Last section! The shortest amount of screen time of all the sections I am covering. But I guess the most important since it is the ending? (full index of Thugs of Hindostan coverage here)
We ended with Katrina offering to help the rebels and sneak them into Lloyd Owen’s Dussehra party. And then we go straight from there into Katrina introducing her dance. Lloyd Owen responds with a graceful Hindi speech about the meaning of Dussehra. So, I guess along with his total immersion program of Hindi learning he also studied up on Indian culture and religions? This is the most dedicated government bureaucrat EVER!
Oh, he’s also wearing a ridiculous jacket. All white and silver embroidered and fancy-shmancy. I kind of want it, except I think I couldn’t pull it off with the not-flat chest that I have.
(this jacket. Nice, right?)
Anyway, Lloyd Owen’s whole speech is just a lead up to revealing that he has Amitabh in chains off to the side. Amitabh, who he identifies as “Raavan”. Everyone is stunned and considers changing the plan, Fatima looks to Aamir for direction (because he is the MAN) and he indicates they should keep with the plan. And then Fatima sings the lullaby Amitabh used to sing to her and it is deeply affecting. And immediately followed by a ridiculous dance number.
A dance number with a double meaning, see Amitabh’s name is “Khudabaksh” and the song is “Manzoor-E-Khuda”, meaning “will of God”, but also a little bit “will of Amitabh” since his name is also “Khuda”. Anyway, it would be deeply affecting if it were set up properly, that Aamir and Fatima and all the others have come here ready to die in order to kill Lloyd Owen and now, at the final moment, Fatima sees that her beloved foster father will be forced to witness her death, but they can’t change the plan, it is the will of God. Only, none of that comes out because instead of getting agonized glances between Fatima and Amitabh, we get Aamir doing weird dancing with strange slicked back hair. At the end of the song, Fatima flips forward and pulls out a gun Aamir gave her in the middle of the dance and aims it at Lloyd Owen and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens.
Okay, let’s look at all the logical inconsistencies! First, Lloyd Owen obviously recognizes Fatima in the dance troupe but signals for his men to do nothing. Why? Why not just arrest them all? He has no cards up his sleeve really, he doesn’t reveal Amitabh and threaten him unless they all obey, he just reveals Amitabh too….Have a fun conversation piece at his party? I don’t know. And obviously Lloyd had no plan to save himself because he wouldn’t have been saved, Fatima was going to shoot him if Aamir hadn’t given her a false gun. So, Lloyd was just going to sit there smiling and wait for death?
Also, why exactly did Aamir have to give Fatima the gun? Why couldn’t she just carry her own gun? They were both dancing in skimpy costumes and all, it’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.
And, as I mentioned in the last section, if Lloyd Owen knew Amitabh was alive all along, then why was it never indicated before? Oh, and how is this a good plan AT ALL for the rebels? They are right there, not even wearing masks or anything, obviously they will be recognized, this is a terrible plan.
Aamir’s plan is much better, he strides forward and reveals he emptied the gun and asks for a medal. Oh, and he undoes his slicked back hair when he reveals his trickery instead of bravery, because acting is all about hair styles. Aamir does a looooong explanation of how he betrayed Fatima, Amitabh gets all upset and tries to break free (seeing the young woman he raised in mortal danger, nothing, but betrayal by some guy he met a couple days ago who already betrayed him once, RAGE!). It’s the pinnacle of Aamir’s character as the cowardly opportunist/collaborator, selling his freedom for a British medal and a few promises, I guess that’s kind of an interesting character trait too. But at this point, honestly, I’m just dying for the film to be over and release me from this torment.
Thank goodness the filmmakers took pity on me and for once skipped a bit of Aamir’s dialogue. He pulls Lloyd Owen aside and the sound cuts out, and then Lloyd Owen steps forward and has this very complicated way of explaining to the crowd that if everyone who supported Fatima in their hearts steps forward and is arrested, it could save her life. Like, huh? How does he even know if guilty people step forward or not? How many people need to volunteer before Fatima is released? Why not just say “step forward and volunteer to be arrested if you want to save Fatima”? So strange!
