This piece has been written by Megha Mehta (Batch of 2019).
Law school has ruined watching Bollywood movies for me. After doing 2 History and Sociology courses, I just cannot stand period dramas anymore. I need accuracy to detail, in costumes, gadgets, language, everything. I even demand accuracy in my villains. After Lagaan, this is the second movie where I wanted the Evil White GuyTM to win. (Is it a coincidence that both starred Aamir Khan in the lead role?) I don’t know whether this is because I can no longer stand moral absolutism in fictional narratives or simply because that’s just how annoying the script was. It could also be because Lord Clive aka Lloyd Owen is a SNAAAACK. I haven’t crushed this hard on a British villain since Captain Andrew Russell in Lagaan. He’s played the Magnificent Bastard (1) to perfection.
Thugs of Hindostan, to give a Megha summary, is a story of how Aamir Khan grapples with his disorder of pathological lying. This is an exercise that I wish straight men would undertake more often-half of the problems of law school women would be solved. Unfortunately, it has little value as a storytelling exercise. In fact, the film has little in the way of a story, which is the basic minimum I demand from a Bollywood film, no matter how trashy it is in other respects. It could be argued there is a skeletal plot hanging in there somewhere like the threads of my sanity every time Shahid Kapoor uttered ‘Rajput’ during Padmaavat but it’s just too…flat to be taken seriously. Kind of like Katrina’s face in the movie.
Speaking of Katrina, the makers of the movie picked a very intelligent strategy in releasing one-minute teasers of both her item songs dance numbers so that hormonal lads can come flocking to the theaters and spend their parents’ hard earned money on the opportunity to objectify her for a sum total of 10 minutes. However, to give her credit, it is visible that she really did work extremely hard on both her item songs dance numbers. I have been attending Zumba + dance classes for 2 months but I will probably require 2 spinal surgeries and die an excruciatingly painful death before pulling off the jumps and twists she has done in the film.
The makers did another extremely intelligent thing by making sure that she only had 5 minutes of speaking time in the movie, but at crucial plot points, thus avoiding any criticism with respect to her acting abilities, while also ensuring that the film very narrowly passes the Lamp Test and the Bechdel Test. Unless she was just a special species of Magical Dancing Lamp who can flirt with men and harbor feelings of anti-colonialism. I mean you never know, Magical Dancing Lamps can do everything that women can you know. They also want equality.
The other female lead in the movie, apart from Katrina Kaif’s Abs, is Fatima Sheikh, the cutie from Chachi 420. She plays a Bollywood Warrior PrincessTM in the film. She is mentored in her journey from annoying 8-year-old tomboy with anger issues to annoying 18-year-old tomboy with anger issues by Amitabh Bachchan’s character who is the Worst Therapist Ever. He literally tells her at one point of the film, hey don’t let go of your anger babez, keep it inside you and nurse it forever so you can use its power to defeat the evil gora log. Mental illness crippling you in achieving life goals is such a 2018 millennial snowflake thing. Our Rajput ancestors knew better.
Anyway, Aamir Khan’s character keeps flirting with her throughout the film and in the end, one character even suggests that she has fallen in love with him. Thankfully they refrain from showing any physical intimacy between the two but seriously…she literally played your daughter in the last film you all did together. Katrina’s character pretends to be blissfully unaware of this and the film avoids any complicated love triangle BS. I suppose that’s unfair on my part though, how could Abs possibly be jealous of anyone, they’re just muscles after all.
Before I delve too much into Abs and Angry Princess’ love triangle, here’s what was promised in the title:
- Watch Dhoom 3. I watched it before I watched The Prestige so I still enjoyed it. Besides c’mon I know everybody secretly enjoys Uday Chopra being a goof, that’s what the franchise runs on amirite?
