There is a certain play Amir Khan does with these over the top characters. There is the obvious physical comedy to it, there is also a sense of utter flamboyance to it. Showmanship is the essence of these characters. The substance than has to come from the script and the director. Like it did in Secret Superstar or even with PK. Thugs of Hindostan, simply banks on the appeal of such a character, and fails to add anything more.
Amir’s character, Firangi Mallah, has so much screen time, they could have made a Netflix series out of it. But a lot of it is pointless jibber jabber and does little to establish the character or move the story forward. Amir Khan, to his credit plays around with Mallah. He has been given very basic lines to work with but he tries his utmost to engage the audiences. His character’s motivations are weirdly sketchy. The twists and turns eventually become off putting, like we are watching one those of Race movies.
Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the princess is there to fight the British, has a constant frown on her face. Even as she tries to ‘romance’ Mallah, a man three decades older; her face disagrees entirely with what she says. Sure, the costume designer pulls down her top a bit (lowest denominator) but it is just an awkward, unnecessary scene. The love angle, has been forced for the sake of it.
Then there is the ageless Khudabaksh Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan). The protector of the family of Zafira. The happy nuclear family of the Royals are killed brutally by the ‘Clive’ and only Zafira is saved by Khudabaksh who makes a fashionably late entry. Khudabaksh is a warrior and he turns Zafira into one too. Then, that is all she does in the film. These three characters fly off walls, bridges and anything that comes in their way to fight out of dozens of enemies at a time.
And then there is Katrina Kaif. She is dancing likes there is no tomorrow. Sometimes, I feel film makers give her a few lines in a couple of scenes to ensure they don’t get accused of having item songs.
Those are the 4 stars we see in the film. The less we talk about the story the better it will be. It would be an insult to the word simplistic to call this story simplistic. In trying to be clever with the character of Mallah, the film maker just throws on curve ball after another at the audience. With beautiful sets and era appropriate costumes (mostly) it looks like a fancy dress party.
The amount of money and effort it has gone on to make this film really makes you wonder how did it went so wrong. The overdose of symbolism makes the whole experience stale. We have donkeys and eagles leading the way for humans. It’s all a big and expensive mess.