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Thugs Of Hindostan review: Regular potboiler, not worthy of a maiden collaboration between Amitabh and Aamir

Release Date: 08 Nov 2018 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 44min

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Keyur Seta

The Vijay Krishna Acharya directorial is nothing more than a masala entertainer narrated on a grand scale.

The Thugs have had a gory history. The criminals ruled the dark underbelly of the country during the early British era. It is recorded that their modus operandi was to join road travellers by gaining their confidence only to loot and ruthlessly kill them in the end.

When news of director Vijay Krishna Acharya making a film called Thugs Of Hindostan came, it was assumed that the film would be based on the Thugs. However, only Aamir Khan’s character is loosely based on them and the film is nothing more than a regular masala entertainer narrated on a grand scale.

The story begins in 1795. The king of Ronakpur (Ronit Roy) has ensured that the British haven’t been able to acquire his city, which is located near the sea. Though the British try to force their way into Ronakpur, he keeps them at bay. But this earns him the wrath of British officer John Clive (Llyod Owen) who succeeds in capturing the city after killing the king, his wife and son. But his daughter Zafira escapes as Ronakpur’s loyal soldier Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) aka Azad rescues her.

Years pass by and Khudabaksh and Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), along with their nomadic gang, continue to make life hell for the colonizers. Their ultimate aim is to avenge the death of the king by killing Clive and taking back the kingdom of Ronakpur.

Firangi Malla (Aamir Khan) is a street-smart thug who secretly works for the British. He makes a living by fooling innocent citizens. Captain James Powell (Gavin Marshall), Clive’s junior, appoints him to get hold of Khudabaksh. But will Firangi Malla continue to remain loyal to the British?

The basic plot of Thugs Of Hindostan is similar to that of Manoj Kumar's Kranti (1981) while the setting and costumes bring to mind the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. The film is basically a revenge saga with a fair dose of patriotism and clear lack of logic.

Still, the narrative builds up the story quite well in the first half. The styles and character traits of Khudabaksh, Firangi Malla and Zafira make them an interesting team. The entry of Bachchan deserves special mention. His pairing with Khan, for the first time ever on the big screen, is impressive. The point of interval takes you by surprise and raises hopes for the second half.

But the film doesn’t have much of a story to narrate in the second half leading up to the climax. So, the narrative just goes in circles with Firangi Malla at the centre. The various twists before the finale become a bit too much after a point. The writers have kept one moment where a ‘mystery’ is revealed but it is easily guessed.

Action plays a big role in films in this genre. A few of the stunts are impressive for sure, but overall the film is disappointing in this area for more than one reason. The VFX, one of the most important ingredients here and used extensively in the fight scenes on the ship, is unconvincing. As such sequences are aplenty, it is impossible to ignore this flaw.

Moreover, a lot of people get stabbed and cut in the entire film but we hardly see any blood. This greatly affects the fight scenes as they feel more like a theatre play. Even if we grant that the makers wanted to keep the film as family friendly as possible, there are ways to make war scenes more realistic without making them gory.

Manush Nandan’s camerawork has a high contribution in making the visuals worth watching on the big screen, especially in IMAX. A lot of thought has gone into the production design too. The background score is an interesting mix of different tunes that are smartly used. However, on a few occasions it gets too loud.

The artistes have done a fairly good job. At 76, Amitabh Bachchan has performed the fight sequences with relative ease. However, the quiet nature of his character doesn’t allow him to unleash his real acting chops. Nevertheless, he succeeds in speaking through expressions.

It is Aamir Khan who rules here, however. He gets to play an interesting character with quite a few shades and grabs the opportunity to showcase his talent. Graduating from the sports drama Dangal (2016), Fatima Sana Shaikh, too, contributes with a good performance. She is a natural in the many fight sequences. Katrina Kaif struggles not only while acting but also while dancing. Thankfully, she has just an extended cameo.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub has convincingly played quite a few supporting characters in films like Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), Raees (2017), Tubelight (2017), and Aiyaary (2018). Though still playing a supporting character, he was challenged with something different and Ayyub does not disappoint. Lloyd Owen and Gavin Marshall play stereotypical, unidimensional British officers. Ronit Roy and Sharat Saxena are memorable in their respective cameos.

Overall, Bachchan and Aamir Khan’s combo makes Thugs Of Hindostan watchable but that’s about it. We certainly expected a lot more when two of the biggest stars of Hindi cinema decide to share screen for the first time.


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