Thugs of Hindostan Review (SPOILERS): Aamir is No Han Solo

I already put up my No Spoilers review, you can read that if you want to avoid spoilers.  Most of the fun of the movie is in the action set-pieces which I can’t really spoil, so you don’t have to be that careful about it, read this review if you want.  Oh, and this review is a little short because I am planning to do a semi-scene by scene for this film.  Probably more like first half/second half, but the structure and visuals were interesting enough that I want to dissect them piece by piece over the next few days.

Whole plot in two paragraphs:

Ronit Roy is a noble king planning how to keep his kingdom independent from the encroaching British East India company lead by Lloyd Owen.  But Lloyd kidnaps his young son and forces Ronit to sign a surrender.  And then kills the whole family anyway, only their little daughter escapes thanks to a last minute rescue from the noble family retainer Amitabh Bachchan.  Some years later, Amitabh and grown up Fatima are running a band of rebels with secret support from the neighboring king who is publicly friendly to the British.  Meanwhile, Aamir is a trickster who specializes in infiltrating groups through his charm and compliments and then betraying them, first a group of travelers to a gang of thugs, then the thugs themselves to the British.  The British have the bright idea to set him to bring them Amitabh.  They find him in the crowd at a performance by his girlfriend, the naach girl Katrina Kaif.  Aamir has them free his friend Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, a Hindu pandit with the ability to read signs.  Aamir follows Mohammed’s guidance and they end up on a ship when Amitabh and Fatima attack it.  Aamir joins in the fight at their side and when he is injured, they take him back to their secret hide out.  Aamir has no luck winning over Fatima, but Amitabh trusts him and shares his vision with him of a better future.  Only then they go into town to get more supplies from the palace and Aamir is stopped by his British contact and betrays Amitabh.  They have a massive fight scene, but Amitabh still trusts Aamir when he sees there is no other choice, prepares himself to sacrifice himself by blowing up the ship in the harbor while he gives Aamir the responsibility of taking care of Fatima in his place.  INTERVAL

Post-interval, Fatima has a ceremony for Amitabh, and then Aamir goes to the British and offers them a map revealing the rebels secret hide out.  Only when the British arrive, they are ambushed by the rebels following a plan Aamir prepared.  Fatima now trusts him and gives him Amitabh’s sword, but Aamir runs from this true emotion and only returns when he stumbles upon another ambush coming.  The rebels go on the run and go to Katrina for help.  With her, they make up a plan to kill Lloyd Owen at his Diwali party.  But at the last minute, Lloyd Owen reveals that Amitabh did NOT die and in fact he has him captured and tied up.  They continue with their plan, a performance ending with Fatima leaping forward to shoot Lloyd only to discover Aamir gave her an unloaded gun.  Aamir turns all the rebels in to the British and they are all arrested.  But then Aamir brings laddoos to celebrate and gives them to the guards, who all pass out, drugged.  The rebels escape the jail and in one last grand battle, Fatima kills Lloyd Owen.  In the end, Fatima and Amitabh raise the royal flag on the fort again, while Aamir and Mohammed escape on a stolen ship planning more grand adventures, only for some boxes to shift and reveal Katrina is with them as well.  They decide to go to England and see if they can steal everything from the British there.

Image result for thugs of hindostan poster

 

 

 

So, the big problem with this plot is that Aamir doesn’t belong in it.  The story it should be is of the brave heartbroken Princess determined to save her country and her people with the support of her loyal guard Amitabh.  We get glimpses of that story, most notably in a scene in the first half when she wakes from a nightmare to find Amitabh there and he promises that if she calls out for him, he will return even from the gates of hell to comfort her.  It’s not a promise or a scene between a noble princess and her soldier, but between a foster father and his daughter who love each other deeply.  The emotional peak of the film is when Amitabh is revealed to still be alive and Fatima, unable to go to him, instead sings back to him the lullaby he used to sing to her.  These are the people I care about, these are the interesting unusual noble worthy people.

And then there’s Aamir.  We are supposed to care about his journey from being an amoral rogue to finding something worth fighting for.  But, why?

(Why does Aamir get so much screen time in this song and Fatima so little?)

