Bollywood Sports Movies on Netflix

Click here to view my full, up-to-date list of all Hindi movies currently available on Netflix.

India’s semi-finals exit from the Cricket World Cup altered a lot of people’s weekend plans. If you’re still in a sporty mood, check out these Bollywood movies about athletes, available on Netflix:

ChakDeIndiaChak De! India (2007)

This is probably my favorite sports movie ever. Shahrukh Khan plays the coach of the talented but underestimated Indian national women’s field hockey team. It’s a great film for families, and especially for girls. Its pro-diversity message also makes it one of the most patriotic Bollywood films out there.

Kai_Poche_film_posterKai Po Che! (2013)

Three cricket-loving young men find their hopes for the future dashed by an earthquake and a wave of political and religious violence. Kai Po Che is worth watching for performances by some of Bollywood’s hottest young stars.

 

sikandarSikandar (2009)

Like Kai Po Che!, Sikandar is another film in which violence intrudes upon the life of a young athlete, this time a soccer player.

 

 

say-salaam-indiaSay Salaam India (2006)

A coach turns a bunch of wrestlers into cricket players.

 

 

ZnmdcoverZindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

Three single friends go on one last road trip, challenging themselves with extreme sports like sky diving along the way. A fun movie with a super cast. My favorite part of ZNMD is the song “Señorita,” sung by the movie’s stars: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol.

Halfway to the 88th Oscar Submission Deadline

Even though the 87th Academy Awards ceremony took place just last month, we’re almost halfway through the qualifying period for submissions to the 88th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Qualifying films must be released theatrically in their home country between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. (Click here for the 87th Oscar’s eligibility rules.)  Accordingly, dozens of Hindi films already meet that qualification.

Since this blog focuses on Hindi-language films, I’m not going to discuss the merits of the dozens of movies in other Indian languages that would meet the qualifications. I’m also limited to movies that are, or have been, available in the United States. So, there are surely a few worthy Hindi films I’m going to miss.

Since October 1, 2014, I’ve given six films 3.5- or 4-star reviews. Let’s look at their chances:

As much as I enjoyed The Shaukeens and Kill Dil, they earned their stars primarily as great examples of their genres (comedy and revenge, respectively). I’m also ruling out Badlapur and NH10 because of similarities to other films — I Saw the Devil and Eden Lake, respectively — that could rub Oscar voters the wrong way.

That leaves us with Haider and PK. Haider — a gripping retelling of Hamlet set in a starkly beautiful, war-torn region — seems like an obvious choice to appeal to Oscar voters.

As charming and smart as PK is, it’s more mainstream than the average Foreign Language Oscar contender. Still, that fact could make it a bold choice for submission. It has high production values working in its favor, along with a funny and accessible performance by Aamir Khan, whom Oscar voters may remember from Lagaan.

Haider and PK would both make interesting challengers in the Foreign Language Oscar category. However, the Indian selection committee has in recent years chosen movies out of left field, regardless of their chance of actually winning the award (submitting The Good Road instead of The Lunchbox? Seriously?). I don’t know that either Haider or PK stands much of a chance of being selected by the committee, but I sure hope they are considered come September.

In Theaters: March 27, 2015

As expected, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on Friday, March 27, 2015. The great thriller NH10 carries over for a third week at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Might be a good weekend to check out the selection of Bollywood movies on Netflix, no?

Movie Review: Samrat & Co. (2014)

Samrat_&_Co_—_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

As a fan of the hit British TV series Sherlock, a Bollywood version of the same sounded like a disaster. Thankfully, Samrat & Co. is watchable, but just barely.

Bollywood’s Sherlock is Samrat (Rajeev Khandelwal), a detective who relieves stress by partaking in underground boxing matches. Lest the audience get a bad first impression, Samrat explains that his illicit prize money goes to charity. Never mind that boxing seems like a ridiculously dangerous pastime for a man who relies on his intellect to solve crimes.

The “Co.” of Samrat & Co. is just one guy, tabloid TV host Chakrandhar (Gopal Dutt). Just to make absolutely clear that the filmmakers know that they are making a Sherlock knockoff/tribute, Chakrandhar says, “I’m Watson, and he’s Sherlock.”

Apart from a story focused on a brilliant detective and his sidekick, Samrat & Co. has little in common with Sherlock. There are none of the visual effects that define the British series, except for one instance in which the solution to a word puzzle briefly floats on screen. (The film’s few puzzles are simple, and watching a character as supposedly brilliant as Samrat struggle with them is frustrating.)

Khandelwal’s Samrat is a normal guy, as socially at ease as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is awkward. It’s the supporting cast — like dim-witted Chakrandhar and chatterbox maid Shanti (Puja Gupta) — whose attempts to add quirkiness to the movie prove more irritating than endearing.

