KGF, Zero box office collection: Hindi version of Yash-starrer makes Rs 24.45 cr; SRK film falls short of 100 cr

The Hindi version of KGF: Chapter 1, starring Yash, has been a bonafide success, beating even the star-studded Zero. The film witnessed a growth by 40 percent on the second Saturday at the box office, but the release of Simmba did have a negative impact on its collection, especially in the Mumbai circuit. The film has raked in a total of Rs 24.45 crore.

A still from the trailer of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). YouTube

Despite the reduction in screen count from 1500 to 780 as well as the number of shows in week two, the film has had a steady performance at the domestic box office.

A report by Box Office India states that Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma’s film’s collection has fallen flat. The report predicts that the second weekend earnings are not likely to exceed Rs 3-4 crore. Bollywood Hungama writes that the Aanand L Rai directorial has only managed to earn an estimated Rs 1 crore through the second weekend. The film’s total stands at Rs 91 crore as of today.

KGF was touted as one of the most expensive works of the Kannada film industry. Directed by Prashanth Neel of Ugramm fame, the film also stars Ramya Krishna, Anant Nag and Achyuth Kumar. The first chapter of the two-part period drama has been in production for the last two years and hit cinemas on 21 December.

Deepika Padukone says she was exhausted after working on three consecutive projects with Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Deepika Padukone, who has collaborated with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on three consective projects, Goliyon Ki Raasleela – Ram Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, has said that working with the director has been exhausting. According to Pinkvilla, in an interview, the actress revealed that she felt to replenish herself emotionally before signing up for more projects.

Deepika Padukone/Image from Twitter.

I must admit that I was exhausted after working with Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali) consecutively. (As an actor,) I had nothing left and that’s why I really needed to replenish emotionally before I took up anything else,” Pinkvilla quoted her as saying via Hindustan Times.

Deepika will be seen next in Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, also starring Vikrant Massey. She will portray acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal in the film, which Meghna has in the past described as an “attempt to explore a larger story on acid violence in the country through a real life subject.”

Speaking about Chhapaak, Deepika believed she was in “great hands” with Meghna as the director. She will also serve as a producer on the project.

She had recently confirmed that she is developing a superhero project, which will be the first time a female superhero will be witnessed in an Indian film.

Simmba box office collection: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali-starrer earns Rs 75 cr over opening weekend

Rohit Shetty’s action entertainer Simmba, starring Ranveer Singh as Sangram Bhalerao, a Goan police officer, earned Rs 20.72 crore on the opening day and Rs 23.33 crore on the second day. The third day earnings saw a growth by 33.13 percent, report trade analysts. The film earned Rs 31.06 crores on Sunday, taking its opening weekend collection to Rs 75.11 crore.

Ranveer Singh in a still from Simmba. YouTube screengrab

Trade analysts were also of the view that Simmba will witness further business at the domestic box office owing to the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Further, trade analysts reported that the film performed exceptionally across the Mumbai circuit, earning a total of Rs 29.01 crore over the weekend.

Based on Telugu film Temper, the film also stars Sara Ali Khan as Ranveer’s love interest. It is produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Rohit Shetty Picturez.

Akshay Kumar on 2.0: Shankar is like James Cameron on steroids; everything is larger than life in the film

Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar’s action sci-fi thriller, 2.0, releasing in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu on 29 November, has been in the news for a variety of reasons. A sequel to 2010 hit Enthiran, the film’s gigantic budget (estimated at over Rs 500 crore), the technology used to make the movie and the film’s star cast has been making headlines from the time it was announced.

Akshay Kumar as the cell-phone robot antagonist in Rajinikanth-starrer 2.0. YouTube screengrab

Akshay’s villainous role in the film has garnered a lot of interest, and now that 2.0 promotions are in full swing, the superstar says he is excited to be part of India’s most expensive film. “It’s a huge release and I am nervous about how the film will fare at the box office but it was a relief when I last spoke to my producer. He sounded happy though I am not sure how they will recover the cost. But if this film works then I will be confident enough to say that I have set a benchmark and I will feel motivated, or else I will be back to square one,”

Working with Rajinikanth

“I was very excited when S Shankar (director) offered 2.0 to me. I knew everyone’s character when the script and screenplay was narrated. It talks about how the world is not only for us humans, the earth also belongs to animals, birds, and just because they can’t speak, we shouldn’t take advantage, we shouldn’t play with the nature. It’s such a brilliant concept and I wondered why no filmmaker came up with this idea before,” says Akshay, excitedly adding, “I was also very happy working with The Rajinikanth. I would enjoy talking to him in Marathi on sets.

Rajinikanth has repeatedly said that 2.0 is Akshay’s film, to which he responds, “He’s just being humble. I’m just the Amrish Puri of the film. It is very much his film, because the title is 2.0 and he is 2.0.”

Akshay pointed out that he and the rest of the team were simply awestruck by Rajinikanth’s style. “He has a huge aura. It is amazing that he would add his unique style in every dialogue. Just give him one simple line and he would make it so entertaining. He is very professional and not put on. He is never worried about his appearance.” Akshay is often been asked why he agreed to play the antagonist, and he jokingly says, “The advantage of playing a villain is that you shoot for less number of days. I shot for just 40 days and Mr Rajinikanth shot double that number.”

The VFX in 2.0

While everyone is talking about Akshay’s fierce and ferocious look, the actor is completely awestruck by the technology used in making the film. “I don’t know if my look is a highlight but technically it is the best that India has produced. It is an original 3D film and you can feel the beat of it. It is not transformed into 3D. Mr Shankar is equivalent to James Cameron on steroids (laughs). Everything’s larger than life,” he says.

Akshay Kumar in a poster of 2.0

“When we watch two robots fighting with each other in Transformers we come out saying, ‘Wow, that was great fun’. 2.0 is a similar attempt from India, we can’t compete with the West because their budget is some 17 times higher than ours. But trust me, they cannot make what we have produced here in Rs 510 crore. Technology wise it will definitely be appreciated. I would leave the reception of film and screenplay to the audience yet I feel the technology will enhance the story and narration. The message comes out very clean and clear and it is the finest 3D film India has ever produced,” added Akshay.

The supposed divide between Hindi and south films

Besides having a wish list of working with directors in the South, Akshay further said that he would love to take up such projects in the future.

“I would love to do more sci-fi films,” says the actor. He continues, “I feel this divide between Hindi and South films should blur completely and hence I would call 2.0 a lovely Indian film. But, professionally, too, South film industry is much ahead of us and one can learn a lot from them. I feel, a newcomer should do five films in the south industry and then come here. They take 35 to 40 shots in a single day, whereas we manage just 12 to 13 shots. They are very fast. They don’t take others for granted, they value people’s time. 2.0 is an experiment, it is an experience for me.”

Lauding Akshay’s discipline, dedication and patience, the film’s director recently said that Akshay suffered a lot while getting the prosthetic make-up, costume, sunlight to match, to which the actor said, “I didn’t suffer but it was very tough. For three-and-a-half hours I would be sitting quietly in one place and three people would work on my body. After shooting, it would take one- and- a- half hour to remove the make-up. Every night I would sleep with the thought that I have to go through this process again the next day, and it continued for 40 days. That was a painful. My pores couldn’t breathe, so for six hours sweat would accumulate inside my body, and when I would get out of the costume, my whole body would smell of sweat. Also, I was only on liquid diet — water, juice and milkshakes. I wasn’t allowed to eat because the costume had to fit me. And the first thing I did after I saw myself in that get up was click selfies with my family, my wife, my children,” he reveals.

His future projects after 2.0

Akshay is one of those rare actors who has moulded himself as a comic actor who is also good at drama and action, and he never shies away from experimenting if convinced about the project.

