Opening May 22: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Tanu Weds Manu Returns — the sequel to 2011’s Tanu Weds Manu — hits Chicago area theaters on May 22, 2015. Kangana Ranaut and R. Madhavan are back as the title characters, with Ranuat taking on an additional role as Tanu’s doppelgänger, an athlete named Kusum.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 8 min.

Bombay Velvet — which opened in twelve Chicago area theaters last weekend — carries over for a second week at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18. The same five theaters also hold over Piku for a third week, while Gabbar is Back gets a fourth week at MovieMax.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include 365 Days (Telugu), Lailaa O Lailaa (Malayalam), Demonte Colony (Tamil), Mosagallaku Mosagadu (Telugu), 36 Vayadhinile (Tamil), Chirakodinja Kinavukal (Malayalam), and Lion (Telugu).

Bollywood Box Office: May 15-17

Piku dominated the North American box office for a second weekend, overshadowing the new Bollywood release Bombay Velvet. After an unexpectedly strong performance in its opening weekend, Piku opened in an additional five theaters, bringing its total theater count to 124 during the weekend of May 15-17, 2015. It earned $595,308 to bring its North American total so far to $1,801,807. Its per-screen average of $4,801 is the second highest of the year, besting the opening weekend per-screen averages of every other Hindi film released here in 2015.

Bombay Velvet bombed in its opening weekend. Despite opening in 239 theaters — the first 2015 release to cross the 200-theater mark in North America — it only earned $297,437. Its disappointing per-screen average of $1,245 is well below this year’s median opening weekend average of $1,565.

For a third consecutive weekend, Akshay Kumar’s Gabbar is Back proved vastly more popular in Canada that the US. $13,215 of its third-weekend earnings came from just six Canadian theaters ($2,203 average), with 17 US theaters contributing $9,977 ($587 average) to a weekend total of $23,192. Its total earnings of $556,032 are the fourth highest for the year so far.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Bombay Velvet (2015)

BombayVelvet2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Bombay Velvet is a great-looking film held together by an unstable linchpin: its charismatic but problematic lead character, Johnny Balraj. Ranbir Kapoor is mesmerizing in the role, but Johnny can’t shoulder the story’s weight.

Johnny and his best friend, Chimman (Satyadeep Misra), grew up picking pockets on the streets of Bombay (now Mumbai) during the years after partition. As young men, Johnny puts his penchant for fighting to use, earning extra cash as a brawler. Imported Hollywood gangster movies show him a more glamorous, exciting life than the one he has. Johnny tells his friend, “I’m going to be a big shot, Chimman.”

The guys start out working as the muscle for a mobster named Khambatta (Karan Johar), who puts Johnny in charge of Bombay Velvet, a nightclub that provides cover for Khambatta’s illicit deals. Johnny falls for the club’s star jazz singer, Rosie (Anushka Sharma), a woman who’s been used by men all her life.

Khambatta’s illegal operations are set within Bombay’s evolution into a powerful global business center, but there isn’t enough historical context provided for international audiences to really get a handle on what’s going on. There are subplots about communists versus capitalists and union protests that aren’t fully explored.

I didn’t realize for about an hour that Khambatta ran a newspaper in addition to being a gangster, and that his chief rival, Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary) — who plants Rosie in the club as his mole — is another newspaper man. Did newspaper owners really have such powerful connections back in the day in Bombay? Is the story even realistic? It’s hard to tell from the context provided.

The nightclub itself is gorgeous, the kind of fancy supper club that now only exists in movies. The music is catchy and evocative. The gowns that Rosie performs in are works of art. Overall, this is a really beautiful film, never more so than during violent shootouts.

Sharma is great as a woman who is damaged but not broken. Kapoor is a coiled spring, his lithe frame suiting a character who has survived thanks to his scrappiness.

As exciting a character as Johnny is, he doesn’t quite work as a believable lead in this kind of film. He’s too impulsive to entrust with the power he’s given as the face of Bombay Velvet, a face sporting perpetual bruises at odds with the fancy clothes Johnny wears.

Much is made of the fact that Johnny isn’t book smart — the subtitled translation of Johnny’s slang into appropriate English colloquialisms is outstanding — but he’s not street smart either. He doesn’t understand the game the big shots are playing, so it’s impossible for him to work the situation to his advantage. When the elites don’t capitulate to his bullying, one wants to ask him, “Did you really think that would work?”

In other gangster movies, Johnny would be the dimwitted sidekick whose short temper gets him killed. It’s as if Joe Pesci’s Tommy in Goodfellas switched roles with Ray Liotta’s Henry.

The audience’s avatar in Bombay Velvet is Chimman, who looks at his friend with a combination of devotion, concern, and pity. (Misra’s restrained performance steals the show.) He knows how good they have it compared to their old life, and he knows where they are in the pecking order.

One suspects that, if Chimman were the alpha in the friendship, maybe he and Johnny could eventually become big shots. But he’s not, and they are both doomed by Johnny’s groundless ambition.

Links

Streaming Video News: May 15, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions to the catalog. 2010’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and its 2013 sequel Once Upon ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! are now available for streaming. The sequel disappointed, but the original was really interesting, in addition to being the source of the most confusingly translated adage I’ve ever seen in a Hindi movie: “Till a horse is not beautified, it looks like a donkey.”

