DUBAI: From the writer of the Dhoom series – a caper franchise barely original by the time it reached its third installment – comes Thugs of Hindostan. Some of the tropes are similar, if not worse, such as Katrina Kaif’s acrobatic dance numbers and Aamir Khan’s swagger and a larger than life villainous avatar. Characters speak in pseudo-philosophical sentences and stars like Zafira (Fatima Sana Sheikh) sing melodramatically to make sense of a topsy-turvy world. At one point, when Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan) is asked what he’s sowing, he replies in a growl: “Dreams”.
But, Azaad is the smallest confusion in a plethora of things going wrong in Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Thugs of Hindostan. Set in colonial India, the story opens with an impressive sequence and a powerful performance by Ronit Roy as one of the last few rajas standing up to British rule. Clive (Lloyd Owen), an evil British officer killing Indians at whim, murders everyone in Mirza’s palace except young Zafira. Eleven years pass and Zafira has obviously turned into a rebel machine alongside the leader of the rebellion, Azaad. None of this has any whys or whereofs and we are expected to buy it all because it comes neatly embedded with a dance number and painstakingly slo-mo shots of fake ships exploding, followed by CGI powered sequences in the rain and sea.
Even Aamir as Firangi Mullah cannot save Thugs of Hindostan. His liberal borrowings from Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow make a fairly thinly crafted character work. But there’s only so much snark one can use to forgive and forget the multiple times Firangi repeatedly saves and betrays the cause and the girl. There are far too many instances where he disappoints and has a change of heart. And, by the end of the film, you’ll lose count – and interest.
Katrina looks glamorous and beautiful but the choreography seems to be out of sync with her character and her story – she seems less like a pre 19th century courtesan and more a 21st century background dancer in a Taylor Swift song. She is almost devoid of expression and in the few dialogs she has the chance to utter seem forced and senseless.
But Katrina’s character, Suraiya, is not alone here. Various others in Thugs of Hindostan have a change of heart within seconds. If only they spent more time in adding scenes and layers to the roles, instead of slo-mo shots of people flying around from harnesses, could the plot have benefited from more interest. Out of the two hours and 44 minutes long film, it is safe to assume that 100 minutes could have been removed if the film did not have people taking out their swords, shooting from old fashioned pistols and swinging from high places in slow motion.
From Aamir and Amitabh’s acting prowess to Fatima and Zeeshan Ayyub’s characters, to the graphics and the hundreds of crores spent on the production, everything is wasted in a weak script and unconvincing storyline. The soundtrack is forgettable to say the least. Only Aamir, Zeeshan and senior Bachchan succeed in saving a few scenes here and there and only a few times does the banter between Firangi and other characters manage to elicit a laugh.
Verdict: Thugs of Hindostan is a cumbersome watch and an amplified version of melodramatic TV adventure dramas that were targeted at pre-pubescent young children in the 1990s.
Overall verdict: 1.5/5 stars
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