Akshay Kumar. File image

Someone who muscles in four to five films every year and all in different genres while striking a fine balance between commercial and meaningful cinema, Akshay, with a ridiculously high success rate, has an incredible line up of films like the historical war drama Kesari in collaboration with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which is near completion with just six days work left; he teams up again with Kareena Kapoor for Dharma Productions’ Good News (shoot starts next year); there is the fourth instalment of the popular franchise, Housefull, and his own production, Mission Mangal, based on ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

Kesari is also a high budget film, and when my film is talked about for its content and it is commercial as well, I like that,” he says. In fact, the superstar is also game for collaborating with OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon that is attracting a lot of popular actors. “I would surely love to do something on a digital platform,” he adds.

When asked about the other projects that he is likely to take up in the future, for instance, the historical period drama, Prithviraj Chauhan (he will be finalising this next year end), the third instalment of Hera Pheri and sequels of OMG Oh My God! and Rowdy Rathore, the actor bursts out laughing, saying, “Looks like I am doing 35 films! I can do only five films at a time.”

Thugs of Hindostan is nothing but a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism

Thugs of Hindostan is a disaster, and it will remain so even if it makes some profit in the end, since more things than economics decide ‘success’ in cinema. It may be difficult to make this point to a Bollywood producer, but the success of a film venture is less dependent on the genius of the director and the technical or visual add-ons than on touching emotional chords with the film-going public, traceable to the socio-political issues of the day — though the political links may not always be visible. 3 Idiots (2009) had a message pertaining to self-actualisation just when the urban youth had been enthused by stories of Indians doing well in the global arena, and it celebrated the ‘Indian genius’. Patriotic films similarly latch on to sentiments in the public space but they need to tap the right kind of patriotism.

At the present moment, it would appear, anti-Pakistani sentiment is a more reliable way of bringing audiences into the halls than anti-colonial rhetoric, which is what Thugs of Hindostan offers. My own view is that anti-colonial rhetoric stopped being pertinent after the Congress era — since the Congress subsisted on the mythology around the freedom struggle, and kept the sentiment alive. Even under the Congress, the sentiment was already weakening and the last (moderately) successful anti-British film may have been 1942: A Love Story (1994), which was sold more on the basis of RD Burman’s music. If Lagaan (2000) was also ‘anti-British’, it tapped into cricketing patriotism, current to this day, rather than into any anti-colonial feelings. The anti-colonial rhetoric in Thugs of Hindostan is ludicrous and the film’s closest relative from Bollywood may be Manmohan Desai’s Mard (1985), a failed masala film; Thugs of Hindostan may also be described thus – as a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism.

Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in a still from Thugs of Hindostan. Image via Twitter

This leads us to the question of what a ‘masala film’ is and why Thugs of Hindostan cannot be termed a ‘successful masala film’. My view here is that a masala film is a difficult object to create and one of the few masala classics in Hindi cinema hitherto has been Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). A masala film by definition is a film that uses all the standard ingredients of popular cinema self-consciously, to the extent of making it border on its own parody. Amar Akbar Anthony, for instance, has all the ingredients familiar from films like Deewar and Yaadon ki Baraat – the sacrificing mother and siblings separated in childhood; there is also divine intervention when the villains try to get at the protagonists. The very shape of the miracle – a cobra which blocks their path into a sanctuary where a bhajan is being sung – is deliberately excessive, and a sophisticate cannot but laugh out aloud. At the same time, the film also allows some people to take all this seriously and it is not straightforward parody. The poor man played by Pran whose wife is afflicted by disease also invokes laughter (‘meri bibi to TB ho gaya hai’) although this again can be taken quite seriously as pathos by a segment. Another masala classic is David Dhavan’s Hero No. 1 (1997), which also borders on its own parody; part of its humour comes from Govinda’s comic imitation of Rajesh Khanna in Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s Bawarchi (1972).

