Thugs of Hindostan Movie Review: A mind-numbing voyage

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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.

Sarkar Movie Review: A political thriller with a huge potential marred by an uninteresting storytelling

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Sarkar, at times, does not look like a political thriller but a documentary that highlights issues plaguing the country

A single vote helped English prevail over German to become the official language of the United States of America. One vote ultimately decided the fate of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the Nazi party. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most influential leaders in the history of Indian politics, witnessed a histrionic one-vote defeat. Sundar Ramasamy (Vijay), the protagonist of Sarkar, is stating the facts to the Chief Justice to illuminate the significance of a single vote in a democratic system. A.R. Murugadoss, director of Sarkar, places this scene early in the movie that forms the bedrock of the message that it strives to deliver.

Sarkar is a one-man show all the way. Vijay is everything, everything is Vijay. The focus on Vijay is so much in this so-called political thriller that he grows on you but it takes the sheen out of other important characters in the film. It is almost like there are people on board a ship and a single man is trying to steady the ship.

Vijay plays the role of an NRI who is the CEO of a big enterprise. Even before Vijay appears on the screen, TV news channels are flooded with the news of Sundar’s arrival in India. Employees in different companies are dithery and contemplating what his intentions would be as he is known for closing down big companies and his entry in three countries has been banned. “I’m a corporate criminal”, Sundar exclaims in one of the scenes later on. But Sundar is here only to cast his vote in the Tamil Nadu state assembly election which gives a sigh of relief to those employees. This is just a glimpse of how much Vijay controls the film single-handedly.

The narrative starts to build up when Sundar finds out that someone has already voted in his name. So, with the kind of introduction that was given for Sundar, the audience would be anticipating him to do something about it. We see him appertaining to Section 49P to cast his vote again. We are shown the people’s power when lakhs of people all over Tamil Nadu come out in support of Sundar clamouring for their voting rights. We also see the support for Sundar dwindling just like any great political leader that we can think of when Sundar is being designedly accused of wrong deeds. Sarkar educates us, signifies the voting rights, and raises important questions that resonate well with the audience as it makes us reflect back on the political situation that is plaguing the country.

Vijay is brilliant but since the screen space for other characters were lacking, the emotions attached with those characters also remained brief and short-lived. M. Masilamani (Pala. Karuppiah) is a corrupt political leader. He looks terrifying when he hits on a reporter’s head using a bronze lamp. He even mercilessly tells Sundar that he wants the people to remain poor. Rendu (Radha Ravi), which means ‘second’, is a close aide and brother of Masilamani. As Rendu threatens Sundar and mocks him for fruitlessly fighting for a single vote, the atmosphere is extremely tense. In another heated argument, Sundar retorts saying that he earned that name for remaining ‘second’ all his life. But the ephemeral nature of these sequences takes the interest factor out of the equation.

But it is Komalavalli a.k.a Pappa (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), daughter of Masilamani, who created more impact in her short screen space. She is strong and bold and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s extraordinary performance brings out the rivalry very well. She plays all her tricks and countermoves describing herself as “a born criminal” in the film. Even her transient presence kept the movie engrossing and as she vanishes, so evanesces the engagement factor. I can’t help but reminisce about the iconic Neelambari character in K. S. Ravikumar’s Padayappa whose duel with Rajinikanth is one of the most riveting experiences in the history of Tamil Cinema because of Neelambari’s powerful characterisation which has stayed with us.

Amidst all these, there seems like some forced addition of romance portions between Nila (Keerthy Suresh) and Sundar. She keeps popping up every now and then. She romantically expresses her love in sentamil (classical Tamil) with a background score reminding us of her popular character in Nag Ashwin’s Mahanati. She shakes a leg in one of the foot-tapping numbers called ‘OMG Ponnu’ alongside Sundar. And again she keeps popping up as we can spot her standing somewhere.

Kaushik (Yogi Babu) is superb and the way he describes his role in casting fake votes is hilarious but again it does not last long. Even the brief presence of Sundar’s mother and other family members never looks convincing.

It goes without saying that Thalapathy Vijay, as his fans call him with affection, has a preternatural screen presence. He is unfazed by the presence of goons. The superheroic fight sequences look great with some stupendous slow-motion camera techniques that capture Vijay very well. Top Tucker song blends well with the fight sequences and so does other wonderful tracks composed by A. R. Rahman. The astounding soundtracks infuse some energy in a movie which does little to keep the audience immersed.

Sarkar tries to be relevant with real-world as it throws light on several issues including the hydrocarbon project, farmer’s plight, Jallikattu ban, Chennai floods among others. In a scene, Sundar even emotionally goes on to compare the partially-burnt face of a girl lying in the hospital with the current state of Tamil Nadu. The film, at times, does not look like a political thriller but a documentary that highlights issues plaguing the country. But, with uninteresting storytelling, the issues emphasised in the film does not register well. After the success of Thuppakki and Kaththi, this must be the weakling in the A. R. Murugadoss and Vijay combo.