No, that’s not what I meant. Indian film industry has never shied away from giving every genre out there a desi twist. While Feroz Khan was dishing out curry westerns to the Hindi speaking audience, down South the likes of Rajnikanth were seen in cowboy gear, replete with spurs.Now, what exactly was a cowboy doing in the land of Periyar, I’ve absolutely no clue. Bollywood of yore even found a desi Native American in Danny Denzongpa.Well, where there is a will, they say. Not too many desi swashbukcling films come to my mind but, they did do a desi version of Zorro in the mid 70s. Two of the most influential individuals ever in Tamil Nadu, MGR and Jayalalitha came together on screen for the first time in the swashbuckling saga Ayirtahil Oruvan. As long as it was our favorite stars who brandished the swords and swung from chandeliers, we never really cared for the cultural, geographical or historical accuracy of the story or the settings and that’s precisely what Thugs Of Hindostan was banking on.
YRF, Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, not necessarily in that order, are reasons galore for the audience to barge into the theatres and when it’s a period drama touted as one of the most expensive films ever in Hindi, expectations were expected to skyrocket and hype to go through the roof in ways that would turn Elon Musk green. Vijay Krishna Acharya who had helmed the third Dhoom movie for YRF with Aamir was back in the director’s seat and also had written the film. Aamir was seen flaunting his look for the film as is the custom since his Lagaan days. The shoot, we were told was progessing in exotic locations like Malta. Making videos released few weeks before the release showed the time and effort put in by the crew, behind the scenes. Actual ships had been built in Malta and that’s where and how the film was being shot.The trailer gave an impression that what’s on offer was a desi version of Pirates Of The Caribbean but that turned out not to be entirely true.
Thugs of British India were murderers who snuck into travelling groups and strangled people for their belongings. William Henrey Sleeman was the British Officer who was credited for suppressing the Thug menace in India. Other than this tryst with the law the Thugs were never known for fighting the Brits for the sake of anything or anyone, independence the least. Vijay Krishna Acharya here has taken the liberty of turning the titular thugs into freedom fighters of sorts, who rebelled against the ruling British. Aamir Khan is seen scheming with some actual thugs to rob some travellers but he ends up persuading them not to strangle their victims to death. Acharya’s writing and direction is the weakest link in this film that struggles to stay afloat upon the screen presence of Bachchan and the charisma of Khan. Big B gets to growl to his heart’s content and still looks good in the action scenes though the costume threatens to weigh him down. Aamir is at ease as the sneaky Firangi. He must have been well aware of the comparisions his role would draw to Depp’s Sparrow and has tried his best to stay original though its evident that Acharya was indeed heavily inspired by Sparrow when he wrote Firangi. For a movie that aspires to set ambitious visual standards the plot and the progression of the tale follows the age old formula of Bollywood revenge movies. Some of the plot twists are downright silly and forced. In his pursuit for excellence in the action scenes, Acharya seems to have lost his grip on the tale being told. Fathima Sana is either angry or sad while Katrina Kaif is around looking for excuses to break into song and dance. Watch this for Aamir, Amitabh and the ships, in that order.