Review: Beware of Thugs of Hindostan

Looks like Aamir Khan forgot his invincible script sense at home the day director Vijay Krishna Acharya narrated Thugs of Hindostan. The movie is so atrociously stale and dreary, it makes Manoj Kumar’s Kranti look like a work of a dystopian future and rebooting Pirates of Caribbean an agreeable idea.

Neither Aamir’s hard-at-work whimsicality nor Amitabh Bachchan’s stoic presence can salvage a second of this bloated, blundering bore.

Unlike Acharya’s masala-coloured Tashan and Dhoom 3, Thugs of Hindostan is an empty spice box that forgot to progress beyond a star-studded cast.

Not only does it confine Aamir and AB in trite parts but puts us off casting coups by serving up the tamest face-off between actors, who seldom get it wrong.Sans chemistry, camaraderie and charm, you’ll find more imagination in Baahubali writer K V Vijayendra Prasad’s trashcan than Thugs of Hindostan‘s witless spectacle.

Somewhere in the early 1800s, Acharya sets a fictional reality where a cult of revolutionaries calling themselves Azad, led by Bachchan and Fatima Sana Shaikh, seek independence and retribution from the oppressing Britishers, singularly represented by an Officer Clive (Lloyd Owen).

Sana Shaikh is essentially Gamora raised by Katappa instead of Thanos. Except no matter how fierce her warrior avatar looks or how furiously she leaps and pulls out her archer’s kit, she is never above her damsel-in-distress fate with constant need of masculine supervision.

When it’s not AB, there’s Aamir as Firangi Mallah, a jackass-riding, conscience-juggling Jack Sparrow-clone at her service. His shabby, costume-y, kohl-eyed, shifty-faced enthusiasm is a cross between a lecherous Prem Chopra and Paintal’s Shakuni.

There’s Katrina Kaif too — flaunting her rubberlike frame in two songs and three scenes. If she appears smug, it is mostly because her much-maligned Hindi accent sounds so much less lousy around the infuriating phirang assault. The movie made me appreciate the campy contributions of Bob Christo to Hindi cinema in an all-new light.

Thugs‘s biggest drawback is its inability to have fun.

Its escalating stiffness and flimsy dynamism glares at you in the form of the Big B and his weary eyes, every time they look at a CGI-induced eagle soar above him. Akin to a sleepy lion in heavy armoury, it is strange to see the man, whose firm shoulders once hosted Allahrakha, surrounded by this much fakery.

The VFX are especially ghastly. The bird looks phony. The fleet looks made up. The battles on the sea or land lack daredevilry and bluster. More charpai of spears than game of thrones, Thugs of Hindostan‘s only real special effect is to make Aamir Khan almost as tall as Amitabh Bachchan in some scenes.

Thugs of Hindostan is 1980s schlock at its most forgettable. Every single gesture, smile and betrayal of this 164-minutes long drag is done-to-death predictable.

Like when the villain’s sidekick spots the hero in the pre-climax group dance but is stopped from arresting him right away so that the performance goes on uninterrupted for the audience’s viewing pleasure.

When the heroine places her hand on the hero’s wrist only to sheepishly withdraw fearing to get too close.

When the assumed dead reappear in a public gathering to enjoy a dance performance featuring the hero and his two heroines while the villain and his sidekick look on.

I looked too — at my watch — it felt like a century had passed. Beware of Thugs of Hindostan. They rob you of time and more.

Rating: 1

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Review: It’s all downhill in Jack and Dil

At a time when champion content is available all around and even the most obscure web series pack in promise, nobody is going to bother with a sloppy, nondescript movie just because it got a theatrical release.

A case in point is Director Sachin P Karande’s witless and muddled Jack and Dil. It’s downhill from the word go. It’s like someone wrote the script in their sleep and then dropped a bottle of ink on it.

There’s little sense or point to any of it. So Amit Sadh plays a penniless, wannabe writer of detective novels whose shabby abode is desperate for a visit from the raddiwala. Except he’s obsessed with a pug and lands up at Arbaaz Khan’s bungalow requesting him to part with his pooch.

It’s as random as that. Khan runs an ad agency and suspects his wife (Sonal Chauhan) of having an affair — given how dull everything about this movie is, can you blame her? He hires Sadh to spy on her and promises the nameless dog in return.

Jack and Dil is no film and Sadh no spy. Chauhan sees through Sadh and they become friends. Two extremely bored individuals with another supremely boring guy in common doing everything in their power to rub off this collective boring energy on to the screen, Jack and Dil tests your endurance for drab matter.

Its idea of comic relief pops up every now and then in the garb of Evelyn Sharma’s jumpy airhead. We learn she broke up with Sadh after he puked on her and didn’t call back. And yet her first reaction on seeing him is demanding he takes his shirt off and show his six packs as proof of his love for her.