The central mystery involves a rich man in Shimla — Mahendra Pratap Singh (Girish Karnad) — whose garden appears to be cursed. After Singh is murdered at his own birthday party, Samrat sorts through numerous suspects to find the killer.

The movie’s cast is huge, and there are way too many potential suspects to keep track of. When Samrat zeroes in on Deepak (Rajneesh Duggal) as a potential culprit, I was hardly sure who Deepak was. His character is introduced while Samrat scans some CCTV footage, and they have one brief conversation before their showdown. The showdown itself includes a bout in the world’s least safe fighting arena, perched on a cliff’s edge and ringed by a wooden picket fence. The insurance premiums must be outrageous.

Kandelwal’s performance is fine, but it’s not especially compelling. Madalsa Sharma is tolerable as Dimpy, Singh’s daughter and Samrat’s sort-of love interest. There’s not much to commend any of the supporting actors besides Shreya Narayan, whose character, Divya (Singh’s other daughter), is refreshingly mute.

As flawed as Samrat & Co. is, it deserves credit for trying something a little different. Mystery isn’t a common Bollywood genre, so the movie at least offers a change of pace. Samrat & Co. is neither great nor terrible.

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Bollywood Box Office: March 20-22

NH10 had a noteworthy second weekend in North American theaters. From March 20-22, 2015, NH10 earned another $76,122 from 36 theaters ($2,115 average), bringing its total earnings in the United States and Canada to $258,993.

What’s significant about NH10‘s performance is that its second-weekend business only dropped 47% from its opening weekend. It’s the only Hindi film released in 2015 to retain more than half its business from Week 1 to Week 2 (and from ten fewer theaters). Here’s how much business fell from Week 1 to Week 2 for other Bollywood movies released this year:

That’s a good sign for NH10, especially since it’s unlikely to have any new competition in theaters this coming weekend.

Badlapur carried over for a fifth weekend on one U.S. screen, from which it earned $322. That brings its North American total to $419,836.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

In Theaters: March 20, 2015

As expected, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on Friday, March 20. The only Bollywood movie showing locally this weekend is NH10, playing at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

Movie Review: Jackpot (2013)

Jackpot_2013,_official_poster0.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Given how much I enjoyed director Kaizad Gustad’s incredibly stupid film Boom, I hoped that Jackpot would also be so-bad-it’s-good. Sadly, Jackpot is as inept as Boom, but nowhere near as fun.

I would describe the plot of Jackpot if I could. Even after watching the whole movie — which is a mercifully short ninety minutes — I still have no idea what happened. A group of people try to con a casino owner named Boss (Naseeruddin Shah) out of money. That’s the best I can do.

Gustad must have a grudge against context, because he provides none. We don’t know who the con artists are, what their relationships are to one another, and what their relationship is to Boss. There’s also no sense of when any scene is taking place. The action jumps back and forth in time with no clue as to how one scene relates to another chronologically.

The thieves’ plan is totally convoluted, with con layered on top of con, and it’s impossible to tell what money is stolen when and as a result of what con job. The thieves steal money to get into a poker tournament, steal the money from the poker tournament, and try to convince Boss to invest in Disneyland in Goa, all while they try to steal money from one another. It makes no sense.

The con artists are led by Francis (Sachiin Joshi, who exudes whatever the opposite of charisma is). He has a sexual, possibly romantic relationship with Maya (Sunny Leone), who works for and may have a sexual relationship with Boss. There’s also Kirti (Elvis Mascarenhas), who serves no purpose in the story, and Anthony (Bharath Nivas), who is a dumbass.

From an unintentional comedy standpoint, the best part of the film is the plan to have Anthony win the poker tournament. The whole plan hinges on his ability to count cards. However, not only does Anthony not know how to play poker, he doesn’t even know what the cards are. They have to explain to him that there are four suits in a deck of cards: two red and two black.

Ultimately, Anthony wins the tournament. While he stands on a stage to receive his briefcase full of money, Francis runs by and steals it. If Francis was just going to steal the briefcase anyway, why did Anthony have to win the tournament?!

As if Boom weren’t proof enough, Jackpot cements that Gustad is a terrible writer and director. Jackpot‘s plot makes no sense. Gustad handles his actors so clumsily that he makes Naseeruddin Shah look like a goof. Sunny Leone has a confused smile painted on her face most of the time, since she apparently doesn’t know any more about what’s happening in the movie than the audience does.

Gustad’s framing and scene execution is also idiotic. He routinely speeds up shots of characters walking and driving, rather than just having the characters walk shorter distances. There’s no dynamism in any of the scenes since the characters are almost always sitting down. The only person who isn’t is Leone, the bulk of whose screentime consists of shots of her torso while she mills about behind other characters having seated conversations.

I wish that this train wreck was funny enough for me to recommend, but it isn’t. If you have ninety minutes to waste, just stare at a wall. It will be more rewarding than watching Jackpot.

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