Coming on the heels of Gold released earlier this year, Thugs of Hindostan is also set in British India. The year is 1857 and the colonizers are annexing each princely kingdom one by one. We are introduced to British General Clive (Lloyd Owen) who is holding the Prince of Ranakpur hostage in a bid to take over the kingdom. His father (Ronit Roy) agrees to have his kingdom annexed in order to save his son, only to be double-crossed. The Prince, his father, and his mother are killed at the hands of Clive. Just as he's about to pull the trigger on his little sister, Zafira, enter Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan), Ranakpur's General entrusted with protecting Zafira to save the day.
Fast forward eleven years and the British have managed setting up a stronghold over most of India, enslaving its people and imposing taxes to fill up their coffers. Khudabaksh, who now goes by the name of Aazad, and the grown-up Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), have formed their group of thugs who raid British vessels, free the slaves and most importantly, inspire Indians to join them in their struggle to drive out their unwanted guests. Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), who is as witty as he is conniving and deceptive, makes a living on the money paid to him by the British for turning in gangs of thieves. His services end up being enlisted by the British to infiltrate Azad's group of thugs in order to bring them to justice. And thus starts this high seas adventure and just like the sea, this film has its share of ups and downs.
Director Vijay Krishna Acharya, whose Dhoom 3 had every moviegoer drawing parallels to the Prestige, has no doubt been "inspired" by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for this film. Aamir's character has a semblance to Captain Jack Sparrow, right from his dressing, to his quick one-liners and his constant wavering between being the good guy and the bad guy. Nevertheless, just like Captain Jack Sparrow, Firangi Mallah is also a lovable character and Aamir's portrayal deserves a huge thumbs up. The sets of the film are a visual spectacle, although the CGI at some portions could have been better. Right from the get-go, the film sets a good pace with thrilling action sequences interspersed between comical acts and the occasional numbers every now and then. Fatima Sana Shaikh has played to role of the troubled princess turned warrior out to seek vengeance quite well but struggles to pull off the few emotional scenes that she has. Amitabh Bachchan's Aazad is sure to keep you glued to your seats. Seeing the septuagenarian wield his sword, swings across ships and kick some British rear ends is a treat to watch. His dialogue delivery is just as engaging, especially the interchanges between him and Firangi, ensuring that audiences get emotionally invested in his character.
The story is ajar with loopholes but can be excused as the script doesn't lose its steam anywhere in the movie. The music and songs are a bit of a disappointment as they do not seem era-appropriate. However, the background scores during the action sequences are decent. Katrina Kaif's sole purpose for being a part of this film is her dance number. The choreography is a letdown and Katrina Kaif's movements do not seem nimble or natural. Pair that up with her plastic facial expressions and it's no wonder why the camera decided to be fixated on her hips.
Overall, Thugs of Hindostan is a good, captivating one time watch. The movie is carried throughout by Amitabh Bachchan's and Aamir Khan's shoulders, whose stellar performances make the film sail through any rough waters. Firangi is quite engaging, doling out one deceit after another, and keeps the audience guessing his next moves. The comical reveals of his plots are fun to watch. Had the story and the script been written better, the movie would have lived up to its expectations.
Do not go with expectations, because disappointments are on the way. Watch it like a non-hyped movie with zero hopes pinned on it. You never know you might like it in bits and pieces.