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Thugs Of Hindostan Review

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Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

Producers: Yash Raj Film

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh

Public Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

Divya Solgama: Thugs Of Hindostan Movie Review 

Rajeev Masand

Movie Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

Thugs of Hindostan is a joyless slog in the guise of a movie. Not every film needs to be uplifting, inspiring, or even fun. But watching a movie shouldn’t feel like you’re serving a jail term either.

It’s a real shame because Thugs seemed to have all the ingredients for a swashbuckling adventure. There’s a small bunch of rebels taking down the Goliath-like villain, there’s thrilling action on the high seas, a clutch of decent songs, and of course, the casting of two stalwarts – Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan – together on screen for the first time.

The problem is that it’s all held together by a moth-eaten script from some 70s vault. This is trite, outdated plotting; a revenge saga that never lifts off the ground.

Set in the 18th century, Thugs is about a gang of rebels, led by the heroic Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan), trying to win back their kingdom of Raunakpur from the East India Company. Khudabaksh and his army go by the name Azad, which means the word is bandied about dozens of times to milk the patriotism angle. Khudabaksh is also the guardian to the heiress of the Raunakpur throne, Princess Safira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), who is tormented by the brutal way her family was killed by ruthless British officer Clive (Lloyd Owen).

Frankly we’re equally tormented by the way Clive and the other British officers murder the Hindi dialogues. For some reason they insist on speaking in mangled Hindi even among themselves, instead of switching to English.

Into this mix, writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya throws the film’s most colourful character, Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan). He’s a duplicitous double-crossing rogue; a charming opportunist who cons people for a living. The British hire him to infiltrate the rebel group, and we’re never quite sure which side he’s on.

In a corny scene we watch as the righteous Khudabaksh rubs off on Firangi while convincing him to till a barren land with him, planting seeds of hope. The film in fact is riddled with corny bits involving protection bracelets, poisonous laddoos, and a falcon (perhaps loaned from a Sooraj Barjatya set) that not only appeals to a character to make the right decision, but on another occasion, wisely drops the bracelet into the correct hands.

All of this unfolds over an exhausting 2 hours and 44 minutes. It’s a good thing the action scenes are nicely mounted and executed, especially the ones in which rival ships go to war on the sea. An early sequence in which a Trojan horse is smuggled onto a ship is especially impressive.

But for the most part Thugs of Hindostan is a humourless, solemn affair. Barring Firangi, the other characters are a sullen lot that sport long faces as if they were fed sour lemons all their life. Fatima Sana Shaikh is blank in the emotional scenes, but fares better when she’s shooting arrows or landing blows in the action portions. Katrina Kaif, who plays a dancer named Surayya, shows up for precisely three inconsequential scenes. Her chief job here is to writhe around on the floor for two songs.

Amitabh Bachchan, his expressions hidden under a mound of facial hair and long tresses, performs the action bits convincingly, but is barely challenged in a role that doesn’t require him to utter his first words until nearly an hour into the film.

It’s only Aamir Khan who appears to be having any fun around here. His constantly jabbering Firangi gets the best lines in the film, and the actor’s inherent charm lifts this anti-hero off the page, although after Lagaan and Mangal Pandey it’s getting a little tiring watching him go up against the British again.

The biggest disappointment, without question, is the wasted opportunity of a plot that squanders the possible chemistry between Bachchan and Khan. For that we’ll just have to wait until a better film comes along.

I’m going with a generous two out of five for Thugs of Hindostan. It doffs its hat to everything from Kranti to Pirates of the Caribbean, but this ship hits the iceberg early on in its journey.

I’m going with two out of five

Critic Rating: 2/5 Stars

Komal Nahta

Movie Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

Yash Raj Films’ Thugs Of Hindostan (UA) is set in the late 1700s and early 1800s when Britishers ruled India.

Lord Clive (Lloyd Owen) is ruling with an iron hand. He kills little Zafira’s father (Ronit Roy) who is the king of Ranakpur, mother and elder brother, leaving her under the care of her dad’s trusted lieutenant, Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan). Years pass by. Zafira (Fatima Sana Sheikh) is now a beautiful young lady, well-versed in sword-fighting and other forms of warfare. She has been trained excellently by Khudabaksh.

