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.