Opening May 15: Bombay Velvet

May 15 sees the biggest Bollywood release of 2015 so far, when Bombay Velvet opens on 218 screens in North America. It’s also Ranbir Kapoor’s biggest career release in the US and Canada, besting the opening of 2013’s Besharam by one theater.

Bombay Velvet opens on Friday in twelve Chicago area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Showplace 12 Niles in Niles, Marcus Gurnee Mills Cinema in Gurnee, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and AMC Showplace Schererville 16 in Schererville, IN. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 29 min.

Piku carries over for a second week at the River East 21, Regal Gardens 1-6, MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

Gabbar is Back gets a third week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include Mythri (Kannada), 36 Vayadhinile (Tamil), Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai (Tamil), Chirakodinja Kinavukal (Malayalam), Dongata (Telugu), Lion (Telugu), Uttama Villain (Tamil).

Movie Review: Piku (2015)

Piku3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Rather than the broad, scatological comedy hinted at by the movie’s trailers, Piku is a thoughtful, funny movie about the fraught relationship between an adult children and their ailing, aging parents.

Director Shoojit Sircar and screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi are proving to be Bollywood’s most interesting off-screen partnership. Following their surprise hit debut Vicky Donor and the somber war film Madras Cafe (for which Chaturvedi wrote the dialogue), Piku is the duo’s most refined work yet.

Deepika Padukone plays Piku, a 30-year-old Delhi architect who doubles as caretaker for her ailing 70-year-old father, Bhaskor (Amitabh Bachchan). Piku’s mother is dead, and the only help she has in caring for cranky Bhaskor is the patient servant Budhan (Balendra Singh).

Piku is a carbon copy of her dad. Both are intelligent and confident, but also stubborn, opinionated, critical, and unable to admit mistakes. Bhaskor’s blindness to his own failings is particularly troublesome. On principle, he refuses to let Piku marry, lest she waste her intellect as a stay-at-home wife. However, he sees no hypocrisy in calling her home from the office every time he imagines a rise in his blood pressure or temperature.

Their relationship is the focus of the entire film, and there isn’t a lot of action, even when father, daughter, and servant hit the road to visit the family home in Kolkata. The owner of a taxi service, Rana (Irrfan Khan), gets to observe and comment on the family dynamic when pressed into driving them on their 1,500 km journey.

Where Piku differs from many other films about family relationships is that it eschews broad themes. There are no speeches or generalizing statements about love, the importance of family, or the challenges of aging. Piku and Bhaskor don’t learn from each other or Rana; they don’t evolve.

The characters in the film are who they are, and they all know it. Bhaskor and Piku argue without creating permanent rifts. Detailed discussions of medical conditions devolve into laughter. This is a movie about accepting life as it is, making it work, and finding humor in odd places.

It’s a joy to watch the actors portray fully developed characters with such honesty, and Sircar allows the performances to shine. Instead of cutting between closeups of individual actor’s faces as one delivers a line and another reacts, Sircar shoots most of the film’s conversations so that all the actors’ faces are within the frame, simultaneously. When Bhaskor says something ridiculous, we see Piku and Rana look at each other and stifle giggles in real time, all while Budhan naps in the background.

The superb performances are further confirmation of the cast members’ immense talents. Bachchan highlights the absurdities inherent in Bhaskor without making him into a joke. Khan brings warmth and perspective into the story through Rana.

Piku teeters on the brink of unlikability without falling off, thanks to Padukone. The character is a woman whose reserve of patience has been exhausted by her father, and she doesn’t suffer anyone who makes her life harder than it already is. The qualities that make her difficult are the same that make her endearing. She wins over Rana with her wisdom and sharp humor.

Rana and Piku don’t have a typical, dramatic Bollywood love story, but it’s romantic nonetheless. For two hard-headed single people with demanding families and jobs, more drama is the last thing they want. An allegiance based on understanding and compassion is much sweeter and more satisfying.

While the film’s trailer is full of references to bowel movements, they don’t dominate the movie. There’s one visual gag — in which a sink clogged by tea leaves is meant to evoke images of something more disgusting — that should’ve been left out. The movie is too clever for such a cheap joke.

Sircar and Chaturvedi show a real understanding of the emotional complexities of the parent-child relationship as it shifts over time, and the cast is the perfect group of actors to bring the story to life. Piku is really something special.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: May 8-10

Piku just knocked the pants off of every other Hindi movie to open in North America in 2015 so far and set a high bar for future releases. During its first weekend — from May 8-10, 2015Piku earned $938,938 from 117 theaters, an average of $8,025 per screen.

Mother’s Day Sunday drove huge crowds to the theater for the family comedy starring Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone. At least one showing at my local cinema sold out of tickets, which is almost unheard of. In one weekend, Piku earned $200,000 more than Baby — now the second highest earner of 2015 — earned from four weeks in North American theaters. Piku‘s strong earnings and positive word of mouth should make the team behind Bombay Velvet nervous ahead of its release on Friday, May 15.

[Rentrak reports to Bollywood Hungama weekend earnings figures for Piku that are about $150,000 less than the above figures reported by Box Office Mojo. I tend to prioritize Box Office Mojo’s figures when they have them available for Hindi movies. Either way, Piku earned a helluva a lot of money.]

In its second weekend, Gabbar is Back took in another $109,705 from 92 theaters ($1,192 average), bringing its North American total to $490,385.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!: Week 6; $2,200 from six theaters ($367 average); $608,751 total
  • Dharam Sankat Mein: Week 5; $160 from one theater; $13,545 total

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama