Written by Manisha Lakhe on November 8, 2018
Dregs Of Hindostan
It’s 1795 and the British are taking over Indian principalities mostly by cheating their way. In one such instance a young princess escapes with the help of a loyal servant, grows up and avenges the death of her parents. They introduce a cheat who double crosses not only the freedom fighters but also the English. The story is straight from the bottom of the creative keg, and they take 164 minutes to bore you to death. This attempt to pirate the Caribbean franchise fails so badly, it does not blow up, the audience kicks itself to death.
The single star given to this film is for having the chutzpah to sell such a ghastly idea to Yash Raj Films.
Imagine if the only reaction the film gets out of the audience is the gasp when Katrina Kaif displays her shimmery backside in a Dussehra number, and the rest of the time they are too bored to even crunch popcorn loudly. Let us count the cliche ridden story:
All British dudes are bad, and their Hindi is hilarious. Clive, the very bad British dude gives speeches about the ritual of killing Ravan every year in a desperate Anglicised Hindi. When did they start caring about Indian festivals? We know he is bad because he drank tea and said, ‘Is chai mein barood ki boo aa rahi hai!’ People got paid to write this!
And they wrote and they wrote for Aamir Khan to overdo the smart talker who betrays anyone for money. They wrote so much that Amitabh Bachchan (in chains, inside a prison) actually says, ‘Bol ke maaroge kya?’ (Will you kill us with so much dialog?).
Aamir Khan plays Firangi, a burro riding smooth talker who betrays anyone for the right amount of money. Obviously never short of surma, his exaggerated eye-popping act becomes annoying within minutes. But it’s an obvious ploy the audience can see from a mile. He infiltrates the good guys to betray them and the big good guy changes his heart. This is such a tired plot, you forgive them for putting Amitabh Bachchan in a character that is a cross of his Eklavya role mixed with Jhoom Barabar Jhoom character! This is what happens when an art director is allowed to run amok with costumes.
Of course the director is enamored with the idea of a donkey riding character, they even try and give him a little scrubbing effect on film that a DJ does when he scratches the vinyl back and forth. Three times in the introduction and I prayed that they did not do this every single time Aamir showed up on screen… Thankfully they forgot about this special effect. They had many to take care of… And horribly. The eagle that appear every time Amitabh Bachchan appears, the small burning boat that rams the big ship, the fires started by burning cannonballs, the rifle fires, the burning baddie, and of course the sets – the ships as well as the fort – look so fake you are reminded of the movies of yore when big rocks tumbling down would just bounce off because they were glorified craft projects…
So the Brits are cruel and ruling over Indians who mostly cower and hand over lagaan (I mean something like that) and there’s a bunch of freedom fighters called Azaad (yes, yes, we know it’s an idea that cannot die!), they hide all the way in Krabi and attack the Brits and steal their ships. A miracle they did not show the ships kept away as in Moana (Disney animation film 2016)… That they borrowed heavily from the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise is a given, but how badly, you have to see to believe it.
The princess Zafira (Fatima Sana Sheikh) grows up to be a country cousin to Bahubali’s princess Devasena who is awesome with bow and arrows. Thankfully she has little to show when it comes to acting, because she fails even when she avenges her parents. She blubbers into Amitabh Bachchan’s able chest, and we are saved from seeing bad acting. There goes trope of strong woman…
The other woman in this big production is Katrina Kaif who plays Suraiyya who dances and the Brits love her. So blah, you wish they had quietly slipped in a bald Sanjay Dutt nodding in approval to her ‘Chikni chameli’ redux, just to stir the audience. And as all paint by numbers movies have it, there’s a medicine woman who fixes Aamir Khan’s wound. I wished for Homer Simpson like epiphany (from Simpsons The Movie) from Aamir, but they missed that opportunity of overacting…
Khuda Baksh aka Amitabh Bachchan is given lots of opportunity to seethe and snarl and overdo it too. When they show him tied up to lethal looking contraption like Dharmendra in Sholay and Katrina dances her dussehra dance, you want to scream, ‘Basanti! In kutton ke saamne mat naachna!’ but this is not Sholay alas. There are more choreographed fight sequences danced to never ending music.
In the end the bad Brit dude meets his end, the fort is won back and is handed to princess, the bodyguard is still alive and the smooth talking chap escapes with the ship (which is self navigating in the computer generated seas). Of all things Katrina shows up as stowaway and demands that they steer the ship to Calcutta where she wants to buy a dupatta, if you please. That is all the audience can take. Thankfully. The great Indian pirated film is over.
(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)