- Just kidding, watch The Prestige. You probably won’t enjoy movies again because every plot twist will look lame in comparison, but whatever Hugh Jackman heylooo
- Also watch Baahubali, both films, back-to-back while you’re at it. The film has tried too hard, and too evidently, to copy the Baahubali Not that the latter doesn’t have its problems but seriously-Amitabh Bacchan’s Khudabaksh=Katappa. Aamir Khan=Mahendra Baahubali. Zaphira=Warrior Princess Avanthika. Even some of the choreography in Vashmalle was copied from Manohari. If all of this is sounding Greek and Latin to you, good. There is hope. The Maahishmati kingdom will come for you.
- Ruminate on whether the Lamp Test and the Bechdel Test are real guarantees of how well-written a female character is if all you need is some intelligent writing to bypass both while objectifying the said female character at the same time.
(Somewhere in a script narration in a suburban Bombay film studio: Director-But Suraiyya cracks dick jokes! In 1806, mind you! I mean if that isn’t liberated, I really don’t know what these feminists want)
- Watch Game of Thrones or Hunger Games or idk Cardcaptor Sakura or any show/movie about a Strong Female Lead with Anger IssuesTM which is relatively less annoying. Though to be honest, the entire trope has become annoying at this point.
- Read up on the history of colonialism in India. Think about whether colonialism really brought our doom or were we doomed from the beginning. The film at various points hints at how Indians are Indians’ worst enemies but then chooses to return to the same old Hindustan v. Gora dynamic.
- What is Hindustan really? Read up on nationalism(s) and the building of the nation-state. I mean heck, the characters in the film aren’t even fighting for Indian independence or the Indian flag, they’re fighting for some fictional principality. The movie should be called Thugs of Raunakpur. I was sniggering throughout the climax thinking wait for 1947 babes. They’re going to force you to join the Indian union, take away your privy purse, and then the fort whose azaadi you keep blabbing about is going to become a 5-star hotel to host destination weddings for the descendants of the goras you threw out 200 years earlier.
- Read up on casteism in Hindu mythology. Thugs has a very interesting scene where the gora villain calls the freedom fighters personifications of Raavan, and sets an effigy of Raavan on fire with an arrow, metaphorically standing in for Ram. No, the movie is still lame as hell, still wouldn’t recommend watching it. Read Anand Neelakantan’s Asura. Read the story of Mahabali. Read about Persian mythology and how it’s the inverse of Hindu mythology. Read up on Eklavya and Karna. Burn a copy of the *beep* Smriti (not Irani) while you’re at it.
- Basically, read. Just read and make your children read too so that when they grow up they don’t hoist the flag of Raunakpur and pronounce the glory of Akhand Raunakpur everywhere because like a certain Mr. Bhagat has commented who needs history when our countrymen have shitty Bollywood movies to teach them about it.
- As a reward for the above, treat yourself to a viewing of Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander or Andaz Apna Apna when both Aamir Khan and movie plots were cuter.
If you were already convinced the movie was tatti and had decided not to watch it, congratulations. For those of you whose parents are determined to make you waste your time in the post-Diwali weekend, show this review to them. There is still hope.
*Quirk regrets to inform that the author of this article has mysteriously disappeared. An unfinished draft of the article was found on her computer. While the circumstances of her disappearance are unknown, her friends and family suspect it is on account of State authorities having tapped her Whatsapp messages to her friends about the movie, where she very energetically discussed the thoughts of Aamir Khan’s character on Azaadi. According to Firangi Mullah, Azaad is not one person, but a soch, a thought, which can enable one to free themselves from the gulaami of their colonizers. She was also discussing how it is curious how the main characters of the film are Muslim and in that context the allegory of the villain Clive as Lord Ram perhaps makes sense. Ms. Mehta’s friend vociferously denied any knowledge of what she was babbling about and when asked for a quote simply said ‘The reason he keeps saying Azaad Azaad is because that’s his son’s name. It’s advance promotion because he’s already feeling insecure about how his son will compete with Taimur when both of them are launched, hence he wants to create an impression in audience’s minds already.’ We at Quirk wholeheartedly agree with this explanation and wish Ms. Mehta the best, wherever she is.*