Aamir-Amitabh’s Thugs of Hindostan: What’s the film about?

Based on a 19th century novel, the movie will be a period adventure.

Suparna Thombare

Yash Raj Films’ next production is a period adventure that brings superstars Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan together for the first time. Apart from being a big budget star vehicle, there are several other aspects to this Diwali 2018 release, that make it interesting.

The film is based on Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel Confessions of a Thug, which depicts an organised cult preying upon the hapless travellers of India’s wild and desolate roads. Taylor was a lieutenant in the Nizam of Hyderabad’s army.

Based upon real accounts that Taylor gathered during his work of suppressing the Thuggee cult for the Nizam of Hyderabad, the book weaves true events into a fictionalised narrative.

The cult's modus operandi involves befriending travellers, becoming a part of their troupe, and then on cue strangling them using handkerchiefs. They then looted the victims and buried their dead bodies.

While we do not know how faithful writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya will stay to the book, the basic plot revolves around anti-hero Ameer Ali (based on prolific thug Syeed Amir Ali who testified to the king), who is kidnapped and raised by a group of thugs that killed and looted his parents. The story begins in a British prison, where Ameer Ali narrates how he rose to prominence as a Thug leader, how he fell from power, and how he took vengeance on his enemies.

Khan is most likely to play the role Ameer Ali, which will surely be the darkest character the star has played in his career. Ameer is said to have strangled 700 people in his lifetime. With repressed memories of his parents’ killing, Ameer turns into a murderer himself, and at the same time is known as a family man and a man of honour. 

Ameer is essentially a cold-blooded murderer and swindler, but his own account of his life portrays him as a morally ambiguous character. Khan is surely going to dig a complex character like this one. Hero and villain, victim and victimiser, Ameer is a unique figure in Victorian literature: a charming mass murderer. 

Though hailed as great literary work delving into human psychology and duality of man at the time, it is said to lack suspense and adventure that is important to modern stories.

Let’s wait and see how Acharya, who has previously directed Tashan (2003) and Dhoom:3 (2013), adapts this intriguing old tale of an anti-hero to appeal to today’s generation.