2017 was a bad year for films. 2018 wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good either. We’ve had sprouts if cinema here and there but they’ve been less, and mostly, parallel. In the wake of this, comes Thugs Of Hindostan – an over ambitious film with no ambition. Director Vijay Krishna Acharya’s only purpose of putting this film together was to get Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan to share screen space for the first time in the history of Hindi Cinema. Both Khan and Bachchan are stalwarts, perfectionists, but in Thugs, both, their perfection and stature falls to a mere nothing.
The film is about the Indian invasion of the East India Company, first for trade and then to treat as a slave. A king (Ronit Roy) from Ronakpur is the only king whose kingdom is not ruled by the Company and he takes pride in the same, but eventually his kingdom falls down too. This happens in the first fifteen minutes of the film and we see younger Zafira standing there are her parents are killed, knowing that this film will also die a slow and painful death, until Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) comes and saves her but she already has a wound, like I have one, in my heart after watching this film, because even the mighty Bachchan couldn’t save this film. And then of course, this film becomes a revenge saga which ends only when the older version of Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) kills the person (Lloyd Owen as Clive) on the day of Dussehra, because of course he’s Ravana and we love cliches!
Enter, Aamir Khan as Firangi who acts as a catalyst for Zafira and Khudabaksh to reach Clive and kill him. Firangi is introduced to us as a British agent, who later joins Khudabaksh’s gang and then the Britishers and then keeps alternating between the two. It’s an interesting character premise, but the character is written in a way that you know when Firangi is bluffing and when he’s not.
Minutes into the film and you know that you’ve been conned. In the name of Bachchan and Khan you’ve been given a sloppy script, which doesn’t even feel like a script and rather it seems as if it was brought together by scribbles in notebook margins. It’s that vague and sloppy. Even margin notes are better in fact. Take for instance Aamir Khan’s entry. There are two Boomerang shots of him – I’m not kidding. You base a film in the late 1700s, early 1800s and put Boomerang shots in it? What are you trying to sell? Or do you think the audience today is so foolish to accept anything in the name of cinema? And how imaginative is changing a sequence from land and ocean on a map to ships in that ocean to reality?
Thugs rests heavily on VFX. For a film that’s mostly been shot in front of a green screen needs clever and educated VFX. While they did manage to re-create the times the film is based in the VFX is totally crap. There were times when I felt I was in Mohenjodaro (not the civilisation but the film). And what was with the locations? You take me from Jodhpur to Thailand to Malta and expect me to buy all of this? Why? How?
The worst part about Thugs is that the writing and direction are so bad that even Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan fail to perform. Both do their level best, but just using Bachchan’s voice and Khan’s screen presence is not an equivalent of good acting. These are actors who do not need to prove themselves at all, they’re that great at what they do, but Thugs is proof that with a bad script and an aimless director (who made Tashan and Dhoom 3 and then YRF trusted him with another film) no actor can bring his best to the table. I’m surprised Khan would have faith in this script after struggling with Dhoom 3. In fact, Khan has the worst written character in the film. On the same hand, Bachchan has no good. Khudabaksh is shown as a very complex person, but as a character he doesn’t just have flaws, but is a flaw.
The only hope I had on walking out of this film was in Fatima Sana Shaikh. In most of the scenes, she’s fighting battles (all of them choreographed like a school play) with aggression – this is something we’ve seen her do earlier so it comes as no surprise that she does it all well. And in the few dialogues she has, Shaikh holds her ground and shows potential; proves that Khan’s faith in her is the right kind of faith.
There’s also an eagle. I don’t know why it’s there, but it’s there – flying around Khudabaksh and over all battles. Sorry, I forgot to mention Katrina Kaif, but don’t blame me, the characters, actors, director, narrative forgot her too. She comes in literally just two songs, in both of which, Aamir Khan has half the screen time. She’s given a few dialogues about love, but delivers them with a straight face and no concern. And while she shines in Manzoor-E-Khuda, for me, Suraiyya (the song) just doesn’t work. Kaif is supposed to be mad at Khan and also dance at the same time – she just can’t seem to balance it out.
In Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Hrithik Roshan’s Rohan tells Kareena Kapoor’s Poo to express her love for him in front of the whole world (only after he can say SRK and Kajol are family) because that’s the only way to do it. Suraiyya (Kaif) demands for the same from Khan. Are you kidding me? It’s 2018! Your film might be based in the past, but don’t do this. And what is with the background score?
All in all, if you’re making a 300 crore film, either make a good film, or none at all. The ball’s in your court.
If I had to rate the film, in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani, when Vidya Balan asks the receptionist at a guest house for computer records, he says, “Madam computer five star mein hota hai. Yeh guest house hai, jero stars.” Get my point? The one star that’s here is for Fatima Sana Shaikh, the hopes she might have had with the film and the efforts she’s put in…