Early 1700s. The East India Company is slowly turning into a monster that an entire nation will have to feed for the next 200 years and some more. Even centuries ago, money and power held hands. No wonder, EIC laid the foundation of British Raj in India. But there are some forces you can't tame. Beyond the zaminders and the educated upper class who surrendered for their own interest and the working class that had no choice but to give up to the oppression, there were these fiercely courageous, untamed ones. The Thugs.
Vijay Krishna Acharya's Thugs Of Hindostan is a fictional tale set in an imaginary Raunaqpur, a coastal village and the discrete den of thugs, enemies of the British, secret friends of Indian kings who are now tired of gratifying the white ego and a messiah for the tormented countrymen. Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) and his troupe of warriors are in a battle with Lord Clive (English commander John Clive, played by Lloyed Owen) and his Englishmen as princess Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) seeks revenge of her parents' and brother's death.
Thugs, popularly identified as Indian bandits, were a real threat to the British as they sought to expand the horizon of power into Indian subcontinent then known as Hindostan. The rulers resort to Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), a small-time, unreliable but funny, greedy man pleasing the 'Goras' often by wrong means and filling his pocket. He's given the mission to trap Khudabaksh and his gang. This not only calls for the greatest change in his life but also transforms the person within him.
As suggested by itself, TOH is based around the coastal areas near Kolkata and Durgapur. History suggests a number of docks and villages nearby have been witness to the Thugs and their functions. Acharya's film rightly captures the mood. Through the first half, we are left impressed with high-end production designing, probably the most crucial aspect of a period film. From the steam run ships to the warriors, their weapons, armours and attires, makers have left no stones unturned to make it look as convincing as possible. However, it could be cut short by a good 10-15 minutes.
Action choreography calls for an applause in the second. But if you are a Pirates fan, then there are chances that you’d find a number of TOH action choreographies stunningly similar to that of their alleged Hollywood inspiration. This is specially applicable to the ship war sequences.
On this note, we absolutely loved how Fatima has reinvented herself as a performer, punching powerful kicks with throwing arrows with ease. Amitabh Bachchan's subtle endurance is to be admired. So is Aamir Khan's cunning wit.
Plenty has been written and said about Aamir’s character resembling Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. In a recent interaction with the press, Aamir was heard firmly claiming that Vijay Krishna Acharya took no inspiration from Jack Sparrow when he sketched Firangi. After watching the film, however, it is safe to say that it’s not only Firangi’s garb that takes major cues from Jack Sparrow, but several nuances from the Caribbean character have been adopted as well. For example, our own Firangi is as treacherous as Sparrow. In fact, he boasts, “treachery is my beauty”. He’d use his wit to dodge even the most critical situations and his ever smiling face can be really deceiving. He’s also often unwilling to fight himself and would make an excuse to flee. Now, so much similitude in Firangi is probably not a coincidence.
Katrina Kaif, as Surraiyya looks and dances like a dream. But she barely occupies 15-20 minutes of screen time. We so wish she had a meatier role.
While TOH rightly blends history and fiction, a few twists are unconvincing. We find his and Aamir's equation a by-chance one, based upon more of fate and less of conviction. Since the film largely portrays thugs as people eyeing freedom from the English, makers could as well explore a more ruthless form of the British Raj.
Big B packs a punch with actions, after a long time. Not many might know that a number of serious injuries have left lasting pain in the actor’s body, which he make-does with, every time he is taxing himself with actions. It is commendable as to how much he assimilates of an ageing Khudabaksh, strong but carrying so much of emotional baggage inside.
Manush Nandan's cinematography is neat and detailed while Ajay-Atul's music will only survive on situations and not a soundtrack that will endure.
At the end, the film manages to look really long and could as well be chopped down some 20 minutes further.
Don't look for extraordinary cinematic brilliance or critical elements because TOH radiates elements of mass entertainment. Keep your expectations moderate, and watch it once if you have to.