It may seem that a masala film is generally without a message but it is almost mandatory for any popular film to have one; it would be more accurate to say that the masala film delivers an inflated message that can be read as self-mockery. It is not a half-hearted message but one that is almost nonsensical that makes for a masala film. Given this element, it may not be appropriate for a masala film to appear when political passions are running high. Amar Akbar Anthony came at the end of the Emergency when elections had already been announced and Hero No. 1 also when there was no strong political discourse in the public space. Just to give an idea of the political messages in masala films, in Amar Akbar Anthony, the children separated in childhood near a statue of Gandhiji can be read as Gandhian values not being able to unite the nation, and I take this to refer to the two Gandhians then opposing Mrs Gandhi — Morarji Desai and JP Narayan. Manmohan Desai was perhaps a Congress supporter since his later film Coolie (1983) also toys with Mrs Gandhi’s kind of populism. The original films that the two classics partly parody were serious efforts tapping into national sentiments and the timing of the masala films (and not only their inspired content) made them successful.

Thugs of Hindostan was initially announced as an adaptation of Confessions of a Thug by Phillip Meadows Taylor (1839), based on the Thuggee cult in India in existence for over 500 years. The Thugs were described as murderers and robbers and eliminated by the British when Lord Bentinck was Governor General. The man credited with destroying the cult was William Henry Sleeman and the town of Sleemanabad in Madhya Pradesh was named in his honour. With history being revised in the post-colonial era, the real truth about the Thugs was called into question, especially the notion of ‘criminal tribes’ created by the British, implying that everyone in a tribe could be branded a criminal. Thugs of Hindustan, which is now denying that it has anything to do with Meadows Taylor, appears to have hit upon the idea that Thugs were freedom fighters and embarked upon the project as an exercise in patriotism.

Thugs of Hindustan casts Amitabh Bachhan and Aamir Khan as principal characters and this casting itself reveals that it does not know which way it is going. Amitabh is evidently a tired man and even endorsing a ceiling fan may be making too many demands of energy upon him. He also takes the patriotism very seriously, as do the other bit players, something that the energetic Aamir Khan, wisely, does not do. Aamir Khan is probably the only one who had an idea of where the film might have gone. The film also brings in a British villain John Clive (perhaps brother of Robert Clive, the Company’s first Governor General) who plays his role very straight. I propose that a fake Britisher in a blonde wig reminiscent of Mogambo from Mr India (another successful masala film) would have served Thugs of Hindostan much better. Lloyd Owen who plays ‘John Clive’ is a genuine Britisher and a phony was what the film craved for – a fake Britisher as objective correlative to the fake anti-colonial sentiment spewed!

The film is being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made but it is not a good strategy for a masala film to spend so much money. When the entire film is based on a fake premise visible from miles away, what is the good of trying to persuade the audience that it is all real? It is not always a good thing for a work of cinema to be sincere, especially when it is based on an unpalatable premise, but when it is insincere it should be conscious of its own insincerity, admitting to it without hesitation. Only such an approach makes for a great masala film, and Bollywood would do well to understand that.

Bollywood uses the word ‘fun’ rather loosely and film critics are quick to believe that the worst kind of trash can become ‘fun’ if only the spectator watched it with the right attitude (rather than a ‘critical’ one). My point here is that true ‘fun’ is difficult to produce; what happens most often is that people recognise that something is intended as fun and oblige the film-maker by mimicking ‘enjoyment’. This is like one’s polite response to a bad joke: one laughs simply in recognition of an intention rather than at genuine humour. Enjoyment is a component of happiness and we need desperately to convince ourselves that we are not unhappy. Since it takes discernment to recognise when one is not enjoying oneself, it is heartening that spectators and critics alike have given Thugs of Hindostan the thumbs down, implying recognition that true joy is not so easily to be had and only a successful work produces it. Perhaps Thugs of Hindostan will help audiences move to a new level of self-awareness with regard to the emotions that entertainment actually generates — rather than what publicity tells us it produces.

Deepika Padukone Ranveer Singh wedding: See first photos of newlyweds’ marriage ceremonies

Bollywood stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh were married in a traditional Konkani ceremony at a Lake Como resort in Italy on Wednesday, 14 November 2018. The couple, who became romantically involved after working together on the 2013 Sanjay leela Bhansali film Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela, also married as per the rituals of an Anand Karaj ceremony on 15 November.

The first photos from the couple’s highly guarded wedding were released on their social media accounts some hours later.