Let’s talk Han Solo.  Han was amoral and didn’t care about the rebellion and so on and so forth.  But he was also brave and confident and skilled and very very smart.  And he may not have cared about the rebellion, but he did care about people.  He may say he doesn’t, but he really does.  This movie doesn’t seem to get that, that sometimes when people say they don’t care, they are lying.  and if they aren’t lying, they aren’t very sympathetic characters.  I don’t have any fun watching Aamir if I don’t have some reason to like him.

There was another way I was sure this movie would go for the longest time which would have resolved it all.  In the Memoirs of a Thug book, the final change in the narrator happens when he discovers that one of his victims is his own long lost sister.  We don’t see the death scene of Fatima’s young brother (he is blown off the end of a cannon, but the film doesn’t show it).  I was sure it would turn out that Aamir was her longlost brother, given amnesia by his injuries and not knowing who he is until a late in the film discover.  Which would also be very Star Wars, but there’s a reason Star Wars did it like that, there was a special heartbreak and happiness to these two orphan lonely suffering people discovering they had family after all, they shared something more than friendship.

But there is no reveal of a longlost brother.  Or of a secret rebel mission.  Or anything else.  Aamir’s character is exactly what he seems on the surface.  That’s the problem with this whole film, it is all surface, no surprises underneath.

(This song is exactly what you think it will be)

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33 thoughts on “Thugs of Hindostan Review (SPOILERS): Aamir is No Han Solo

  1. Yeah, I would like to read your thoughts about the ‘technical’ aspect(s) of the movie. Thanks already for this quick analysis and I think you nailed it in both your reviews.
    I don’t want to make any guesses why Aamir’s role was shaped (or shown) like that – and in abundance – so that I thought it was Acharya’s ‘twist & pastiche’ idea from Tashan going wrong (also in Dhoom 3 he somehow leant on that). And I also wonder why Aamir stressed that he did choose to do the movie because of the character (and not the story) when this character kept to be shallow.
    Well, I’m really interested in the outcome and sure that his fans will find something to like the movie…if only his performance.

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      • Yes, and no. His character is constantly held up as an icon and an example of everything good. But at the same time, he himself doesn’t really get many emotional lines or scenes. It’s not so much that Amitabh is wasted as his whole storyline with Fatima is wasted.

        On Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 4:01 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • That’s what I meant…it could have been the main plot (Amitji & Fatima) and Aamir somehow the third lead…and if I remember right that was the initial plan with even Katrina have a meaty role as Aamir’s love interest.
          I voluntarily buy what was written in the comment of the no-spoiler-review & that Aamir’s co-stars weren’t happy at all how their roles were cut down more & more in favour of Aamir’s role.
          It’s still the concept of the megastar having a mega-presence…

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    • It’s definitely a different sort of character, but sometimes different doesn’t mean “good”.

      On Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 3:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I just thought about something that I hoped for in Thugs and that could have been explored better: the juxtaposing in opposition/alongside of Aamir and Amitji as powerhouses of Hindi Cinema.
    Mohabbatein came into my mind where ShahRukh was opposite Amitji also coming to him with something else in mind as he showed…somehow it was the same main premise: infiltrate the ‘enemy’ & dismantle him. (it was also a YashRaj movie!)

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    • Oh, that would have been FASCINATING!!!! And it was almost there, Amitabh’s character was driven by emotion and sincerity, while Aamir’s was driven by clever tricks and plans. Which is, in many ways, the difference between their two kinds of films and performances.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 4:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • It’s about time! My goodness, the amount of dreck that has been allowed to flourish thanks to clever numbers manipulation is ridiculous. Not to mention the amount of remarkable films that have withered on the vine. If the Sultan figures get questioned, maybe that means someone will finally notice the JHMS overseas numbers.

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      • Indian box office figures need to thrown aside because they make no sense ever. Everybody gives different numbers and nobody knows what’s going on. If I recall correctly, during one of Salman’s YRF film (either the Tiger franchise or Sultan, can’t remember) the box office sites were giving higher numbers than YRF! Salman’s fans claim it was a tactic to pay him less money.

