Thugs of Hindostan film review: Too many bugs with these thugs
The setting is the late 18th century. British traders/ colonisers stationed in India and led by a merciless commander called John Clive (Lloyd Owen) are destroying the Indian monarchy by capturing their kingdoms.
One such king (Ronit Roy) falls prey to British treachery, but his surviving daughter Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) is saved in the nick of time by the kingdom’s crinkly general Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan).
Zafira gets inducted into a rebellious army filled with the dregs of Hindostan, out to oust the British and seek vengeance. Troubled by their revolutionary ways for over a decade, Clive decides to use wily Indian thug Firangi (Aamir Khan) to track down their leader. Khudabaksh, who is also known as Azad, is so over-clothed that the rebel leader looks like he is covered by many rugs of Hindostan.
Firangi, the thug who is easily swayed by many intoxicating mugs of Hindostan and the lure of gold, infiltrates Azad’s lair. Moved by some patriotic punch lines from Azad about the thugs of Hindostan, Firangi appears to undergo a change of heart—or does he? Which way will Firangi’s loyalty land—in favour of the British colonisers or the homeland?
This forms the crux of the rest of the otherwise predictable and dull-as-doornails film. But it takes a long time for writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya to get to the point. If there is one hook, it’s that we cannot always predict which way Firangi will swing.
Albeit borrowed heavily from Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean, Firangi is the one character with some personality, whether he is conning British officers or the rebels. The only person who calls him out is entertainer Suraiyya (Katrina Kaif, who is given two songs and some glamorous costumes). The unreliable, fast-talking character at least gives Khan some material to sink his teeth into, which cannot be said for the rest of the cast. Shaikh is competent in the action scenes, as is Bachchan but his Khudabaksh seems to have been deified by the director’s awe.
The British are predictably heartless, though Clive is less of a caricature than the usual portrayal of foreign characters in Indian films. But it is hard to comprehend why the British officers speak to each other in Hindi.
Unlike the choreography, which is rather unique for this kind of fact-meets-fiction action adventure, Ajay-Atul’s songs and John Stewart Eduri’s background score are uninspired. While detailed and sometimes complex, the sets, action sequences and costumes are hardly distinctive. The editing—the film is nearly three hours long—is another one of the many bugs in this Hindostan.
Like previous works, which include Tashan and Dhoom 3, Acharya’s Thugs of Hindostan is big but hollow.