Firangi Malla (Aamir Khan) uses his charm to mesmerise people and then makes thugs loot them. He charges a commission from the thugs for doing so. Although he is an Indian, he has no qualms about betraying and backstabbing Indians and supporting the Englishmen if that translates into money for him. For Fir­angi Malla, it is money and only money always.

Khudabaksh and Zafira lead a team of Indians who want to overthrow the Britishers. Khudabaksh is now popular as Azad and so is each of his team members. Zafira is thirsting for Lord Clive’s blood to avenge the murders of her family members.

The Britishers are on the lookout for Azad (Khudabaksh). Lord Clive’s trusted man (Gavin Marshall) feels, Firangi Malla would be the right man to track down Azad. He, therefore, asks Firangi to trace Azad. In return, Firangi asks for a lot of money and property, which Lord Clive’s man agrees to give on the latter’s behalf, once the job is done. Firangi needs an assistant and asks the Englishmen to release his bosom pal, Shanichar Prasad (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), from jail. The two then set out in search of Azad.

Firangi Malla gets lucky and meets Azad and Zafira. He wins Azad’s confidence but when Azad reaches out to someone for help, Lord Clive’s men surround him. Azad feels, Firangi Malla has betrayed his (Azad’s) trust. Azad has to put up a brave fight against Lord Clive’s men and he is presumed dead while killing a ship-load of British armymen.

It now falls upon Firangi Malla to take care of Zafira who, nevertheless, takes time to start trusting him. Even as Firangi is one day trying to escape from the Azad army, he is reminded of the ideals, philosophy and principles of Azad – and stays back.

Meanwhile, Lord Clive and his men are preparing for celebrations on the eve of Dassera. Zafira seeks the help of Suraiya (Katrina Kaif), girlfriend of Firangi Malla, who is the most sought-after dancer at Lord Clive’s celebrations. Firangi Malla, Zafira and the other Azad armymen join Suraiya in her dance presentation. But Firangi, Zafira and the other Azad armymen are in for a surprise before Suraiya’s dance. What is the surprise?

Soon after the surprise, Zafira and the Azad army personnel are in for a rude shock. What is that rude shock?

Does Zafira avenge the deaths of her family members? Does Firangi Malla support her? Does Firangi Malla remain the betrayer he is or does he have a change of heart?

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s story is set in pre-Independence India and although it is a story about the freedom struggle, it is a fictionalised account. As such, it fails to inspire the feeling of patriotism among the audience. Even fictional stories can evoke patriotic feelings among viewers but that would happen if they are well-written. In this case, the story is so poorly written that there is no question of it inspiring patriotic feelings in the viewers. Frankly, there is no story to warrant a film of the canvas and magnitude as this. If one were to talk of the pillars of any commercial film, well, this one has almost zero romance, zero emotions, zero patriotism (so necessary for a film on India’s freedom struggle), and almost zero comedy and drama. Yes, there are some light scenes but they are few and far between. Also, there are some dramatic moments but again, they are very limited. As a result, the film has no solid legs to stand on.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s screenplay does not seem like a seamless one. It appears more like a patching together of scenes. The screenplay has sev­eral dull moments. Besides, the scenes are lengthy at places and, therefore, boring. Probably, the worst part of the screenplay is that there are no ‘wow’ moments in the film save for one or two. Resultantly, there are no scenes worthy of claps or loud rounds of applause. Everything appears to be sketchy. If the romantic track between Firangi Malla and Suraiya is half-baked, so is the track of flirting between Firangi Malla and Zafira. The writer probably wanted to pack in so much that he has ended up doing justice to nothing at all. Azad’s (Khudabaksh) fight against the Britishers looks so inconsequential that the audience never really gets the feeling that he is fighting for India’s independence. Even if the aim of Azad’s fight against Lord Clive was to have Zafira avenge the murders of her family members, the pain of Zafira is hardly palpable for the viewers to root for her. The interaction between Azad (Khudabaksh) and Firangi Malla are, comparatively speaking, few. Therefore, the thrill of witnessing two important characters confronting one another is almost completely missing. All in all, the screenplay fails to have the desired impact on the audience. Yes, the action drama as also the undercurrent of action may appeal to the masses but the content would not be liked too much by the gentry. Even the mass audience would not consistently love the drama. The portion after the climax doesn’t have the power to sustain the audience’s interest.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s dialogues are good only at places. A few dialogues are weighty but there aren’t any claptrap dialogues.