The images depict Deepika looking resplendent as a bride, while Ranveer seems to be the very picture of an elated groom.


Photos of newlyweds Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone at their Anand Karaj and Konkani marriage ceremonies at Lake Como in Italy

Their outfits for both the Anand Karaj and Konkani ceremonies were designed by Sabyasachi.

The designer’s creations for Deepika and Ranveer are reflective of their personalities as also of their roots. “All of us at Sabyasachi wish the lovely couple all the very best for a wonderful and happy married life,” a statement released by the designer’s team said.

Their wedding portraits were shot by photographer Errikos Andreou. “This was a wedding made of dreams!” Andreou said. The photographer has previously shot both Deepika and Ranveer for individual assignments.

A lavish luncheon was planned for their select guests at the villa where their wedding was held on Wednesday afternoon. The spread was created by Swiss chefs flown down specifically for the purpose. A party followed in the evening post-which guests retired to their rooms to begin preparing for the Anand Karaj ceremony to follow the next morning.

Filmmaker Karan Johar was the first to tweet his congratulations to the newlyweds, saying they looked “stunning and gorgeous” on their big day and wishing them a “lifetime of love and happiness”.

Cheat India teaser: Emraan Hashmi looks to capitalise on India’s financially lucrative education sector

T-Series unveiled its first teaser of Emraan Hashmi’s upcoming film, Cheat India, which focuses on the prevailing education system in the country.

It introduces us to Emraan’s money-minded protagonist Rakesh Singh, who looks to capitalise on the country’s financially lucrative education sector. With lakhs of students appearing for various entrance exams and only a few thousand seats, he devises a cheating scheme to help those in need.

Emraan Hashmi in Cheat India

Inspired by true events, the film looks to expose the rampant malpractices prevalent during competitive exams.

Earlier this week, a poster of the film was released, which showed Emraan’s face stitched together by an assortment of exam admission cards and rupee notes.

Emraan is not only acting in the film, but also producing it with T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment. It also marks the Bollywood debut of actress Shreya Dhanwanthary.

“The script and title of Cheat India are supremely powerful. This is among the most engaging and riveting stories I’ve read in a while, and I am thrilled to be essaying what I believe will be a landmark role in my filmography,” Emraan had said, as per a press release.

Directed by Soumik Sen, the film landed in a controversy earlier as filmmaker-actor duo Dinesh Gautam and Imran Zahid claimed the storyline of the film was copied from their movie titled Marksheet.

Produced by Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series, Tanuj Garg and Atul Kasbekar’s Ellipsis Entertainment, and Emraan Hashmi Films, Cheat India is scheduled to release on 25 January, 2019.

Thugs of Hindostan: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan power this fun, fearsome Bollywood ride

The year is 1857, and at the time of the East India Company’s rule, Raunakpur is among the few remaining freeholds. Its ruler Mirzasaab (Ronit Roy) is preparing for an all-out battle with the Company, and its representative, John Clive (Lloyd Owen). His trusted general Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) has been deputed with Raunakpur’s prince to gather allies.

A surprise night visit with Clive, however, puts paid to those plans. With his son held hostage by Clive, Mirza hands over control of Raunakpur to the British. But the prince is killed anyway, as is Mirza, and his wife. The only surviving member of the royal clan is the Princess Safira, who is rescued at the eleventh hour from the clutches of Clive by Khudabaksh.

Eleven years later, we’re introduced to a thug Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan). A glib talker, Firangi’s eccentricity is not to be taken for a lack of seriousness, however. For he is ruthless when it comes to the question of profit, and not above double-crossing his own comrades when it comes to earning a pretty penny.

Poster for Thugs of Hindostan. Image courtesy Twitter

Cut to a whole other type of ‘thug’: Khudabaksh, who now fights the British with a grown-up Safira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) by his side. A snazzy action sequence on a ship gives ample opportunity for the duo to display their wizardry with sword and bow-and-arrow, their cunning and discipline, and the devotion of their band of followers.

