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FILM REVIEW – SACHIN CHATTE

Bugs of Hindostan

Film: Thugs of Hindostan, Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Two women, Lots of ships, (Mis)directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya, Duration: 2 hrs 44 mins, Rating: *

There is an old Ajit joke about torturing someone by putting him in liquid oxygen – “Liquid ise jeene nahi dega, oxygen ise marney nahi dega!” (The liquid will kill him and the oxygen won’t let him die!) goes the punch line. I felt a bit like that while watching Yashraj’s new multi-multi crore offering, Thugs of Hindostan. As a critic, I couldn’t leave the theatre; as a viewer, I couldn’t sit through it. But I am relieved to report that I survived the ordeal with minor reversible damage to the grey cells.

When the trailer was out there were fears that this might turn out to be a turkey. The fears were well founded: this is one gargantuan turkey that apparently cost around `300 crores. It is a deathly dull, mind numbing cocktail of incompetence, silliness, lethargy, inanity, all taking turns.

Written and directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya (of Dhoom 3 fame), you have to hand it to the cast and crew (except the producer and writer/director) for going through the exercise of filmmaking without losing their marbles, since this one had ‘disaster’ written all over it. If anything, a film like this belongs to the 70s.

Thugs of Hindostan is closer to Manoj Kumar’s Kranti (1981) than The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: in an identical scene from Kranti, they’ve even replaced the Chana jor garam with laddoos here (minus the song) and that is not a spoiler – the movie is so spoilt that no spoiler can spoil it further.

Set around the turn of the 18th century, we have Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) popularly known as Azaad, who leads a bunch of rebels against the East India Company. He is seen uttering lines like Daago! (fire), humlaa! (attack). It must be chawanprash which keeps him healthy and fit enough to wield two swords and fight like a gladiator (while swaddled in all manner of clothes and robes). He brings up Safira (Fatima Sana Sheikh) as his own daughter after her royal parents were killed by an evil British officer (Lloyd Owen), whose Hindi is grammatically correct, but whose accent is an ear sore. He is so Indianised that he even attends a special Dussehra celebration where Katrina Kaif dances in a silvery shiny garment which, for want of a better description, I will call hot pants, though they are not exactly that.

Safira meanwhile grows up to be a fine girl who doesn’t speak much but whose skills in archery, gymnastics, long jump and other Olympic sports would have made her an automatic qualifier for the Indian team.

Aamir Khan plays Firangi Mallah, a double crossing, selfish, sweet talking chap, who always finds a way out. He has a side-kick (Md Zeeshan Ayub) whose teeth reminded me of Freddy Mercury’s, and the interactions between the two are supposed to be ‘funny’.

Then there is a falcon and I was half expecting Bachchan to scream ‘Allaahrakhaa’ (upon which the birdie promptly air-dropped a garland and chunri into his hands in Coolie). But the falcon here drops a bracelet and Firangi even engages in a talk with the bird which almost prompted me to start a conversation with the nonexistent person in the next seat.

The dialogues are cringe-worthy; there is one where Firangi says: “Azaad ko aap nahi mar sakte. Azaad ek soch hain”, which made me wonder if I was watching a Ram Gopal Varma film.

There is a fair bit of action involving guns, swords, canons and ships – some of the warfare tactics are the worst that we have seen in cinema.  The special effects are tacky but not as tacky as the trailers suggested.

Among the smaller mercies bestowed by the film, Katrina Kaif makes a very brief appearance, as Surraiya, the dancer.

Of the cast, Bachchan just goes through the motions with a let’s-be-done-with-this approach. Aamir Khan uses all the charm he could possibly muster and just about prevents you from falling into deep slumber. In the process though, he rolls his eyeballs round and round, like the giant wheel at the Mapusa fair.

To say that Thugs of Hindostan is dead in the water is an insult to the liquid.

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