Will Thugs of Hindostan live up to the hype?

Will Thugs of Hindostan live up to the hype?

Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 12 Oct 2018, 10:45 PM

Last updated: Fri 19 Oct 2018, 9:13 AM

With a budget hovering around INR250 crore ($34.5 million), it's believed to be the most expensive Bollywood movie ever produced. Going by its official trailer, which has naturally gone viral, it's quite possibly the biggest bonanza of a period action thriller in years.

The backdrop appears to be inspired by the swashbuckling feats on the high seas, as evidenced in Hollywood's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Enormous wooden ships, fluttering sails and rain-splashed decks are the stage for the confrontations between the Indian characters versus the troops of the East India Company, which came to conduct trade, as the commentary states, but stayed on to rule the subcontinent with an iron fist.
Scheduled to premiere on November 8, during the festive Diwali week, the Bollywood trade is pretty gung-ho about this product from Yash Raj, directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya who delivered a dud for the banner with Tashan, but then redeemed himself - and how! - by confecting the monster hit Dhoom 3. That Acharya has a flair for supervising daredevil stunts, elaborate dance pieces, a soupcon of comedy and rousing dialogue is quite evident from the trailer, which is one of the most impressively edited of its kind.
Usually, producer Aditya Chopra refrains from letting out too many high points from the films he has bankrolled. Here, however, every ingredient of an actioner aimed to captivate the mass audience is on fulsome display. In addition, adequate footage is interspliced of the top-heavy cast led by Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and the Dangal girl Fatima Sana Shaikh, not to forget the charismatic British actor Lloyd Owen known for appearing as a father figure in the American TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as well as a pivotal part in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen.
To be sure, the star-studded cast will ensure a whopper opening weekend at multiplexes the world over. The film is also to be released in China since 3 Idiots, PK, Dangal and Secret Superstar, in their dubbed versions, attracted a huge fan base for Aamir Khan there.
The question now is: can Thugs of Hindostan beat the tickets sales of this year's numero uno hit, Sanju, which is believed to have minted close to INR350 crore, the third-most profitable Indian film after the multi-lingual Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (INR511 crore) and Dangal (INR388 crore). That practically every filmmaker worth his or her salt dreams about crossing the profits of Baahubali is no secret!
Uprisings against the British Raj have been regularly attempted on the Indian screen ever since the nation attained independence. A twist to the oft-told tale has been given by foregrounding the Thuggee movement of organised gangs of criminals. Some historians trace the gangs to seven families that fled after slaughtering a slave of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Others have ascribed the rise of the movement to the disbanding of the armies of Indian rulers after the British conquest. To deflect controversies, the film, in its advance publicity, has emphasised it is a work of pure fiction.
At the same time, credit for the plot premise has been given to the 19th century writer Philip Meadows Taylor, whose book Confessions of a Thug (written around 1839) was the bestselling account of the colonial rule till Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901) was published. Lore has it that Queen Victoria had read Taylor's book to apprise herself about events taking place in the colonised realm.
Presumably, a Bollywood film that would have been faithful to the text would not have made for a crowd-pleasing entertainer. Hence, director Acharya has been billed as a writer as well.
The official plotline revealed so far is that Amitabh Bachchan portrays a thug named Khudabaksh Azaad, whom the British officers seek to fight off by recruiting a mercenary decoy, Firangi Mallah, enacted by Aamir Khan. It is hinted that the mercenary will have a change of heart. Now, would such a spoiler alert have been permitted by the fussy Aditya Chopra? Think not. And so you hope there are more surprises in store rather than the predictable ho-hum stuff.
Hopefully, Katrina Kaif in a costume somewhat reminiscent of her Chikni Chameli outfit, and Fatima Sana Shaikh as a feisty archer (a la Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games?) aren't squandered in decorative roles.
Without a doubt, the Thugs of Hindostan trailer has aroused mega curiosity. Now, here's keeping one's fingers tightly crossed that the most-anticipated film of the year meets the great expectations.

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