Film Review: ‘Thugs of Hindostan’

Reportedly the biggest-budgeted and most widely released Bollywood production ever, “Thugs of Hindostan” is an exuberantly excessive masala of swashbuckling heroics, broader-than-broad comedy, propulsively choreographed action, and raucously caffeinated song-and-dance sequences. Writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya, a creative force behind the popular “Dhoom” movies, has borrowed freely from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even to the point of having Indian superstar Aamir Khan often come across as a smudged carbon of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow while playing a similarly unreliable rogue. But for all its recycled elements and predictable narrative stratagems, this diverting Diwali-timed extravaganza stands on its own merits as a lightly satisfying popcorn epic — provided, of course, you have a taste for such over-the-top amusement.

During the darkly majestic opening scenes — set in 1795, when the Indian subcontinent was known as Hindostan — Acharya provides the impetus for a tale of rebellion, revenge, and redemption as members of a royal clan are killed by British troops representing ruthless colonists of the East India Company. The sole survivor of the slaughter, a young girl named Zafira, is rescued and spirited away to safety by Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan), a faithful family friend and fearsomely efficient swordsman.