After the British company’s officer Clive (Lloyd Owen) takes over the kingdom of Mirza (Ronit Roy), princess Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) and Khudabaksh aka Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan) form a band of rebel pirates who swear to defeat the English officer and win their freedom back. The British Company in return, hire the wily thug Firangi (Aamir Khan) to track Azaad’s gang and thwart his plans.
Action, adventure and fantasy is a genre that you associate with Hollywood’s big-ticket movies. So to watch India’s answer to films like Pirates Of The Caribbean, at the onset, seemed like a novel experience. While Thugs Of Hindostan has the aspirations to be a big-budget entertainer, it can’t quite emulate the same thrills of a Johnny Depp swashbuckler. The film has the look and feel.of a top grade adventure film but the lacklustre writing and the tedious narrative dampens the whole experience.
The story begins in the late 1700s, where a conniving British officer named Clive deceives the honest king Mirza and dupes him off his family, life and kingdom. The young princess Zafira is the only one who escapes, along with the king’s trusted guard Khudabaksh, and many years later they form a gang of pirates who are basically a bunch of goodfellas. Their only mission is to get their kingdom free from Clive and his Company rule. Thugs Of Hindostan is based during the British rule in India, when the English used their trading position to dominate India’s princely states. But the fact that the heroes of this tale are pirates, doesn’t quite fit into the Indian context, given that Indians never gained notoriety as pirates. The Maratha navy under leaders like Kanhoji Angre did gain bandit status during the 1700s, but Thugs Of Hindostan (TOH) doesn’t quite look like it’s a story emerging from the coastal regions of the country. Historical inaccuracy aside, TOH is an adventure movie and you need cinematic liberty to setup a swashbuckling story. While the production design by Sumit Basu and cinematography by Manush Nandan are excellent, the predictable nature of the writing by writer / director Vijay Krishna Acharya doesn’t help the movie at all. You can guess every plot development and the fact that the movie doesn’t throw up a single good surprise or twist, just rocks the boat. The tiresome screenplay features scenes that are too prolonged and overtly dramatised, as a result the story hits choppy waters. What’s also funny is that the British officers speak in fluent Hindi, even when they’re talking to each other.
Another disappointing aspect of the movie is the music by Ajay-Atul, that doesn’t add to the narrative. While the individual performances by Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are noteworthy, the rest of the cast just never comes together. Aamir is good with the physical comedy and banter, however an Aamir Khan film generally comes with mammoth expectations, so will the disappointment of this movie leave his fans high and dry and impact his brand value, only time will tell. Mr Bachchan pulls-off the heroics and the intense dialogues well, but the rest of the cast isn’t able to rally up any serious effort. Katrina Kaif is limited to two songs and a few lines of dialogue, while Fatima Sana Shaikh is left at the mercy of some badly choreographed action sequences.
Apart from the stray funny moments and consistently good visuals (thanks to decent CGI efforts), TOH doesn’t really have the punch or the thrill that is required to pull off a film of this scale. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, the film feels a little too long, blame it on weak editing. The grand canvas of the film does hold sway in terms of the visual experience, but at the end, this one is all show and shallow in substance. If you are expecting TOH to give you a dose of entertainment this festive season, this one will leave you all at sea.