Haters will hate, but let no one tell you that Bollywood’s most expensive film ever does not have its Baahubali moments. The film that stands proudly on Amitabh Bachchan’s blood and sweat, and Aamir Khan’s I-am-playing-a-lovable-rascal smirk, has its moments of self-reflexive bravura. As Bachchan, Aamir and Fatima Sana Shaikh swoop down CGI ships, slicing British sepoys in neat stacks on their way, we wait for them to form a constellation frame of three (in slow motion). And like in Baahubali, the extras of the films are made to gape at the acrobatics of the lead troika. So meta.
Sana, of course, has the adorable are-you-sure-you-want-me-in-this-frame-with-these-veterans expression on her face (ladki bahut aage badegi, so humble), but you know na director Vijay Krishna Acharya is such a feminist. He ensured Kareena started the size zero fad in Tashan, and then made Katrina play a trapeze artist love-interest in Dhoom 3. Here, he makes Sana Shaikh play an avenging warrior princess who needs all the help in the world to complete her task. Her weapons of choice, of course, are medallion-encrusted bows and a quiver of feathered arrows. Because there is nothing more sexy, sorry, inspiring, than watching a young woman fumble around for her arrows as she is sprayed by bullets. Meanwhile, the men do their thing with swords while rocking the boho-chic ensembles they are draped in.
To be fair, Khan’s character has more layers than his patchwork jackets. And you know what we mean by that na? He plays a double-crossing mercenary and we don’t know where his loyalties lie till the very end (ya, sure). He is hired by a tyrannical British officer to penetrate the rebel gang of Khudabaksh (Bachchan) and the avenging princess. He may be a soul-dead mercenary, but who can resist the call of deshbhakti and the more importantly, how can he resist showing the dhaai-guna-lagaan Britisher his place?
The only bit of layer Bachchan’s character is invested with, is an assortment of fabulous raw-silk kurtas. His Khudabaksh is a runaway rebel who looks like a shaman and speaks like a lifestyle guru – ‘Koshish se banjar zameen pe bhi fasal ugta hai, Bharosa mera swabhav hai’, etc.
If you actually thought that a film called Thugs Of Hindostan will at least touch upon the cult of thugs (organised gangs of robbers and murderers who stalked the plains of Central India for centuries), the joke is on you my friend. Come on! This is a Yash Raj Film directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya. In this world 18th century Muslim courtesans are sequined goddesses. The idea, clearly, is to have fun.
Or is it?
Why then is this a 164-minute film which makes you conscious of every second of your lost time? Fight sequences melt into fight sequences, as your finger scrape the bottom of the mega popcorn tub. Ships are bombed in abundance and jaded extras in red jackets are trampled upon with much glee. The rousing background music plays in loop. Yet, nothing happens. Not until Katrina Kaif is brought in for a climactic number to justify her multi-crore paycheck. Once that’s done with, you can finally see a resolution in the horizon. Phew!
But seriously, we have a fool-proof solution for Yash Raj. To mask the demonetisation-level disappointment that is Thugs Of Hindostan, just rename the film to something more patriotic. This is the holy season of renaming after all. How about this? Videshi Thugs In Hindostan Because India Is Great And Never Had Any Thugs.