The contrasts between Firangi Mallah (who has to introduce himself) and Khudabaksh (who is spoken of by others due to his deeds) is drawn very clearly in these opening scenes.

The British decide that they can’t let Khudabaksh persist in his challenge to the East India Company, and seek the services of a true villain in bringing him down. Enter: Firangi Mallah, who it turns out, has another grand passion apart from money — the dancer/courtesan Surayya (Katrina Kaif). The first few scenes in which we’re introduced to Surayya are mildly uncomfortable as the camera dwells on her waist and bust and pout. If we meet the other characters through their actions, with Surayya, it is her physical beauty and that alone, which is the focus. However, she gets to to display some quickness of wit as well, in her interactions with Firangi. That’s before she must launch into the actual reason for her presence: an energetic dance number. It is during this dance that Firangi meets the British officer who wants to co-opt him into the fight against Khudabaksh et al.

And so the stage is set for Firangi to meet Khudabaksh.

Which he does in spectacular fashion, during a skirmish set on a ship.

When the trailer of Thugs of Hindostan released, there were comparisons aplenty to Pirates of the Caribbean. Perhaps Firangi is modelled on Jack Sparrow, but there are also traces of the other quirky characters Aamir Khan has played in the past. No matter though, he is still a hoot. And the action sequences in this first half are an incredible amount of fun to watch. The stunt choreography is slick, even if it has definite touches of Bollywood (by which this reviewer means some hyper-dramatised moments). At no point in the first hour-plus of the film do you feel your attention flagging.

There’s something about the way Firangi and Khudabaksh relate to each other that’s oddly reminiscent of the Shah Rukh Khan-Amrish Puri equation from Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The younger man trying hard to impress, the unbending older man seeking a spark of something within this protégé. Khudabaksh seems to see something in Firangi that hitherto no one has: a spark.

Through symbol, imagery and through words, Firangi is depicted as Khudabaksh’s ‘heir apparent’. Their characters are a study in contrasts: one ever-ready to yield, the other completely unyielding; one for whom everything has a price but no value, while for the other, some things — like freedom, integrity, loyalty — are so valuable that there can be no price put on them, ever. Amid their battle with the British, there’s also a battle of wills between Firangi and Khudabaksh. Whose character will prove to be stronger, who will influence whom, is part of the crux of Thugs’ first half.

The conclusion of this battle of wills is perhaps of the foregone variety, but the way it plays out is satisfying.

In one scene, we see Khudabaksh tilling a barren land over several years, in the hope that one day, the same ground will yield a harvest. The land is a metaphor for Firangi, and it proves to be a fertile spot after all, for Khudabaksh’s hopes to take seed.

Amitabh Bachchan plays warrior patriarch with ease, and Fatima Sana Shaikh is competent enough in the role of Safira. She performs the action sequences perfectly, but falters in the emotional ones. Aamir Khan shifts between being funny and menacing in a most engaging manner. One moment, he could be jesting, the other, a change in expression shows the danger that lies just below the surface.

There’s plenty of opportunity for Firangi to show this menacing side as the skirmishes with the English (and their chief, Clive) pick up in scale and intensity. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for poor Katrina Kaif, who is brought in for her second oddly athletic dance number of the film at a late point in the proceedings. She writhes and contorts in sequinned hotpants as the plot builds towards its climax.

It is the setting up of this climax that Thugs of Hindostan totters a bit. There’s an unveiling that’s a little too filmi (even for this wholly commercial entertainer). This, however, is forgiven in the rip-roaring, all muskets blazing finale sequence of the film. The showdown is appropriately high-stakes, and caps off an enjoyable caper.

Thugs of Hindostan is Bollywood having a blast (quite literally, in some moments!). If its no-holds-barred adoption of the commercial Hindi entertainer’s elements can be a flaw at times, for the most part, it works in the film’s favour. A mild Pirates of the Caribbean hangover aside, this is prime Diwali blockbuster material — a story of relationships, betrayal, adventure and courage, of underdogs and their unlikely triumphs.

