Humongous pirate ships with imposing foresails going to and fro on the big screen and not a life jacket in sight for the unsuspecting viewer...sigh!
Actually that would be incorrect. The trailer itself gave us a fair warning about how tacky things could get . The film, if anything, confirms beyond doubt what we had long suspected – that style alone cannot compensate for substance.
Having Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan together for the first time is a casting coup which might assure you lots of advance bookings and fan attention. But when this frenzied crowd settles itself down in the theatre, it wants a story, some coherence and something that actively engages one’s attention. This cannot be achieved by simply making Katrina Kaif dance in shimmery silver coloured shorts in this 19th century period drama.
The first half is all about grand entries. The narrator introduces us to Raunakpur, a small princely state resolutely fighting the British.
Then Amitabh Bachchan walks his signature walk. He speaks of aazaadi, dreams and bharosa. It’s enigmatic and we are thrilled. Here is the good guy!
Soon after Aamir Khan saunters in, smiling. He has a naughty twinkle in the eye and has a way with words. “Meri fidrat mein dhoka hai,” he says. He offers to help (in the fight against the British), so we know he is the charming ‘thug’ .
Katrina Kaif is spared all pretence. She is Suraiyya who dances gleefully. She could well have done a repeat of Chikni Chameli and no one would have complained!
Fatima Sana Sheikh is a fierce fighter. She looks determined and convincing. But the foster dad Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) says she needs to be looked after and one can’t help but wonder when Bollywood will stop infantilising grown women.
Zafira aka Fatima Sana Sheikh’s character has badle ki aag burning inside her. Bad coloniser Clive (Lloyd Owen) killed her dad and she looks totally believable, holding her bow and arrow and aiming straight for his head.
But Zafira allegedly still can’t take care of herself . Now Khudabakhsh passes on the responsibility to Firangi.
Then Firangi passes it back to Khudabaksh and this passing of the parcel continues, while the two female actors, Fatima and Katrina, are reduced to inconsequential nothings who need a child lock to keep them in check.
Honestly, Amitabh Bachchan’s screen presence manages to distract us. But the going only gets tougher and our patience keeps running out.
The second half is replete with one fight sequence after another. Firangi has a change of heart out of nowhere . Khudabaksh is back to babysitting . Zafira is never allowed to grow up and Katrina ‘s Suraiyya remains steadfastly present only for ornamental purposes .
What was the point of Thugs of Hindostan? The CGI and special effects were nothing we haven’t already seen. The story of fighting the brutal British occupation did not inspire any emotions.
Except for seeing Aamir and Amitabh together on the big screen in elaborate costumes, there is little to keep us engaged on the onscreen proceedings. Director Vijay Krishn Acharya had last made Dhoom 3. He has followed it up with this. Thugs of Hindostan is basically Dhoom 4! Viewer discretion advised. I’d say stay safe and stay away.
1 Quint out of 5!