Meanwhile a glum faced Sonal Chauhan complains about finding a place where waves will touch her feet and nature abounds. How ridiculous is that coming from a character living in Goa?

The writing is pure junk, be it dialogues ‘cheez bikni hai to bikni pehanni padegi and lyrics that go Mera Ishq so strong ho raha hai overflow.

But the real torture is watching a drunk Arbaaz Khan whining about his flop marriage. The usually agreeable Amit Sadh seems to be following a brief that insists he undo all the good work and immerse himself into a cesspool of lousy acting.

Between Sadh’s feelings for a dog, two girls and man he may or may not help reconcile with his wife, Jack and Dil feels like a marathon to nowhere. It’s not funny when it ends with one.

Rating: 1

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Review: Saif’s stock rises in unoriginal Baazaar!

When I think about Saif Ali Khan’s early movies, I imagine a clueless kid using all his charms and still getting bullied. Somewhere his insecure, self-deprecating manner became part of his clumsy, cool appeal. It worked fabulously around urban rom-coms until he reached a stage of experiments.

Some of his endeavours stunned, some didn’t go anywhere. Yet Saif’s gentle resolve to grow prevailed despite shrinking viewer interest and woeful lack of success.

As I watch him now, playing a character in complete control of his fate and deceit, I see a self-possessed actor whose progressing potential overshadows the conventional barometer of stardom. Too bad this realisation has to happen during an utterly ordinary, unoriginal movie like Baazaar.

But look how far he has come. As the stock market bully committed to staying on top of the game by hook or crook, he walks into the frame in traditional Jain temple attire packing off an old timer, scorning at his integrity while asserting his own avarice.

Saif plays a business baron called Shakun Kothari sporting a milder version of Aruna Irani’s silver streaked mane in Beta. It takes a moment to adjust to the Winchester lad grumbling about his Kendriya Vidyalaya alumnus.

Accents are something the actor has always grappled with and his ‘Gujju’ doesn’t have the informal flow of a native’s tongue. What there is — cunning, deliberation, intelligence and relish — provides Baazaar’s Wall Street-filching script its sole source of spunk.

It is not the first time the Gordon Gekko-Bud Fox equation has captured Bollywood’s fancy. Except the less said the better about Goldie Behl’s Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Haiand John Mathew Mathan’s Shikhar‘s idea of flawed idol-blind follower.

In Gauravv K Chawla’s Baazaar too, barring Saif and a few stray moments there is not much to write home about. Where Saif’s on screen trickery reveals his willingness to go in the greyest of areas, newcomer Rohan Mehra’s inability to emote is plain killjoy.

There is a scene where a huge risk at work pays off leading to a major career breakthrough after which he rushes to the washroom and throws up. The nerve-racking mood, its urgency and the subsequent significance of his achievement are lost in his expressionless face.

Mehra plays Rizwan Ahmed, an Allahabad-hailing trader looking to make it big in the city of big bucks by channelling the overconfidence of a certain lanky guy in Trishul sans the anti-R K Gupta stance. Throw in a ravishing Radhika Apte as the colleague with benefits and Rizwan’s crash course in how to join the big league in no less than six months begins.

Swallowing one’s pride is the first casualty on the path of ambition is what he learns as Baazaar chronicles Rizwan’s rise from Shakun fanboy to Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman style scapegoat.

In the same space, Aziz Mirza focused on small-town aspirations wolfed down by big city’s flexible conscience using wit and realism. Baazaar shuns subtlety for cheesy drama and engineered confrontation. Everybody spews gyaan to someone who then quotes the same gyaan back to them and the cycle goes on and on.

Corporate fights extend to classroom shaming and PTA meeting punches or Madhur Bhandarkar-brand of blackmail and betrayal. It’s a minor scene yet Baazaar using two men cozying up in a photograph as extortion bait shows its undesirable homophobic mind-set. The awkward elephant mating analogies it uses to check infidelity is equally foolish.

When not speaking the language of big Bollywood drama, there’s tons of finance jargon tossed in to establish its milieu. The dirty politics of stock trade might not hold everyone’s interest but Baazaar‘s focal point is how much compromise is exempt from moral scrutiny.

Often characters — none of which are women, who are purely eye candy — break the fourth wall to communicate the nitty-gritties of their professional world or pull out some jerky editing techniques to offer nothing of value.

Save for Saif. His character has a thing for stories and tells them like riddles with deviousness stroked in affability. He is evil in its most hypnotic, powerful, persuasive, expressive and exonerated avatar — now where have you heard of this kind before?

Rating: 2.5

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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