Thugs of Hindostan movie cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Lloyd Owen, Ronit Roy
Thugs of Hindostan movie director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Thugs of Hindostan movie rating: One star
As you slide into Thugs of Hindostan, you expect a rousing tale of thuggery and patriotism, because that’s what the name suggests. You also expect a modicum of quality filmmaking because you can’t get more A-list than Yash Raj Films, Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan.
With two big marquee names coming together for the first time, the screen should have crackled. When Bachchan taps into his unexplored reserves, he is capable of blowing you away. Still. And on the top of his game, Khan is a magnet in his own right.
But there is not even a flicker. What you get instead is nothing but a massive cherry-picking enterprise from big entertainers of the past, many of them YRF’s own. Not only do you end up picking up on past films, scenes and references, you are left struggling with staleness and boredom. The writing is shockingly pedestrian, and the film just lies around, waiting for something to happen. Nothing does, for nearly three hours.
Yes, this is thuggery on a large scale, and we the viewers are at the receiving end.
The film opens in 1795, with a father and a daughter building a sand-castle. Instantly you know where this is leading to. Sandcastles are fragile structures which are washed away. Ergo, the castle the duo lives in is in danger. They are the victims and the aggressors are the British. The East India Company is busy mopping up swathes of Hindustan, gobbling up ‘riyaasats’ and ‘rajas’ and demanding tax from poor ‘desh-wasis’. No, this is not Lagaan.
This is your cue to start the remember-that-film game. And counting tropes, just as the characters of this film start skimming up ropes on ships (no, this is not Pirates of the Caribbean) and swinging from trees in jungles. Or walking the plank, and dancing in forest clearings, dressed in the kind of clothes best described as pirate-cool. It almost made me long for the really bad masala of the 70s and 80s which had face-painted jungle dwellers drumming a frenzy around the hero and heroine. At least they had energy.
Bachchan plays Khudabaksh Jahaazi, who hates the idea of ‘Angrezon ki ghulami’, and harbours the dream of ‘azaadi’, along with his ‘fauj’. He also has a fierce-looking kite/eagle who circles him (no, this is not Coolie), as he goes about guarding the life of young-princess-in-hiding Zafira (Shaikh), and trying to turn the greedy turncoat Firangi Mallah (Khan) into a desh-bhakt, who hangs out with his tropey ‘hero-ke-bachpan-ka-dost’ (Ayyub) when not making whoopee with a sexy ‘nachaniya’ (Kaif).
There are sword-fights on land and sea. Bows are strung and guns are cocked. The Brits are red-faced and venomous, except a token fellow who discovers goodness at a crucial moment. There are stagey, talky face-offs between Bachchan and Khan, and trying-to-be-kindling glances between Khan and Shaikh, and Kaif in jaw-dropping shake-it-shake-it mode, armed with a trademark risible dialogue. No, her name is not Sheela.
The only one having a blast is Aamir Khan’s Awadhi thug in his carroty curls and soorma-ringed eyes. He vamps it up madly, grinning widely: the act’s not new but some of it is infectious, and bearable. Just about.
The rest of it is a non-stop combo of eye-roll-and-eye-glaze.