Thugs of Hindostan – What’s not to roll in our seats laughing when it is so unintentionally hilarious, and so cinematically bankrupt! Because other than a logical script, interesting characters, foot tapping music, engaging action, and palatable VFX, it has well everything else!
Picture this – here is a film:
– where the princely estate Raunakpur is drawn out landlocked somewhere in the MP region, but exactly 11 years later, huge ships sailing on massive graphic seas is the only mode of commute to the same!
– where a falcon has far more screen space and importance than one of the leading girls in the film, and naturally so because it has better vigilance coverage than a drone and far more precise delivery abilities than Swiggy!
– where it doesn’t matter how committed Mr. director is to the film, but our leading dancing girl is so committed to her profession that she keeps on dancing in her own world in a sequence when the rest of the world is collapsing fighting around her!
– where the dancing skills of the leading girl (in hot pants, on Dussehra eve, in 1806 by the way) keep the ‘smart’ Britishers so engaged that they give full due respect for her dance to get over before attacking the enemy giving them all the time to plan their move!
– where the other leading warrior girl (her team included!) has literally zero dialogs for the first hour of the movie and you begin to wonder if she is playing a mute girl, and just then she tries to speak and emote and you wish that she went back to her, well mute state! Every time she opened the mouth, you thanked the other dancing girl that she at least doesn’t try unnecessarily!
– where you can clearly see Bhansali-ish cinematic inspiration of a Malhari or a Khalli bali even in song and dance design, but unfortunately the director has two complete non dancers to enact that. Oh, and by the way, one of them seems completely suppressed under the weight of his unbearably heavy armor for his age, and looks plastic stiff and exhaustively tired in most of the shots!
– where the British officers are happily speaking in Hindi amongst each other in private, and that too in heavily loaded Avadhi Hindi, full of complex words, and accidentally slip into English in only one of the scenes, but quickly recover the mistake!
– where you start betting on the next step of the master schemer from a distance and what turn will his character take, and hurray you win every time, because frankly you are at least thinking more than what Mr. writer and director did with the possibilities that could still be extracted out of him, the only one who had some potential had the writing been taken a little more seriously! If nothing else, how difficult was it to keep his dialect consistent to bhojpuri (used for whatever reason!) and not easily slip into hindi for convenience in a crucial scene!
– where you exactly know that a pistol won’t have loaded ammunition at a critical juncture, or that the laddoos being distributed will be heavily drugged to facilitate a prison escape! By the way, the laddoos looked really big and enticing – I don’t blame the prison guards at all, I wanted to have one too!
With all of this and more, TOH is as deceitful a film as it can be and so unintentionally funny that it almost fits into the prestigious #SoBadItsGood club. When such a big studio like YRF decides to invest so insanely for a film, how difficult was it for them to get the oh so talented(!) Vijay Krishna Acharya to at least write a script for the film and take of the minimal spice elements, and may be then at least some things could have fallen in place for the masala magnum opus that it was possibly intended to be.
Because to give credit where it is due, (other than the shoddy VFX) the film is mounted on a massive scale with spectacular production design, pretty good looking sets, rich costumes, and some amazing (but inconsistent) cinematography. Also there was some attempt to write at least one interesting character in the film called Firangi Mallah with at least some layers and shades (but was unfortunately given up too soon), because all said and done, the only performance of the film that makes a decent impression and tries to work through its flawed writing is that of Aamir Khan. His performance as Firangi in all honesty is far more interesting and far less caricaturish than a PK or the twins of Dhoom 3, while it could easily have been worse given the writing. It was evident through and through that he enjoyed doing Firangi a lot. But a protagonist who is made to ride a donkey can only be so much! If Aamir indeed found the character so interesting as he claims to, couldn’t he (through his ‘creative’ inputs) have seen to it that it was at least written with more chutzpah to be the saving grace of the film?
Because nothing else in the film is. Fatima Sana Shaikh is a pure disaster in the name of an actor, and could not even speak one line properly! She is especially terrible when asked to enact emotional scenes. Even her stunts are too gimmicky, and what fun is it when the bow and arrow girl doesn’t do a multi arrow Devasena other than one blink and miss shot only! Katrina Kaif looks incredibly hot yet again and has all of four scenes (including two forgettable songs) in the film! Doesn’t she feel uncomfortable when her profession calls her an actress but she refuses to act? And I have no clue why Amitabh Bachchan would have agreed to do such an uninspiring role! The character offered nothing for him, and well he did nothing! And what was it with his poor prosthetics, and changing eye lens color at various junctures of the film?
The less you speak about the rest of the cast, the better! Zishan Ayyub is a joke in the name of a comic side kick and possibly he wouldn’t also know what was he doing in the film. Lloyd Owen is nothing less of a typical caricature of an officer from the East India Company with a funny accent (which sometimes accidentally vanishes as well by the way). The falcon and the donkey were far more sincere and better written than all of them!
And how can a film that wants to so heavily compare itself with the far more entertaining Baahubali, have such poor action choreography, such ridiculous slow motion stunts, and such jarring background score to even miss the opportunity in those technical departments. You see the Baahubali catapult inspiration in flying cannon shells, or similarities in huge ships being recreated here, but still don’t get overwhelmed by its sheer scale. Blame the messy VFX and poor editing for that. It is a crime when a mass entertainer like this gets excruciatingly slow at places, and drags on for ever. It is also a crime when a masala flick doesn’t even have one foot tapping song to add to your playlist and almost punches a father daughter bonding number with an item song to accommodate it all! What was Mr. director thinking honestly?
Last but not the least, just when you were again getting to feel relaxed that the film is finally getting over, it leaves you with an extremely scary end thought that a sequel – Thugs of Englistan has already been conceived for the film, even before its release! Hoping, just hoping, that the critical and commercial reception of the film plays the biggest deceit with the makers in this thugs game, and kills the very idea at the bud!
After all – they should get back what they are, or as Firangi Mallah calls himself and this entire clan – Mahaan Kaminey!