I first read the introduction of Thug of Hindostan ( ToH) from one of the Chinese blog. Aamir Khan these days has become super popular in China, because of the Dangal and Secret Superstar. Both movies got huge hit in China and really made Chinese people begin to fall in love with the Indian movies along with the Indian cultures.
Although Thug of Hindostan seems to be a flop on the IMDb (only 3.8/10), I would still recommend it to my friends. It is a big flop, but because of the fact that it is a big flop, it is fun. Just like many other Indian movies I like ( Enthiran, Anniyan etc.), do not take them too seriously, but discover the unique fun spirit within it.
The story of the ToH is pretty much like the Pirates of Caribbean. We know it from beginning. The director intends to make Aamir Khan’s Firangi look like the Johnny Depp ’s Jack Sparrow . They were so much like in personality and in behaves. However, even though the story line and cinematology of Thug of Hindostan is a little bit too simple compared with the Pirates of Caribbean, it is a story about Indians, and about raising Indian spirits.
There were many movies shared similar plots and characters. For example, many Shakespeare’s dramas have been transformed into different cultures with unique cultural elements. Similarly, pirate’s stories should not just belong to Disney. Just because Disney first began to write pirates stories, we do not have to call all the followers “imitators”. We can call them “remaking the stories” and the stories and characters are just the raw materials. If we see from this angel, I can say that ToH did pretty well in remaking the story, specially well in acculturating the pirates figures and plots.
First of all, this movie is a movie celebrating Diwali. It fitted the moment very well. I cannot speak for other people. I am really attracted to the mythology of different cultures. Director did very well in the unique culture/ religion scenes, especially the final scenes. When the invader was shotted and burned by the fire, that one was super cool to watch.
Second, Azaad and Firangi were very international figures. What do I mean by international characters? An international character can speak across cultures. They remind people of the key spirit embedded in our own cultures. Pursuing freedom, pursuing justices, being determinant and super committed are often the well-respected among majority of the world, especially the parts which have been through oppressions. However, if this movie only had Azaad, this movie would have been way too serious ( if without Azaad, then this movie is 100% imitator). Firangi was an exaggerated version of common figure like you and me who wanted to survive and become “somebody” one day. Azaad is the end, while Firangi is the starting point.
Firangi one day will become his version of Azaad, but he is not Azaad. Just like you and me, one day we will pursue our dream and become our unique versions of Azaad. This process of “ learning”, “struggling”, “ ambivalent” are very unique to Eastern culture, because eastern culture believe that every person has “heaven” and “hell” within ourselves. We are both and have potential to be both. It is our choices which forms our journey and our fate (not an outside God).
Thirdly, the female character Zafira and Suraiyya were echoes of feminism. This movie is about a princess’ revenge, though it were still focus on male figures. These days, making women center of movie is becoming a trend, but some of the movies just make the women character “tokenism”. On this part, ToG did not do a super good job. Zafira was still a “princess”, needed protection and helper from men. Surayya was just a dancer and performer. However, as a person foreign to Indian cultures, I still love seeing the Indian dresses and Indian dancing ( yeah, I know Indian people are getting tired of these things in the movies… lol… However, Surayya’s dancing was a little bit tooooooo much… please do not materialize women and distract the story line….)
Overall, I think ToH was a great try for acculturating pirate figures, sooner and later, I think there will be many pirates movie coming out. ( This is not a bad thing…). However, I do think it can do matter in some parts of the story:
Making the movie more real. This movie borrowed some history material. John Clive was a very crud invader. However, base on the history and common sense that cold weapon ( bows and arrows) can no way win the guns and cannons. ToH could try to do better in the “learning” part. India as a country which has been through the oppression must know the importance of “learning” and “advancing” technology.
Second, enriching the female figures. This movie focused a lot on the Azaad and Firangi. It is understandable that there should not be too many focuses of the movies. However, if you want to have female figures, give them an independent sprites, not just making them dancers and performers, or good daughters and princesses. If ever ToG has a second one, that places still need a lot of works.
Third, I hope one day that India movie could has Indian unique way of fighting. Chinese has gong, Westerners have fencing, while Indian’s fighting has not fully become Indian yet.. When you have action movie, the unique style of actions is also super important..
Last but not least, I still want to show my deep respect for my favorite actor..yeah…Amitabh Bachchan. He was over 70 now, but he still looked very energetic in the movie. I do not think he used double in the movie. His fighting looked very slow, but I respect him a lot…
ToH is not imitator of pirates of Caribbean, but a remaking, and a fun one.