(Now, this is the “step forward to save them” idea done well!)
And then Aamir comes dancing into the jail, in a British uniform (more costume based acting! Do you think Aamir saved all his little outfits for Azad to use in his dress up box?). And he is carrying a bunch of baskets filled with laddoos which he gives out with a lot of whimsy and overacting. I am so done with his performance by now, I focus on the laddoos instead. The baskets look really nice, do you think if you bring them back to the sweet shop you get a deposit back? Or do you just get to keep them? Or do you have to buy and bring your own baskets to take the ladoos home in? Also, these laddoos are really remarkably large! Did they used to be bigger back then? Or is it that people were smaller in Olden Times thus making the sweets look bigger by contrast?
Anyhoo, Aamir goes in to talk to Amitabh, Amitabh is furious and betrayed, lots of back and forth about not being able to change his nature and blah blah, Aamir hangs up a watch on the wall to pay attention to the time, and then the guards all fall down, knocked out by the laddoos. So, Aamir didn’t betray them after all, just changed the plan once Amitabh was revealed to be alive. Okay, I guess. He probably could have told somebody sometime, but oh well. And there was no reason for him to do that last taunting speech to Amitabh while waiting for the guards to fall, but oh well to that too. Amitabh is finally released, and Fatima is waiting for him and they embrace. And then Aamir literally comes in between them and ends that nice moment because we just can’t have nice things in this movie!!!! No, instead we have to have funny-funny with Aamir pretending he sprained his ankle so it can all be about him and getting him to the final fight scene.
And because of all the blah-blah with Aamir’s monologue, we also don’t get nearly long enough to appreciate the full circle of the film. See, they were arrested and thrown in the dungeons at the bottom of the fort, meaning they are now back in the same workroom where Ronit Roy back at the beginning was making arms for his soldiers to fight the British. Amitabh has a little line about finding strength from the past, and it should have had much more resonance, not just for these characters, but also for the whole meaning of the film, looking back to India’s past in order to understand and appreciate the present. But, nooooo. No resonance, just get through it fast fast fast so we can have more comic Aamir bits.
And then fight fight fight. Only two bits stick out to me. No, wait, three bits! First, Aamir is running too the fight and bumps in to Gavin Marshall. Now if you recall, Gavin Marshall was his first British contact, who used to pay him off to help capture Thugs. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the capturing the Thugs. They were preying on travelers, it was the British’s job to keep the roads safe, they properly and peacefully arrested them. Later on, before the second attack on the rebel hide out, Lloyd Owen (in one of his best acting moments of the film, which not-so-coincidentally was also the only time he was allowed to speak English) revealed that he did not plan to take prisoners and Gavin Marshall was legitimately shocked. Gavin’s not a bad dude. And he knows Aamir better than anyone else in the movie. So it’s kind of oddly touching and nice when Gavin lets Aamir go and tells him he is on a good path finally. Oddly touching and nice and also COMPLETELY RUINS THE PREMISE!!!!
(Except same problem with Saif’s redemption in Rangoon)
There are two ways this film can go. Either all British are bad, so you can blow up ships and shoot people and cheer and stuff. Or only one British guy is bad so you focus all your anger on him. But now we have a conundrum, NOT all British dudes are bad, in fact Gavin is a good guy who wants good things for the Indians he knows. So, why do we want the rebels to get rid of the British again? Grrr!!!!! SO FRUSTRATING!!! And if only we didn’t have Aamir’s character, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We would have our noble Indians and not-so-great British and the right side would be clear. But instead we have a not-so-great Indian guy and also not-so-great British and I don’t know which side is better. If this was on purpose I would say it was brilliant, but I think it was just another lazy thoughtless part of the narrative.
Next thing I remember is that Aamir and Lloyd Owen are fighting in some kind of metal elevator cage thing. This is just one of many touches like that in the film, weird set design moments that are thrown in and then just sort of linger and aren’t used. Aamir swings around outside the cage a bit in the middle of the fight, but it’s not like super interesting. For instance, they could have had the cord start to weaken, both Aamir and Lloyd struggle to get out before it falls. Or they could have had the metal screws start to slip and the bars outside the cage slide around. Or they could have had both of them swinging around outside punching each other with one hand while holding on to the bars with the other. There are just so many ideas possible and they are all left on the table! It might as well have just been a regular fight in a hallway.
