The only semblance of thuggery in the film was a half hour into the film when one started to get the feeling that it was the viewer who was being waylaid… It’s 1795 and the well-entrenched East India Company dupes a Maharaja (Ronit Roy), killing him, his wife and his son. His daughter Zafira survives, growing up under the tutelage of Khudabaksh Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan), who’s intent on eradicating the ‘goras’ who’ve thugged their way into Hindostan. But the goras have on their side the guileful, unscrupulous and loquacious Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan) who keeps both sides guessing his intent.
One had great aspirations from the film, being a Yash Raj Films opus, a period film, one of the most expensive films till now, and moreover, the first time pairing of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan. Though ‘a work of fiction’, it’s loosely based on the 1839 novel, ‘Confessions of a Thug’ by Philip Meadows Taylor. Amitabh, in a latter-day version of ‘Eklavya’, seems jaded. Fatima Sana Sheikh as the grown-up Zafira is average while Katrina Kaif makes her presence felt in the two-and-a-half scenes and two item songs. Lloyd Owen as John Clive fails to impress, and Aamir’s is the only performance worth watching as he has the best lines.
The cinematography of Malta, where portions of the film are shot, is pleasing. The set design looks too modern for a film set in the late 18th century. One can see shades of ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ in TOH, and if the director’s objective was to pay a tribute to the former, he fails. The background score is passable while Katrina’s vivacious moves make the songs, Suraiyya and Manzoor-e-khuda, noteworthy. Halfway through the film, Amitabh dramatically tells Aamir, ‘Taaqat insaanon mein nahi, iraadon mein hai’… if only the filmmakers had paid heed to this dictum!