Opening April 25: Kaanchi

Director Subhash Ghai’s Kaanchi: The Unbreakable debuts in two Chicago area theaters on April 25, 2014. The drama follows a courageous young woman who takes on the powers that be.

Kaanchi opens on Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

I’m surprised that Kangana Ranaut’s Revolver Rani isn’t opening here. Given the phenomenal recent success of Queen — which also starred Ranaut — I was sure the makers of Revolver Rani would try to capitalize on her current “It Girl” status.

Following a stellar opening weekend, 2 States expands into two more local theaters on Friday — Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge — joining the four theaters it debuted in last Friday: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, the South Barrington 30, and the Cantera 17.

The only other Indian movie playing in the Chicago area this weekend is Race Gurram (Telugu with English subtitles) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

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Streaming Video News: April 23, 2014

2013′s Shuddh Desi Romance is now available for streaming on Netflix. This was one of my favorite films of last year. It’s a great showcase for rising stars Parineeti Chopra and Sushant Singh Rajput.

Bollywood Box Office: April 18-20

The romantic comedy/family drama 2 States produced the best opening weekend for a Hindi film in North America in 2014. During the weekend of April 18-20, it earned $1,026,353 from 131 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. Its per-screen average of $7,835 is the year’s second highest, behind the opening weekend of The Lunchbox.

Since the release of Queen on March 7, the North American box office has been hostile territory for newly released Hindi films. The mean opening weekend per-screen average for Hindi films (besides Queen) released between March 7 and April 11 was just $1,085. Between January 10 and February 28 (excepting the anomalously high opening weekend average of The Lunchbox), the mean per-screen average was $3,469.

Queen averaged $4,154 in its debut weekend and went on to dominate in both per-screen average and gross earnings for the next four weeks. It remains to be seen if 2 States heralds a revitalization of audience interest in new Bollywood fare, or if it will follow Queen‘s path and dominate the box office until the next big thing comes along (probably Akshay Kumar’s Holiday on June 6).

In its seventh week of release, Queen continued to beat the mean opening weekend per-screen average of new movies released from March 7 to April 11. It earned $13,291 from nine theaters for an average of $1,477. Its total North American earnings stand at $1,408,129.

The Lunchbox continued its impressive run as it expanded into 156 North American theaters. It earned $343,242 over the weekend, bringing its total to $2,135,144.

In its second weekend in theaters, Bhoothnath Returns earned $23,956 from twenty-three screens, bringing its total to $139,032.

Main Tera Hero closed out its third weekend by earning $5,344 from eleven screens. Its total earnings stand at $274,673.

Source: Bollywood Hungama

 

Movie Review: 2 States (2014)

2states3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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As a woman who’s lived her entire life in Illinois, I would never have expected to find a movie about the cultural differences between families from North and South India so personally relevant. But those cultural differences are only the hook in 2 States. The real story is about alcoholism and the effects it can have across multiple generations.

The majority of the problems for the characters in 2 States (based on the novel by Chetan Bhagat) stem from the warped style of communication that Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) developed in order to deal with his abusive alcoholic father, Vikram (Ronit Roy) and his martyr mother, Kavita (Amrita Singh).

Krish — a Punjabi guy from Delhi — meets and falls in love with Ananya (Alia Bhatt) — a Tamil Brahmin gal from Chennai — in graduate school. They want their parents’ approval before they get married, but an introductory meeting goes terribly wrong. Vikram doesn’t even show up, and Kavita spews slurs against South Indians. Ananya’s mother, Radha (Revathy), calls Kavita classless and drags her husband, Shiv (Shiv Kumar Subramaniam) as far away as she can get.

Krish and Ananya persist in trying to win their parents’ approval, but their efforts are hampered by Krish’s evasiveness and conflict avoidance. Because he knows it will upset his mother, Krish doesn’t tell her in advance that Ananya is coming to visit, making Kavita even angrier. Krish also doesn’t tell Ananya the truth about his troubled relationship with his father until Ananya fruitlessly tries to make small talk with him.

I’m a couple of generations removed from the alcohol abuse on both sides of my family, but its effects still linger in the way we all communicate. Listening to Krish’s family evade, pacify, generalize, and blow up over little things felt familiar.

The characters feel so authentic because they are portrayed as damaged human beings, not monsters. Even in Vikram’s worst moments, Roy gives him an air of fragility. Singh plays Kavita as a woman whose hurtful words come from a place of fear.

Kapoor infuses Krish with an air of desperation. He’s as desperate not to lose Ananya as he is not to upset his mother. Part of his character development is choosing which he fears most. Krish is a relatable alternative to the typical cocksure, big-man-on-campus type of Bollywood hero.

Bhatt is terrific as Ananya: a woman with much more confidence than Krish, despite having challenging parents of her own. Revathy and Subramaniam find the right balance, making their characters chilly but not stony. At least with them, Krish knows he stands a chance.

Certain aspects make 2 States a good starter Bollywood film, not least of which are the well-written, well-acted characters. There aren’t an overwhelming number of songs, but those that exist are placed appropriately. The biggest song-and-dance number — “Locha-E-Ulfat” — is a kind of dream sequence when Krish is in the first throes of love. It features a cool single-take shot in which the camera weaves around, following Krish as he dances through the library stacks. (Watch the video of “Locha-E-Ulfat” here.)

Where the movie loses a lot of non-Indian viewers — especially those new to Bollywood — is in its jokes and stereotypes about North and South India. Some jabs are explained, but jokes about regional food and drink preferences are glossed over. I had to turn to Wikipedia to learn that “Madrasi” — the term Kavita uses to describe Ananya and her family — is an ethnic slur. Kavita also makes many, many cringe-worthy comments about the differences in skin tone between North and South Indians.

