Khan struggles hard to instil life and verve into the experience, Fatima Sana Shaikh in spite of her sincerity, looks out-of-place as a princess Zafira while Katrina Kaif’s all too brief (whichever way you want to take it) appearance as hot-to-trot danseuse Suraiyya Jaan, lends the few slivers of sparkle to this wannabe firecracker that lacks the firepower to boost its box-office numbers beyond the over-hyped Diwali weekend!