Amitabh Bachchan looks lovely in his get-up and acts excellently. His in­troduction scene is terrific. Aamir Khan is entertaining but even his superb acting can’t lift the film to a more watchable level because the script is very weak. Aamir looks very handsome with his long, wavy hair, nose pin etc. Katrina Kaif gets limited scope and does well in the few scenes she appears. She looks supremely glamorous and her dances are to die for. Fatima Sana Sheikh does a fair job as Zafira. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub lends excellent sup­port as Shanichar Prasad. Lloyd Owen leaves a mark as Lord Clive. In the role of his assistant, Gavin Marshall also has his moments. Ronit Roy makes his presence amply felt, as Zafira’s father. Ila Arun and Sharat Saxena lend decent support. Deshna Dugad (as little Zafira), Khalida Jan (as Zafira’s mother), Sharad Joshi (as Zafira’s brother, Aslam), Ketan Karande (as Bhima) and the rest are adequate.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s direction is below the mark. Although his narration is not flawed, it fails to engage the audiences enough for them to love the drama or even get completely involved in it. Ajay-Atul’s music does not have a single hit number. The ‘Suraiya’ song is appealing but it is not too high on the popularity charts. The ‘Vashmalle’ and ‘Manzoor-e-Khuda’ songs are fairly good. Amitabh Bhat­tacharya’s lyrics are nice. Choreography of the ‘Suraiya’ song (by Prabhudeva) is outstanding. Katrina Kaif has done such a wonderful job in this song-dance number that it’s sheer delight to watch her moves. Her dance in the ‘Manzoor-e-Khuda’ song (choreographed by Chinni Prakash and Rekha Prakash) is also superb. Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan’s dance movements in the ‘Vashmalle’ song (choreographed by Prabhudeva) are wonderful. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is fantastic and it enhances the impact of the drama. Manush Nandan’s cinematography is terri­fic. His craft makes the film look grand. Action scenes (by Parvez Shaikh, Franz Spilhaus and Lee Whittaker) are exciting. Production designing (by Acropolis – Sumit Basu, Snigdha Basu and Rajnish Hedao) is of a very high standard. Ritesh Soni’s editing is good.

On the whole, Thugs Of Hindostan is a major disappointment. The word of mouth for the film will be bad (despite the fact that the masses may not hate it) and, therefore, collections will drop down fast and furiously after the initial euphoria dies down and after the festive and holiday period gets over. The producers, of course, may make some profits but that’s more because they had sold the satellite and digital rights of the film at phenomenal prices, before the film’s theatrical release. Compared to the scale, canvas and budget of the film, its box-office earnings will be a dampener.

Times of India

Movie Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

Thugs of Hindostan Story: 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.

Thugs of Hindostan Review: 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. In all fairness, despite the lacklustre writing, the film does manage to look and feel like a top-grade adventure film. It certainly looks like a million bucks, sadly it doesn’t feel the same way.

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 also goodfellas. Their only mission is to get their kingdom free from Clive and his company rule. ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’ is based during the East India Company’s rule in India, when the British 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 look like it’s based out of 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 tedious screenplay features scenes that are too prolonged and over dramatic, that’s why the movie feels like it’s always on choppy waters.

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 excels in the physical comedy and banter, while 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 and that’s down to the problematic 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 no substance. With the mammoth expectations attached to this movie, the end experience just leaves you all at sea.

Critic’s Rating: 2.5/5

The Hindu

Movie Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

A Disappointing Lack Of Heft

Somewhere mid-way into Thugs of Hindostan (TOH)two friends, Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan) and Sanichar (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) are shown guzzling a bottle of Ye Olde Pirate whiskey. Nice nod to Pirates of the Caribbean (rumored to have been the film’s divine guiding force) I thought, till a 1800 date showed up on the label. Now isn’t TOH… set in 1795? How come this jump ahead to the future then?