        I feel the same about China numbers. They are absurd and apparently the highest grossing Chinese film was also faked.

        Only the rest of the overseas countries have a proper tracking system. TOH numbers are coming in and they are BAD.

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        • That’s how I always do it, global without China.

          It’s frustrating though, because I know there are legitimate differences between the global and local figures. Stree for instance was a strong long running word of mouth hit overseas, but from what people said it was an immediate hit in the first weekend in India.

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          • There was an article I saw on BH saying theater owners were pressured to raise prices 10% or something. I wish I had saved it, but of course now I can’t find it.

            On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 4:17 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • He’s basically saying YRF was forcing him to increase ticket rates but he can’t do that because he doesn’t have the audience for it. He said he serves the middle class so he can’t price tickets as high as YRF wants him to. His theater is for people who love movies and not for those who want to relax and barely pay attention and eat samosas on the side.

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          • Yep, that’s the problem which has been obvious to anyone who actually goes to theaters, the majority of the filmgoers in India (especially for Indian films) are in the lower income brackets. There’s a surge as the higher tickets bring in the higher audience, but that audience is going to get worn out.

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          • People seem to be upset because YRF is reporting these huge numbers but they don’t see that on the ground. Theaters are half empty and sites like bookmyshow are also showing empty theaters so the 50 crore number doesn’t make sense to people. Distributors are saying there was a 50% drop at least the next day but even if we believe the 50 crore number, then the 50% drop should be 25 crores for the next day. Instead, YRF is reporting a number in the mid 30’s range.

            Here is an example of what distributors are saying in contrast to what YRF is showing.

            It seems like YRF wants to save face and this is part of their PR plan because this movie is looking to be the debacle of the decade.

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          • Interesting, they didn’t bother with as much work for their other flops. It must be face saving just because this was such a big film. They didn’t bother with nearly as much propaganda with Sui Dhaaga, for instance. I doubt they will actually lose more money than they lost on other films, but they will lose a lot more in prestige.

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  3. I forgot to mention there are other manipulations besides the monetary ones. For example, when you search for the movie on google, this is what you get on the first page, showing IMDB rating of 6.2.

    But on the real IMDB website, the rating is a poor 3.8.

    Keep in mind YRF has a tie-up with Google. Aamir on his horse is currently guiding people in Google Maps in India.

    Then there’s stuff like this. YRF is taking down reviews, parody videos, getting twitter accounts suspended and more

    They have brought a lot of bad faith into the system. I don’t know if this always goes on or what because this is the first time I’m paying attention but it looks this is at least the first time it’s on such a large scale. For so many to unite and trend against them says something.

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    • I am sure this has been done before. Sultan, Tiger Zinda Hai, and every major non-Yash Raj film too for the past 5-10 years, it’s all fake numbers and flim-flam. The real profits are in Badhai Ho and other movies like that. All of these big box office figures everyone is tauting are nothing. Judwaa 2, there’s another one. You just have to go to the theaters and see what is sold out and what is empty, what is held over weeks on end and what drops off, and so on and so forth.

      The google and fake websites and stuff, maybe that is new, but the general idea of transparent lies to make films seem better than they are, that’s been there for years. So, yaaaaay! Finally people are noticing this and talking about it instead of just me!

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      • It’s high time someone called off YRF for their unethical practices but even this so called people awakening seems like a deliberate,planned effort when the bad reviews and trolls on BO figures mostly come from Twitter accounts with SRK/Zero pictures as profile pictures. Some of the troll reviews are copied & reproduced verbatim from multiple accounts. Aamir also lacks the kind of rabid fanbase that SRK and Salman has to counter the propaganda. YRF is alone in the face saving measures even though it serves them right.
        I will believe that this is a true awakening and that transparent lies won’t work anymore if the same thing happens to say a similar quality SRK or Salman film from any producer. Similar thing had been happening in South films for years -every Vijay,Ajith, Mohanlal,Mammotty,RamCharan,Jr NTR,Mahesh Babu films are record breaking and fans go truly mental in citing numbers as if it’s all going to their savings account.

