Thugs Of Hindostan

Despite a tolerable first half, “Thugs Of Hindostan” remains one yawn of a story, an interesting and layered premise defiled beyond repair. (photo provided)

Yash Raj Films’ “Thugs Of Hindostan”

Produced by: Aditya Chopra

Written and directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya

Music: Ajay-Atul

Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Lloyd Owen, Zeeshan Ayub, Ila Arun, Ronit Roy, Gavin Marshall, Sharat Saxena & others

MUMBAI— A friend tells me that this year, Manmohan Desai must have turned cartwheels in his grave twice: once when Salman Khan, at a press conference, stated that “Race 3” was somewhat in the MKD mold, and again when Aamir Khan declared at a recent meet that “Thugs Of Hindostan” would remind you of Manmohan Desai films!

To compare these two films to even the lesser movie marvels of the late filmmaking mogul, complete with their solid entertainment quotient, terrific music and fabulous use of songs and the cerebrally conceived emotional core is nothing less than sacrilege.

Firangi (Aamir Khan) is an unqualified scoundrel, a sharp conman who thinks nothing of deceiving anyone for lucre. Totally amoral and a rogue like no other, he is inveigled by the East India Company’s people, notably the notorious Clive (Lloyd Owen) and his assistant (Clive Marshall) to help them nab the braveheart Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan), who has one aim: freedom for the Indians enslaved by the Britishers. The location is some vague one in central India, as a map shows in the beginning. How we see action on the seas throughout is best left unasked.

Khudabaksh’s chief lieutenant here is Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), who actually is the daughter of a slain king (Ronit Roy), who has been deceived and murdered by Clive. The other main character is dancing beauty Suraiya (Katrina Kaif), who has an on-off relation with Firangi.

When hired, Firangi, for some vague reason that never comes across, wants the help of Shanichar (Zeeshan Ayub), who is languishing in jail thanks to Firangi himself. Now his game is to win Khudabaksh’s confidence and trap him. What happens next?

To be honest, this could have been material for a solid, punchy, crisp and lightning-fast saga of high adventure, patriotism, valor, vendetta and even a kaleidoscope of interesting characters, studded, obviously because of the scale on which it has been mounted, with superb VFX, eye-filling frames and spectacular action. But “Thugs Of Hindostan” has none of these qualities. Despite a (just) tolerable first half, the film remains one yawn of a story, an interesting and layered premise defiled beyond repair.

What a terrible waste of resources and talent is this lethargically-paced film where one action sequence is akin, almost, to every other, conceived, designed and executed like repeat performances with minor technical changes. The emotional core is completely missing. Khudabaksh, despite his patriotic fervor, is like a programmed automaton, without even a back-story. Bachchan is effective in parts, a robot in others.

Firangi, the most colorful character, again does not have a history. He is simply a double- and triple-crossing character who emerges as a single-dimensional man. Suraiya has less than ten minutes and one song in the second half and more or less the same in part two. Zafira’s parentage is actually revealed to all (we know it, of course) only in the climax, and we wonder why. The death scene of Khudabaksh at interval-point, given that this is the first Amitabh Bachchan-Aamir Khan movie, is clearly fake, as we know that he could not be bumped off so early.

The two foreigners are reduced to caricature villains – it’s been ages since we had such template cardboard characters, and we wish we had not! Ila Arun’s character is a farcical waste. The whole idea about the location of Khudabaksh’s hideout and what happens when the British raid it all looks very contrived, as does the CGI-generated bird.

Look everywhere and there is nothing but weakness – in the script, the dialogues that simply lack even the rudiments of punch, the sluggish editing, the lavish but hollow dances, and the poor songs. The background music (John Stewart Eduri) is grand, but at least in the multiplex where I watched the film, was deafening on occasion. Still, Eduri remains one of the few heroes of the film, along with the cameraman, the YFX team and the sound designers. And among the actors, our prize goes to the small but superb cameo by Ronit Roy.

Aamir Khan is not at his best at all, belying his claim that this was his most difficult character. His expressions and body language become predictable and trite after a short while, which is not to be mixed with consistency. Why Katrina Kaif accepted the film is the biggest casting mystery of 2018, for in olden times, such roles were played by the likes of Helen, Bindu or Aruna Irani as side characters!

As for Fatima Sana Shaikh, she is a disaster at all the aspects of acting: expressions (or lack of them), body language (none, really) and dialogues delivery (so stilted its atrocious).

To sum up, this is a direction-less (pun intended) cataclysm from YRF. It is likely to splinter and sink after the first few days of festival frenzy, if that. It might set a record on opening day, but that swallow will not make the box-office summer, or, for the poor viewer, offer value for money given the inflated price of the ticket that YRF has demanded for this shabbily told shallow tale.

Rating: **

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