Thugs of Hindostan movie review: Aamir Khan is fun, Amitabh Bachchan lifeless in B’wood’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh — this is the order in which the lead cast’s names are placed in the credits of Thugs of Hindostan. The ranking is representative of their star stature combined with seniority in the industry. A more truthful list reflecting the substance in the roles they play would have read: Khan, Bachchan, Shaikh, Kaif. And if you want to know which of these stars scores in terms of quality of performance and conviction, this is my list: Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s third directorial venture (the others being Tashan and Dhoom 3) might have been a lifeless parade of spectacular visuals without Khan. Whenever he is on screen though, the film develops a pulse. Khan is Thugs of Hindostan‘s heart and soul, breath and blood.

The story is set in an India overrun by the British, and revolves around an unscrupulous rascal called Firangi Malla who serves only one master, himself, until he encounters the freedom fighter Azad (Bachchan). Torn between self-interest and patriotism, Firangi keeps his associates guessing about where his loyalties lie, swinging back and forth between the British led by Clive and his own people. The road he will ultimately take may be obvious to the audience, but how he takes it is unpredictable enough to keep the film going.

Aaamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Thugs of Hindostan

If the mention of a Clive suggests that Thugs of Hindostan is historically accurate, then let it be placed on the record: it is not. “What’s in a name?” as that most famous of Englishmen once wrote. A white man by any other name would have smelt just as rotten. So yeah, in all their confrontations here, the Brits are made to look like incompetent, gullible asses, forever suffering defeat at the hands of Indians. Since India is the wronged party in the imperialist equation, it could be argued that taking this sort of liberty with the past can hardly be treated as a crime especially since this is nothing compared to Western cinema’s casual portrayal of true thugs of the colonial era, most recently Winston Churchill, with affectionate indulgence. In any case, Thugs of Hindostan is unapologetically commercial, characteristically masala-filled Bollywood fare, that does not ask to be taken seriously. It is an action adventure in the mould of Hollywood’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, and does not pretend to be anything but that.

Acharya’s actual crime lies in the weak writing of every character other than Firangi Malla. Azad is a pallid creature, and Bachchan invests nothing beyond his towering personality and baritone in his uninspired performance.

The women are laughable asides in the screenplay. Kaif as the courtesan Suraiyya gets to look sexy and dance mechanically, displaying technique but little grace in two lavish song and dance sequences on elaborate, eye-catching sets. She has a third scene but disappears for the rest of the proceedings, which is just as well since she seems unable to move even those few facial muscles that she has exercised in her earlier films.

Shaikh, who made a mark as a skilled wrestler and rebellious daughter in Dangal, is not required to act at all. As Zafira, who is part of Azad’s band of warriors, she barely has any lines, and most of her screen time is spent running across battlescapes, firing arrows and throwing punches. She is fair enough doing all this, but not outstanding, and since she lacks charisma it is hard not to wonder why she landed the job. She also has less chemistry with Khan than Lloyd Owen who plays Clive.

It is thus left to Khan and the technical departments to save this film, and they do. Thugs of Hindostan‘s production designers (there are four) and DoP Manush Nandan ensure that the film is never short of pretty and grand. John Stewart Eduri serves up a throbbing background score and Ajay-Atul’s songs are all hummable.

Given the only well-written character in Thugs of Hindostan, with an abundance of mischievous dialogues and credible motivations, Khan throws himself into his role with gusto, summoning up Munna of Rangeela and Siddhu of Ghulam, imbuing Firangi with a relentless zest, and switching from good to bad to inexplicable to exasperating to lovable within a twinkling of those delightful kohl-lined eyes.

Thugs was promoted as the first film ever to pit him against the great Bachchan. The legendary superstar is a pale shadow here of the best he has been. Khan, on the other hand, crackles, pops and sparkles as a swashbuckling scoundrel. The writing of his character and his performance are the only reasons why Thugs of Hindostan does not turn out to be a stylishly produced but disastrously dreary repeat of Acharya’s first film, Tashan. Despite all its minuses, Thugs is light-hearted fun.

