Mugged by the Thugs

Mid Day - - Hitlist - MOHAR BASU mohar.basu@mid-day.com

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.

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