Thugs of Hindostan suffers from a poor script leaving a yawning audience… Spoilers ahead
Khudabaksh Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan) has his hands tied in a prison and asks Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan) if he is going to kill him with his speeches or will break the shackles and set him free. I almost felt like my inner thoughts were spoken by Amitabh Bachchan. This scene comes somewhere towards the end when my patience has already been fully tested. No matter what they are charging to get inside the cinema hall, it’s worth more to get out.
The title of the movie – Thugs of Hindostan – is perhaps the best thing that I can think of which is very apt in the context of the movie. Long story short, Azaad, Firangi, Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) are the Thugs and the leading characters in the film who fight against the British East India Company officer Clive (Lloyd Owen). Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, this movie does have a great potential of becoming a magnum opus and an epic movie that it intends to. It has a few fabulous moments to savour and but with 2 hours 44 minutes long, it fails miserably with jejune storytelling.
Amitabh Bachchan as Azaad looks fierce and powerful. His aggressive expressions render so much strength to his character when he bawls “Hamla!” (Attack!). He looks magnificent riding a horse. He looks agile while climbing down a rope and shooting the British forces on the ship. While pulling a thick wooden block using the ropes over the shoulders, he really seems to be using all his force. Whatever tricks and techniques that were applied with CG works, Amitabh Bachchan defies his age and never allows his real age to bog down the action sequences. John Stewart Eduri’s background score does well to make the presence of Amitabh even more majestic. There is also a softer side to Azaad. He calms down Zafira, who has woken up from a nightmare, by hugging her and singing a lori (lullaby).
Aamir Khan as Firangi is outstanding in this role but again the problem lies in the narrative. Firangi is selfish and helps Britishers for money. He rides on a donkey and calls it Nawab (Oh yeah, it was hilarious). He blows his flute as a signal to the British officers and helps them loot his fellow Hindostanis. He winds up helping the Britishers to catch their most wanted enemy – Azaad. And when Azaad actually finds it out, it is hardly exciting to see that happen. It is an epitome of predictability when Aamir Khan tricks everyone to save Azaad from the prison.
Suraiyaa (Katrina Kaif) is an indispensable character in the film who dances to a song before the intermission and dances to another song after the intermission. Add to this the underwhelming soundtracks from the duo of Ajay-Atul for an all-important character of Suraiyaa. Oh wait, she removes a blanket and dramatically appears yet again in the end to surprise Firangi and his friend Shanichar (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) on the ship (That’s the last thing we wanted!). Katrina Kaif is not done with all that as she annoys us with her brilliant dialogue deliveries.
Fatima Sana Shaikh as Zafira is quintessential but a banal plot does not help her cause. As a child, she is unable to pick up a heavy sword but this scene has no relevance after she has grown up as we do not see anything happening to remind us of that. She goes hammer and tongs while fighting the Britishers but with Aamir and Amitabh taking the centre stage for most of the time, she sort of remains unnoticed like the shadow. I felt like watching an Indian soap opera with the camera circling around Zafira and Clive when she is about to kill him. The scenes of Clive killing Zafira’s parents flashes on the screen as if we are so dumb and cannot deduce that it is an act of vengeance.
I do not know what was more exasperating than British officers speaking Hindi. It is okay to see them conversing in Hindi with Firangi. It was intolerable to see them saying dialogues like “Soorat to insaan ki hai, lekin dil jaanwar ka hai aur tabiyat firangi” which roughly translates to “He has a face of human, is animal by heart, and is a foreigner by nature). Even more rebarbative was to see them conversing in Hindi to themselves and not in English. They do speak two or three lines in English when Clive orders his men to kill Azaad’s people may be to show that they do speak English. Nevertheless, Lloyd Owen as Clive looks ominous on screen with a terrific performance.
This movie suffers from insurmountable cliches and dull moments. We are hardly surprised to find that Azaad is alive and has not died in the ship explosion. How can anyone not foretell that he may have jumped off the ship and might still be alive? There is no feeling of astonishment when Firangi helps Zafira by providing the location of Azaad’s people to Clive. It is not surprising at all to discover that it was a fake location since we would have already figured that out. It looks so leaden when the father of Zafira, Mirza Sikander Baig (Ronit Roy) warns Britishers that they cannot rule this place and asks them to run away in a very lacklustre manner.
There is a scene where a sort of human pyramid is shown with people standing on top of each other covered with black dust. It rains and the black dust gets washed off. We see that Azaad, Zafira and their people tap a foot on the shoulder of another, break the pyramid and attack the British ship. It’s a marvellous scene which comes early in the movie but it leaves us yearning for more as the movie is devoid of more of that. Thugs of Hindostan suffers from a poor script leaving a yawning audience. It is a film which should have been much bigger in every sense with the presence of two of the iconic actors of Bollywood whose remarkable performances does not save the film from its humdrum writing.