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Thugs of Hindostan’s Failure to Flourish and Bollywood’s “Inspirational” Love Affair with Hollywood

By Archita Bisht, November 24, 2018, Categories: Edutainment, Featured, Uncategorized

The Case

You know that one time when you copied your friend’s homework and still ended up getting a lower grade than them? Only in this case “you” are the Bollywood film industry and “your friend” is Hollywood. And sometimes when your luck is the worst of the worst, you end up completely failing the assignment because the teacher you were trying to fool didn’t fall for your tactics. Only in this case, the “teacher” is the audience, who to Bollywood’s surprise, are fed up of the absurdity that they pay to watch in the cinema.

It is no secret that, for decades Bollywood has been making films that were inspired by Hollywood films, but now, as the audience evolves and is exposed to films from all over the world, the filmmakers don’t get to get away with shamelessly copying Hollywood films anymore and this is often reflected by the money the film garners.

Catering mainly to and beyond the second highest population in the world, you’d think Bollywood filmmakers would be more considerate about their choices, but over the years, it has become clear that some of them prefer ignorance to originality. Some of these films seem to be such blatant copies that Bollywood directors might as well have just translated the dialogues into Hindi. Be it the storyline, the poster, the characters or even camera angles, Bollywood filmmakers don’t seem to realize that the audience is growing tired of their laziness.

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The Accused

The latest case in point is the Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan starrer, “Thugs of Hindostan”. The film, based on Philip Meadows Taylor’s 1839 novel, “Confessions of a Thug”, about a gang who posed a serious challenge to the British Empire in India during the 19th century seems to have caused the uproar with audience and exhibitors alike are demanding their money back. The film is undoubtedly one of Bollywood’s biggest and most expensive productions (Yash Raj Films invested HKD 281 Million). Due to smart marketing, the film had successfully created a huge hype amongst the filmgoers not only due to the A-list star cast (Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan’s first film together) but also the CGI action in the film. However, even Bollywood’s production giant couldn’t do much damage control as the hype for the film quickly turned into the hype for the various memes that were being made at the expense of the characters’ close resemblance to that of Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Aamir Khan’s look, in particular, as compared to that of beloved, Captain Jack Sparrow. The character, who inspires Halloween costumes all over the world due to his famous unruly, ragged looks and constant state of drunkenness, also seemed to be the main inspiration for Aamir Khan’s character, Firangi Mallah, in the film. Moreover, even Amitabh Bachchan’s, Khudabaksh/Azad, seems to have been heavily borrowed from Captain Barbossa and Blackbeard from the same movie.

The Twitterati was quick to catch the similarities and soon enough started referring to the film and its characters as, “Bhojpuri Jack Sparrow”, “Bhojpuri Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Pirates of Hindostan”, “Pirates of the Caribbean with Item Songs” and the list goes on. The film couldn’t survive the wrath of the audience and witnessed a steady decline in sales after opening day.

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The Verdict

It would be unfair to put the whole blame on Thugs of Hindostan because there were many films before this that were simply “inspired” by Hollywood. But perhaps this one hit us harder because our naïve hearts and brains expect better decision making from Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Whether it was “Partner”, which was essentially an outright replica of the Will Smith starrer, “Hitch” or “Chachi 420” as “Mrs Doubtfire’s” desi counterpart, “Thugs of Hindostan” is just the latest copycat in the long list blunders that have come before. For those who eat, live and breathe for cinema, movies such as “Kaante”, “Hum Tum”, “Satte pe Satta”, “Mohabbatein”, “Salaam-e-Ishq” and “Heyy Babyy” etc instantly come to mind. However, if I may say so myself, a special award should definitely be presented to the makers of “Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai” who made a rather excellent use of their translator after coming across Julia Roberts starrer, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

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Even though this trend has been going on for a while now, it is simply inaccurate to claim that every film coming out of Bollywood is trash. On one hand, there are poorly made knock-offs and on the other hand, there are some beautifully moving original feature films. There is no doubt in my or the overseas audience’s mind that Bollywood is also able to churn out many films that appeal to the audience’s emotions and also attract international attention, such as “Udaan”, “Dangal”, “Queen”, “The Lunchbox” etc. And therefore, it would be unfair to claim that Bollywood needs to get original.

Thugs of Hindostan was just one of the many rotten apples that lower Bollywood’s appeal in youth culture but it most definitely cannot and does not serve as the standard. Besides, Bollywood could draw inspiration from Hollywood regarding more pressing issues. For an industry that is often accused of being heavily doused in nepotism, sexual and mental harassment and protecting actors accused (and sometimes convicted) of various crimes, Bollywood could certainly take a page out of Hollywood’s book when it comes to bringing justice to the victims who come forward especially after various sexual assault and harassment cases against big Bollywood names came to light as the Me Too movement gained recognition in India.

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Archita Bisht

Archita Bisht is the Managing Editor at A-Desiflava Magazine and can be reached at Born in New Delhi and brought up in Greece, Iran, Germany, Ivory Coast, Spain and Hong Kong, I knew since very early that I wanted to write. I consider myself a storyteller and believe that storytelling is an important and constantly developing form of art. Words have the power to influence minds and perceptions and so I choose to focus my writings on topics related to culture, society, global affairs, and politics. When I am not focusing on jotting down my thoughts, I like to enjoy the sights that Hong Kong offers, travel, practice yoga, and binge on crime documentaries. I detest the humidity, stupidity and people who don't know how to stand in a queue.

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