My unsubstantiated quibble is actually wasted when you look at the larger picture that the film presents–pretty but utterly vapid, predictable and pointless. Forget wafer thin, the plot here isn’t even a sliver. The element of deceit and treachery as against faith and trust–the leitmotif of the story, central to the action, the two lead characters as well as the British villains–could have lent itself to something intriguing and beguiling. But far from keeping one guessing, the tale of the two polar opposite thugs–Khudabaksh Jahaazi aka Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan) and Firangi Mallah–pitted against the East India Company, and also playing off against each other, is way too straightforward and simplistic. No twists and turns, no dramatic highs and lows, no emotional peaks and troughs. Nothing to keep you entertained, invested or engaged.

In the name of fight for independence there is the same old talk of mehmaan (visitors, ie the British) turning into dushman (enemy), rooh ki ghulami (enslaved soul) as against jism ke azaadi (setting the body free) and one man’s baaghi (rebel) being other’s masiha (messiah). In the name of action there is some sword play, human bodies dangling on the rope captured in slo-mo, sea battles and sieges. Which is all fine but been there, seen that. It’s not the kind to mesmerise and hold you in awe. There is an odd scene of a huge statue morphing into real human beings but even that doesn’t make one’s eyes go wide in wonderment.

The attention seems more focused on the mounting of the film–from the giant ships and Khan’s getup–than on the written word. There is enough ambition when it comes to the visual scale but hardly any flair in the story itself and its telling.Nothing seems to mesh together well. Even the music is a let-down save one recurring flute tune.

Most actors, including the Big B, tend to fade away in the background to make way for Khan and Fatima Sana Shaikh as Zafira, a rebel whose family was betrayed by the Britishers. Khan’s over the top flamboyance, jocular ways and facetiousness might be in tune with the roguish opportunist he plays on screen, but he seems to oddly lack sway. Also, any resemblance to Jack “Johnny Depp” Sparrow is purely coincidental. The presence of Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, is purely incidental. All she has to do in her two-scene role is perform gangling exercise routines in the name of dance, with her pout and waist sporting an identity and life entirely their own. The one to get a deal as bad as Katrina is Ayyub. After showing immense talent and presence, even in the so-called supporting roles, Ayyub is slotted into the dangerous cubbyhole of being the hero’s sidekick. Someone pull him out of that.

Tame, dull and listless, the film lacks any distinct personality and attitude of its own. To hark back to the title of Vijay Krishna Acharya’s debut film, TOH could have done with some Tashan.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Thugs Of Hindostan

The little princess decorates her sand castle with the royal flag while waiting for her mentor.

The king and the queen are anxious too as this is the first time the prince accompanies him.

Set in 1795 Vijay Krishna Acharya tells the story of old India, the royalties and their palaces and also about the British East India Company threatening our freedom.

Eleven years later John Clive/Lloyd Owen continues to be the antagonist while Khudabaksh Azaad/ Amitabh Bachchan is the loyal warrior who dreams to free Hindostan.

The other protagonists include Firangi Mallah/ Aamir Khan, a small-time thug from Avadh who will sell his soul for money. He rides a donkey that he addresses as ‘Nawab’ and plays the flute to signal his folks of an opportunity.

The beautiful Suraiya/ Katrina Kaif, is a court dancer now engaged to entertain the foreigners and Zafira/ Fatima Sana Shaikh, the only survivor of the royal family sworn to vengeance.

It is important to emphasize that the scale and the grandeur of the film is extraordinary. The production and art design is diligent and flawless.

The film excels in every technical department, costume, choreography, cinematography and most important action.

Precisely written and passionately directed Vijay Krishna Acharya grips you with a screenplay combining diverse characters and thought-provoking dialogues.

This is a film more about star presence than performances. Katrina Kaif adds spice with her beauty and dances. Fatima Sana Shaikh the Dangal girl is convincing in both, action and emotional sequences.

As Firangi Mallah Aamir Khan is deliciously wicked and has you hooked on to him as long as he is on the screen.

Hats off to Amitabh Bachchan and his super timing as an actor. As a warrior, he rides a horse, shoots arrows, jumps off the cliff and dives under water. As a father, he sings a lullaby. In his abode, he is the messiah, locked in chains he resembles Jesus Christ.

Thugs of Hindostan is long, slow, takes many liberties and has continuity problems. The texture and the pace take a while to grow on you and the audience has to be patient.

The film is different and not of everyone’s taste. It is worth a watch for the message, intention, effort and the combination of Khan and Bachchan.

I rate Thugs of Hindostan with 3 stars.

Critic Rating: 3/5 Stars


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