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        • Speaking of Salman, I was really interested with the reception of Race 3. Based purely on the global figures, Race didn’t do that much worse than Sultan or even Tiger Zinda Hai. It’s still one of the top movies of the year. But without the YRF spin doctors in charge to massage the way the box office figures were released and trick the critics (a solid social message and high production values are some times all it takes), plus the small group of franchise fans who were already angry at Salman taking it over, Race 3 was thrown to the wolves in a way Salman’s over recent films have not been.

          The big big YRF tentpole movie has been sliding in box office for years, but they’ve been keeping the illusion of it alive because that’s what sells the satellite rights and keeps the Yash Raj name bright. But if you look at the actual numbers, and compare them with the numbers for non-YRF films which were widely considered flops, you see they are the same.

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  4. The Fatima-Amitabh story line seems genuinely touching and interesting and I would have watched the heck out of that movie. From the way you’re describing this movie I get the impression that once Aamir shows up things go downhill which is interesting because I felt the exact same way about Secret Superstar where I was invested in that film until the recording studio nonsense stuff happened. Also the YRF’s censoring is really putting a bad taste in my mouth. Absolutely terrible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s exactly like Secret Superstar. Except in that one, a) Aamir really wasn’t there that long, the big emotional moments still took place without him. And b) it felt like Aamir himself knew his place, knew he was there just to make sure the film was seen and profitable, not to take anything away from the real stars.

      In this movie, he shows up and takes over the movie at about minute 12 and he never really lets go.

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  5. I have got some information about ticket prices (in Ahmedabad multiplexes): morning shows places range from 150 to 490 rupees, the others from 330 to 670! (Badhai Ho is 100 – 300/230 – 470)
    Single screen in general would range from 20 to 100, but they were asked/forced to increase.

    I vehemently hope that for Zero, prices won’t be increased in such a way, no forcing & no manipulating. My faith in those kind of numbers had been zilch since the beginning (whatever the star was) but for the film industry & the distributors continuous bribing & manipulating is a road downhill…at least with a big part of the audience that is fed up with getting ripped off…they have enough other sources to watch a movie.

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    • Shahrukh’s movies usually do have the same inflated prices. On the other hand, Aanand L Rai as a producer seems like he usually keeps those prices low. So I could see Zero going either way.

      On Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 5:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Saw the film! I’m so glad I knew before what to kind of expect. 🙂 My (unofficial) boyfriend liked it, though after I explained to him it is currently held up as the worst movie of the year surprised him until I went in to what I disliked about the film and he agreed. Below is my take on it:

    GOOD

    – The beginning of the film, I agree with you there. Never recovers afterwards!

    – Sir Amitabh and Fatima scenes, especially the first time the lullaby comes up. That and when they meet again and hug are the only two parts where I found myself almost starting to cry. But yeah, wanted more of them!

    – Some of the action scenes, though the slow-mo and the quick random cut wore off after a while. Innovative in concept and partly in the execution until it turns uninteresting.

    – The white actors doing Hindi and owning it. Compared to something like Lagaan where it’s clear they are quite unsure while speaking it. Loved to hate them, but disappointed when they were no more since the acting was so good as well.

    – Whenever Katrina was on screen! This movie made me love her, or at least like, because she bought at least some colour to a predictable story. I wanted more of her! And I have never been much of a fan of her other than dancing, having avoided her films where she is second lead because of it, but whenever she stopped dancing and talked I loved her on screen!

    – Aamir’s jokes worked, most of them. That surprised me! Yes, he is annoying and hogs the camera, but when there is a smart/witty/clever word to be said it got a laugh from me and the rest of the audience. It helped ease the pain somewhat.

    BAD

    – The Editing! Especially for the song sequences! And the beginning with Aamir going forward and the editor getting the idea to rewind him back and then continue again! That annoyed me from he first!

    – THE SONGS! I loved listening to Suraiyya before this and now I can’t bring myself to listen to it because the quick editing that was so disastrous as well as consistency throughout it have ruined that song visually for me! The choreography is a disaster, clear lines, but looked unfinished. Like the choreographer got in an argument with the cinematographer and now the cinematographer was making sure the songs looked hideous while the quick and large choreography went on with inconsistencies.The same with Manzoor-E-Khuda. Katrina’s bling-pant what you call it nothing but disaster of a costume was HIDEOUS! People in the theatre laughed and I was once again reminded that I was watching the WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR! And Sir Amitabh is under so many prosthetics that is hard to see when he lip-synched and the camera angels didn’t help in Vashmalle.