Director Rathna Kumar on Aadai: Want to bridge the gap between mainstream films, original web series

In 2017, Rathna Kumar’s feel-good romantic comedy Meyaadha Maan clashed against Tamil superstar Vijay’s commercial biggie Mersal during the Diwali weekend. Despite the massive competition, Meyaadha Maan performed well at the box-office and also earned critical acclaim.

Rathna Kumar has now started shooting for his sophomore directorial Aadai, featuring Amala Paul in the lead. The first look poster was a cynosure of all eyes mainly because of the bold and daring look of Amala, who was covered in nothing byt tissue paper. The poster also conveyed that the actress is struggling to come out of a life-threatening situation.

Aadai first look featuring Amala Paul. Image via Twitter

Designing the first look poster of Aadai was like walking on a tightrope. We were aware of the fact that even a minor slip would spoil our intention. My only aim is that the first look should not end up as a wine shop poster and I also want to subtly convey the storyline. Now, audiences only see the gory mood in the poster and the struggle of Amala, it doesn’t look vulgar. Today, a lot of film posters are designed only to grab the attention of viewers and often it misleads them but after watching the film, you will get to know the minute details in first look,” says Rathna Kumar.

“Even during the photo shoot, neither Amala nor my crew felt awkward because we all know that the script demands the bold look. Everyone in the team was happy with the way audiences received the first look on the social media,” he adds.

“After the success of Meyadhaa Maan, producers and directors approached me to come up with comedy entertainers. Though I’m penning another script for a big hero which is a coming-of-age love story with action elements, the shoot will only commence next year. In the meantime, I developed the rough draft of Aadai, the recent happenings in the social media and society are my co-writers,” laughs the director who conceived the basic idea of Aadai even before Meyadhaa Maan.

“Although the script was ready, I made up my mind that the film should go on floors only after getting a sensible producer and an understanding female lead. I actually sent the synopsis of Aadai without revealing my name to Amala through the producer. Excited, Amala invited me to her Delhi residence and only then, I narrated the full story to her. Throughout the session, Amala didn’t express much so I wasn’t sure whether she liked the script or not. Later, she asked a few questions and all those were sensible inhibitions including the psychological behavior of her character. Once I cleared her doubts and enlightened the intention of the script, she came on board,” adds Rathna who asked Amala to watch Meyaadha Maan and only after the special screening, she acknowledged the technical skills of the director.

Rathna Kumar also says that he is anticipating an ‘A’ certificate from the censor board. “I’m sure that our censor board would only give ‘A’ certificate to Aadai because the content justifies the adults-only certificate in their rulebook. But, for me, the maturity can’t be determined by age. I know twelve-year kids are highly matured now but there are a few 60-year-old people whose maturity level is very low. Despite having another big film, I chose to make Aadai because there is a need to tell this story now to the audiences. I’m sure if I delay making this film, someone would execute it as a web series,” says Rathna.

“I’m not confident about the satellite rights revenue of Aadai but will take the necessary steps to stream the film on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. I want to bridge the gap between mainstream cinema and bold web series with Aadai,” exclaims the director.

Besides Amala Paul, Vivek Prasanna who played as Vaibhav’s friend in Meyadhaa Maan will also play a pivotal role in Aadai along with a bunch of newcomers. The first schedule of the film has been progressing at a brisk pace in Chennai and surrounding locales.

“I’m planning to deliver the first copy of Aadai in December. The film will have a theatrical release in 2019. Thanks to the tremendous reach of our first look poster, Hindi and other language distribution rights will be locked very soon. Interestingly, I started writing the script of Aadai as a Tamil-Hindi bilingual and also searched for a pan-Indian face to play the lead role. But later, I thought that the script’s backdrop is rooted in Tamil Nadu so why spoil the core essence for the sake of bilingual?,” asks Rathna.

Talking about Amala’s character in the film, the director says, “Every actor has a flamboyant and freestyle performance inside them which they showcase only in real life and not on the big screen. I asked Amala to be herself for the film and react according to the situation. Though a debatable issue is being handled in the film, Aadai will also be an engaging entertainer,” concludes the director.