Aamir and Amitabh, lost at sea in this gi­ant Yash Raj pe­riod epic

Hindustan Times (Ranchi) - - Nation - RAJA SEN

It takes a lot to make pi­rates bor­ing. With­out a doubt, Thugs Of Hin­dostan is a whole lot of movie — the big­gest-bud­get Yash Raj pro­duc­tion of all time, the first film to star both Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan — and yet this gi­ant pe­riod epic turns out to be a for­get­table dud. Di­rected by Dhoom 3’s Vi­jay Kr­ishna Acharya, this un­o­rig­i­nal film can only in­spire the shrugs of Hin­dus­tan.

This is Pi­rates Of The Caribbean with­out pi­rate or Caribbean, a knock­off to suit prej­u­diced au­di­ences like crick­eter Vi­rat Kohli who pre­fer to ex­clu­sively ad­mire the lo­cally made. In this 1810-set ad­ven­ture, Aamir Khan bor­rows the Jack Spar­row eye­liner, while Amitabh Bachchan is lit­er­ally given the bird, his en­trances on screen pre­ceded by a noisy hawk. Bachchan plays a rebel, a free­dom fighter ral­ly­ing troops against the colonis­ers, while Khan is a two-faced rogue on the Com­pany pay­roll sent to in­fil­trate Bachchan’s squad and bring him down.

The plot is painfully child­ish and this film, along­side Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Mo­henjo Daro, makes an alarm­ingly strong case to leave his­tor­i­cal hys­ter­ics to San­jay Leela Bhansali, who un­der­stands scale and pageantry. Acharya shoots far too much ac­tion in slow-mo­tion, from swords­men swing­ing be­tween con­ve­niently placed vines to col­laps­ing moth­ers, amp­ing up the frames per sec­ond to dis­guise the lack of sto­ry­telling craft. Khan told the press he wants peo­ple to for­get Johnny Depp’s Jack Spar­row af­ter see­ing his char­ac­ter, Fi­rangi. He may have taken his own ad­vice and for­got­ten Depp’s au­da­cious orig­i­nal­ity. Fi­rangi is a most un­re­mark­able char­ac­ter, free of charisma or clev­er­ness, with barely a line worth re­mem­ber­ing.

The film sinks be­cause it pri­ori­tises size over script. And the size is unim­pres­sive as well, with card­board-y vis­ual ef­fects, poor rope-physics and hap­haz­ard con­ti­nu­ity. But all that could be for­given — $41 mil­lion wouldn’t go far in Hol­ly­wood — if we had char­ac­ters worth car­ing about or laugh­ing with. Set­pieces mat­ter, but ad­ven­ture films be­come spe­cial when we quote the lines and cheer the heroes. In­stead, we have Khan-in-ka­jal, and a gruff and griz­zly Bachchan weighted down by ar­mour and cliché, cry­ing him­self hoarse about azaadi. The girls have it worse. Fa­tima Sana Shaikh, who was so good in Dan­gal, plays a princess who doesn’t have a line for the first hour, but is a fierce com­bat­ant — just not fierce enough. She’s a war­rior who re­peat­edly needs res­cue, but hey, she makes ex­cel­lent sand­cas­tles. When Sheikh does speak, she does it flatly enough to jus­tify her lack of lines. Also, an up­side­down stick fig­ure is tat­tooed on her chin, like some­one played Hang­man on her face while she was sleep­ing.

Ka­t­rina Kaif slaps Khan around and seems in charge of their dy­namic, but from time to time, looks sud­denly and im­prob­a­bly aroused, like Khan’d been mo­men­tar­ily swapped out for a bot­tle of mango juice. She shakes her im­pres­sive abs with gusto, but for odd songs. At one point Sheikh, with­out warn­ing, breaks into a mourn­ful ‘Baba, Ba-ba’ song, to which Kaif re­acts by pirou­et­ting ag­gres­sively in se­quinned sil­ver shorts, as if chan­nelling a black sheep. The spec­tre of old Bol­ly­wood looms large. An old man sings about imli, Ila Arun plays a medicine woman, and then — by the beloved beard of Bob Christo — the red­coats ham it up. The Bri­tish vil­lain is given the his­tor­i­cally de­spised name Clive, and he speaks to a fel­low English­man in Hindi, even when the two are alone and he’s say­ing he’ll never un­der­stand In­di­ans.

I may be old school, but I be­lieve pi­rate movies need to have eye-patches. This one doesn’t, and that’s a shame. The view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence would have been hugely im­proved. I should have gone in wear­ing two.

■ Di­rected by Dhoom 3’s di­rec­tor, this un­o­rig­i­nal film can only in­spire the shrugs of Hin­dus­tan

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