Will Thugs of Hindostan do for Malta what Switzerland did for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge – result in hordes of Indian tourists descending on the European country in search of selfies at the locations featured in the movie?
Malta, a dot in the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya, has always been a popular tourist spot. Its heritage buildings, sparkling clean bathing waters and numerous churches draw visitors by the thousands every year. A major portion of the 2018 release Thugs of Hindostan, starring Aamir Khan, is currently being shot in Malta. While Malta isn’t new for American and European productions, the exotic European location has seldom featured in a major way in Hindi cinema – except for Charas (1976) and Samraat (1982), both starring Dharmendra.
For a film named Charas, the thriller has remarkably little cannabis in it. Nobody smokes up, nor do the smugglers seem to be handling large quantities of the narcotic. Ramanand Sagar’s movie is the campy, simplistic story of Suraj (Dharmendra) who journeys through India, Rome and Malta to take revenge against his father’s killers Robert (Amjad Khan) and Kalicharan (Ajit).
After Suraj’s family is ambushed in Africa by Kalicharan’s men, Suraj and his sister Nimmu (Aruna Irani) are separated. Suraj comes to India in search of Kalicharan but makes a hasty escape when things go wrong. Suraj ends up in Malta, where Robert handles most of the drug business.
In the first of three major sequences shot in Malta, Suraj gets on a bike and chases Kalicharan through the streets. While Kalicharan tries to escapes in a car, two henchmen try to botch Suraj’s efforts in vain.
The most famous Malta-based sequence in Charas is the romantic duet Aaja Teri Yaad Ayi, featuring Dharmendra and Hema Malini. Right after the chase sequence, Seema (Hema Malini) thinks that she has lost her lover Suraj for good. She walks through the streets, praying to Mother Mary to make things right again. Lo and behold, Suraj appears and a five-minute song sequence follows.
Earlier in the film, right after they reach Malta, Suraj and Seema dance to the lighter and fun Raja Na Ja Dil Todke, sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The video is pretty much a tourism commercial and features the best parts of Malta.
Samraat, the Blue of its time, revolves around two maverick divers (Dharmendra and Jeetendra) out to take down cargo shipping baddie Ranbir (Amjad Khan). The movie features treasure under the sea and some cool underwater cinematography. Samraat sank without a trace at the box office. The film has barely any prominent exterior shots of Malta, unlike Charas.
Malta also features in a short animated comic video The Italian Man Who Went To Malta, which went viral in the mid-2000s. The video became a rage in India too, and until we get footage from the Thugs of Hindostan shoot from the country, it will have to do.