The complicated moral universe of ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ and Shankar’s ‘2.0’

Posted on December 1, 2018


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Or why films that attempt to deviate from the formula of the masala movie need much better writing.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen ‘2.0’…

During the intermission of Shankar’s 2.0, I made a note: “complicated moral universe.” I didn’t talk much about it in my review, where I just said: An Indian-like development where a benevolent old man turns into a pissed-off vigilante in order to teach uncaring people a lesson? Check. Now, of course, everyone knows I was referring to the so-called “villain” of the story, Akshay Kumar’s Pakshi Raja. Where’s the complication? It’s in the fact that he – and not the “hero” – is the sympathetic character

The masala genre (I use the term “genre” loosely) is one of the most MORAL of genres, like the Western. The lines between Good and Bad are clearly drawn. When Thugs of Hindostan came out, this was the problem. I wrote: The only way this story would have worked is if we were constantly kept on edge about whether Firangi Mallah is a rogue or a nice guy — and with a superstar like Aamir Khan, it’s never in doubt that he will feel a twinge of conscience and rise against the British. But it’s more than that It’s more than just the fact that our big heroes almost never play morally complicated characters in big movies (as opposed to, say, an indie-ish film like 1947: Earth). It’s also that the masala universe cannot (and will not) accommodate such a character.

Continued at the link above.

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