Mugged by the Thugs
MAYBE Aamir Khan’s Firangi Malla is, after all, modelled on Jack Sparrow. But the film is hardly inspired by Pirates Of The Caribbean. Although, after sitting through 165 minutes of Thugs Of Hindostan (TOH), I wish it were. The maiden screen union of two of the country’s biggest superstars — Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan — deserved a better film.
But TOH is so devoid of spunk, it leaves you wondering why those who spent
R300 crore and three years on the film’s visual effects, didn’t invest half as much in writing a better screenplay.
Set in the fictional town of Raunakpur, the Diwali offering is essentially a revenge drama with a dash of patriotism thrown in. Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the princess of Raunakpur, witnesses the death of her entire family at the hands of John Clive (Lloyd Owen), an East India Company officer. Her trusted godfather, Khudabaksh (Bachchan), raises her to be a warrior and her heart is set upon bringing freedom. The British employ one of their trusted spies Firangi (Khan) to nab Khudabaksh’s army. A victim of his own deceitful habits, Firangi struggles to rise above his greed and not sell his soul to the devil.
Evidently, the plot isn’t a forte here, but it’s almost shameful that after seven decades of independence, we are whipping up shoddy rehashes in the name of patriotic movies. Another pitfall is that we know almost nothing about these Thugs — where they come from, how they sustain themselves or how they are trained to be warriors. Worse, the plot twists are so predictable that anyone who has watched a handful of revenge dramas, will know where the narrative is headed. Director Vijay Krishna Acharya’s vision is far from refreshing, and that is problematic because 2018 has given us AndhaDhun, Raazi and Stree, each an example of how good writing is key to a great film.
To give credit where it’s due, there is some inventiveness in the character of Firangi. He is deliciously slimy who has been entrusted with a larger responsibility of seeking freedom. Khan plays Firangi with charm, rendering an endearing quality despite his devious tendencies. He is pitted alongside Khudabaksh — a Bollywood-ised Katappa, whom Bachchan doesn’t seem to enjoy much. In fact, he looks worn down by the weight of his character’s high moral ground. In comparison to Khan, who even hams to perfection, Bachchan’s work seems rather lackluster. The ladies — Shaikh and Katrina Kaif — serve as mere props. The former slips into the role of a stunt extra while the latter settles for being a pretty face who lights up the screen for exactly 10 minutes.
A great deal of work may have gone into mounting the film, but neither the action nor the visual effects match up to the expectations. Baahubali has set a tall order for big-ticket period outings. Undeniably, majestic movie experiences are created by filmmakers and in this one, the director makes a fatal mistake — he takes his audience for granted. No wonder, Thugs doesn’t rise above being a snoozefest.