Oh, and then the good bit. Which, no duh, does not include Aamir. Amitabh confronts Lloyd Owen, and then steps aside to reveal Fatima. There is a moment where the camera swings around and shows her as a little girl again, screaming out her anger to the younger version of Lloyd Owen. And then it swings round again to show older Lloyd Owen and adult Fatima with little Fatima in front of her, screaming together, until the little girl fades into her adult body with sparks.
It’s very well-filmed, seamless and perfectly paced (for once!). And it is also emotionally resonant, this is where the story started, Fatima as an angry little girl, and now it has come back to that. And then that goes away, Lloyd Owen pulls his little gun and Fatima leaps up and spins in the air and then sort of falls on her hip? It’s weird. It’s supposed to be a big flippy action move as she escapes the bullet, but instead it just looks like a slow motion falling. And then in slow motion she loads her bow and shoots an arrow, which is just boring. Would be so much more impress at regular speed. Especially with Lloyd Owen’s surprised and pleased reaction as she misses and just knicks his neck. Until the camera pulls around to show she was actually aiming at the Raavan icon behind him, which burns and falls on him.
(Kind of strange that Lloyd Owen even has a Raavan with fireworks and stuff. But then, this is the man who speaks Hindi even while alone with his fellow Brits, of course he would throw himself into the local holidays)
It’s a really cool idea, her seemingly missing and him smiling and not seeing the bigger picture. But it falls completely flat because the pacing is all off. Ugh!
Oh, and then we cut to Mohammed and Aamir laying with their heads together looking at the sky and Mohammed asking Aamir what he thinks is happening now. Aamir describes it, that the sun will be rising on a beautiful pure dawn, as the new/old flag is raised on the turrets of the fort, and we see it, Fatima raising the flag with Amitabh at her side. Mohammed says Fatima will be asking “where is Firangi?” and Aamir says no, and then we see Amitabh’s pet hawk come flying in to give him back the bracelet he gave Aamir. That’s the last we see of them, and now we are back with Aamir and Mohammed as the camera pulls back to reveal they are on a boat. Mohammed tells Aamir he could have been a king, could have married Fatima. Aamir says no, but she will definitely come after him. If only because he took her ship. And then Mohammed happily tells Aamir he is glad they have rediscovered their friendship and nothing will ever come between them again. Which is when some boxes randomly piled on the deck start to shift and Mohammed stops Aamir from moving forward, saying that his astrological chart says wood is dangerous to him. He pulls a tiny tiny knife and holds it in front of him and approaches the boxes, which suddenly shift and reveal Katrina, all sexy and loose hair, behind it. Ha-ha, just as they are saying nothing will come between them, Katrina appears. And then the fight starts, Mohammed saying they are going to Madras and Katrina saying they are going to Calcutta to buy her a scarf, and then Aamir declares no, they are going to “Inglistan” to see how much they can rob from the English to make up for everything they have taken from India. HAPPY ENDING.
Now, I’m not an idiot, I know how I am supposed to react to all this. Funny cowardly Mohammed, fast-talking smart guy Aamir, and sexy lady Katrina are all going to have fun adventures dancing in and out of people’s lives. We are supposed to end on a laugh after the big emotional climax of the final fight, relieved that Aamir hasn’t turned into a boring hero type and is still the wacky amoral villain we all love. The whole movie is supposed to be like that, instead of the boring perfect heroes we are going to get a funny refreshingly amoral type weaving in and out of the perfect story. But it just doesn’t work. There’s too much funny and amoral to make it refreshing, instead the serious bits feel like the refreshing part and the funny parts start to feel like work. And so ending on the funny note with these three travelers heading for England doesn’t feel like a happy ending of them continuing their fun adventures on and on, it just feels like “ugh, these people again”.