Nevertheless, the point is sufficiently made: the two families hate each other. It’s up to Krish to overcome his fear of conflict to win the woman he loves.

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Opening April 18: 2 States

One of the most hotly anticipated Bollywood films of the year opens in the Chicago area on April 18, 2014. 2 States stars Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt as a pair of young people trying to build a relationship despite the objections of their parents.

2 States opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

It’s worth noting that the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles — one of two local theaters to carry Bollywood movies virtually every week — is no longer managed by Phoenix Big Cinemas, and its present closure may be permanent. If so, that makes the South Barrington 30 the most reliable place to find Hindi films in the Chicago area, followed by the Cantera 17 and River East 21.

Despite a tepid opening weekend, Bhoothnath Returns carries over for a second week at the Cantera 17 and South Barrington 30, which is also carrying over Main Tera Hero and Queen.

The Lunchbox gets another week at Landmark’s Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

The only other Indian movie playing in the Chicago area this weekend is Race Gurram (Telugu with English subtitles) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Bollywood Box Office: April 11-13

Bhoothnath’s return to theaters was less than triumphant. The sequel failed to make a splash in its first weekend in North American theaters, earning only about a quarter of what the original did back in 2008.

The original Bhoothnath debuted on May 9, 2008. The supernatural family flick earned $330,246 from sixty-four North American theaters in its opening weekend for an impressive average of $5,160 per screen. It finished in 20th place in the overall U.S. box office for that weekend.

In contrast, Bhoothnath Returns earned just $87,850 from fifty theaters for an average of $1,757, according to Bollywood Hungama. That total would rank it around 34th place in the overall U.S. box office for the weekend of April 11-13, 2014.

The surprise success story of the weekend was the incredible performance of the Telugu film Race Gurram. In the United States alone, it earned $844,101 from sixty-six screens. That’s an average of $12,789 per screen!

Over the weekend, The Lunchbox became the highest grossing Hindi film of 2014 thus far. The $270,977 it earned from 122 theaters brought its total haul to $1,655,071. With dozens of theaters scheduled to program the movie over the next few months, expect that total to grow significantly.

In its second weekend, Main Tera Hero earned $45,282 from forty-six theaters ($984 average). Its total earnings stand at $252,966.

Queen‘s glorious run appears to be nearing its end. It earned $36,092 from twenty screens ($1,805 average) in its sixth weekend in theaters, bringing its total earnings to $1,385,453.

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Movie Review: Bhoothnath Returns (2014)

BhoothnathReturns2 Stars (out of 4)

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Bhoothnath Returns is only intermittently entertaining, because writer-director Nitesh Tiwari fails to take his target audience into account. Why does a film geared toward children have a runtime of 155 minutes? And why are so many of those minutes devoted to discussions of how to file paperwork?

2008′s Bhoothnath (“Lord of Ghosts“) starred Amitabh Bachchan as the titular not-so-scary ghost. The sequel finds Bhoothnath the target of jokes up in Ghost World — which looks a lot like Hogwarts — due to his inability to scare children.

Bhoothnath returns to earth to redeem his reputation, only to run into another fearless kid who can see him, even though no one else can. Savvy street urchin Akhrot (Parth Bhalerao) teams up with Bhoothnath, solving the problems of other earth-bound ghosts and earning money. As their friendship grows, Bhoothnath realizes that Akhrot’s future will never be secure while murderous thugs like Bhau (Boman Irani) run the government. Thus is born India’s first campaign to elect a ghost to political office.

For a while, the discussions of the bureaucratic technicalities surrounded Bhoothnath’s run are entertaining, aided by Sanjay Mishra’s funny performance as Bhoothnath’s lawyer. As the second half of the film rolls on, the story gets bogged down in heavy-handed patriotic speeches and lengthy montages depicting differing versions of what will happen on election day.

There is a surfeit of montages in Bhoothnath Returns. Instead of briefly panning the camera across the festively decorated grounds before Bhoothnath’s big rally, Tiwari devotes in excess of a minute to a sped-up version of the decoration of the rally grounds. When the movie is already so long, why devote more than a few seconds to something no one cares about?

The movie’s strangest sequence also takes place in montage form. As Bhoothnath comes to grips with depth of India’s problems, the song “Sahib” plays accompanied by a montage of photos of desperate, starving people. It’s very grim for a movie geared toward kids, especially since the impoverished state of Akhrot’s own neighborhood is already established.

It’s also hypocritical. Earlier in the film, Akhrot derisively mentions making money from foreign tourists looking to experience Slumdog Millionaire in person. How is turning images of peoples’ suffering into a music video in a major motion picture any different?

The film’s tedious heavy-handedness rankles because it detracts from an otherwise cute movie. Irani’s villain is the right mix of sinister and clownish. Bachchan is both grudging and caring as he puts up with his willful young friend.

Bhalerao does a terrific job as Akhrot, cracking wise but never coming off as a jerk. The young actor is great in a touching scene in which Akhrot tries to conceal the risks of their venture from Bhoothnath.

All the fine performances can’t keep Bhoothnath Returns from turning into a glorified public service announcement. Encouraging people to vote is a worthy goal, but it has to be done within the context of the story.

The pro-voting message comes across clearly through the story of Bhoothnath Returns, but Tiwari doesn’t leave well-enough alone, tacking on at least twenty minutes of condescending speeches. Jarring celebrity cameos by Ranbir Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, and Shahrukh Khan — whose presence is the only one that makes a lick of narrative sense — just add to the feeling that Bhoothnath Returns is as much an overly long PSA as it is a movie.

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