    – Expectations were low already on this since its an Indian Film, but costumes. God, the British uniforms were ok from a distance, but looked very tacked on play costumes than nothing else. Katrina was beautiful, only highlight in the costume department except for Manzoor-E-Khuda and thank bling pant thing!

    – All in all the script shown in the film. All characters, except Aamir, deserved better!

    RANDOM THOUGHTS

    – There was a “Woooo!” when Aamir showed up from the back of the theatre. Nothing for anybody else, even Sir Amitabh.

    – The samosas served during intermission were delicious

    – It was a full house, either word hadn’t spread or people were watching it ironically and/or like me because the tickets were pricy. I don’t know. We don’t really only get big Indian movies in Finland. It’s that or nothing for three days in the area I live and then its gone. We didn’t get Stree or any of the small looking films, so that has a lot to do with packed houses here, while theatre’s in other places go by word of mouth and for a long time and no one goes to see it.

    – Currently watching Baar Baar Dekho because at least Katrina is a good second fiddle there! She and the others deserved better than this movie. Might watch Eklavya next for Amitabh, but for Fatima I might have to skip (for now at least) Dangal because Aamir’s in it and current mood is that I can’t stand him on screen.

    Finished 😀 Sorry this was a long one.

    I will not see this again even for free and hoping Netlfix never picks it up so somehow I might see a hint of this movie again in my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yaaaay! So happy to have a nice long comment! let me see if I can respond point by point:

      -On the second watch the opening sequence stands out even more, it promises such a wonderful film and then never really delivers.

      -I was so surprised, I couldn’t even find publicity stills of Fatima and Amitabh together, and yet their relationship was the most important in the film.

      -I found myself looking forward to the action scenes, I still didn’t like them much, but they were more entertaining than much of the rest of the film.

      -My absolute favorite is still the evil General in Rangoon. He doesn’t just own the Hindi, he dominates it.

      -Here’s something to look forward to, I just wrote tomorrow’s fanfic and I did an experiment and rewrote the movie without Aamir and with Fatima and Katrina filling in the gaps. It works so much better! And is so much more interesting to think of them than to think of Aamir’s character, what little we get of the two women teases out such strong contrasting personalities.

      -Same in my theater, tepid laughter for his jokes. But there was so much mixed in that wasn’t quite jokes, was more like monologues? Or something?

      -What the heck was up with the Aamir going back and forth in the editing??? Like we were supposed to cheer for him or something???

      -From what I can see, Prabhudeva did the choreography for Surraiya. So that explains why it is complex and interesting. But yeah, what is up with the editing spoiling the whole thing????

      -That’s what was so shocking in the opening sequence! They were wearing actual normal clothing!!!! And then that was the last time. The British were in ridiculous uniforms, the Thugs were in ridiculous leather layered things, and what was up with Aamir’s jacket?

      -Again, look forward to tomorrow morning! I rewrite the whole thing for you.

      -My theater got slight applause for Amitabh and nothing else.

      -I’m jealous, I didn’t get any samosa. although my friend bought a bottle of water which wasn’t too expensive, so that was good.

      -Another way the box office can be artificially increased! Just release the film in places where they never get the movies and will watch anything.

      -I was thinking about Eklavya too! A similar role as the noble old guard/foster father, but so much better done.

      On Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 2:54 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I just saw it and I liked it. The characters were paper thin and the film is at least a half hour too long and Aamir had 2-3 reversals too many but I still didn’t hate it. I was reasonably entertained even if the movie is completely forgettable once you walk out of the theater. I’m surprised by the vitriol, tbh. It’s far from the worst film I’ve ever seen. I’d give it 2.5-3 stars.

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    • Definitely an expectations versus reality kind of hatred, I think. If it was a less big movie, and didn’t have the weight of Aamir’s blockbuster history, people wouldn’t really care. Watch it, forget it, make a little box office, move on.

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