Movie Review: Inkaar (2013)

Inkaarmovieposter0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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If director Sudhir Mishra’s goal with Inkaar (“Denial“) is to depict in painful detail the kind of gender discrimination women are confronted with every day, then mission accomplished. But Mishra doesn’t condemn such discrimination or suggest that change is possible. If anything, Inkaar is more about a sexual harasser’s redemption than justice for his victim.

One of Mishra’s many problems in telling the story that he co-wrote with Manoj Tyagi is that he thinks the black-and-white case of sexual harassment at the film’s center is a conflict with shades of grey. Hotshot advertising executive Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) propositions his former protegĂ© and lover, Maya (Chitrangada Singh) for sex, and when she refuses, he threatens to destroy her career.

The framework for the plot is a series of interviews conducted by a social worker named Mrs. Kamdhar (Deepti Nawal), hired by the ad firm to determine who between Maya and Rahul is telling the truth. In a violation of any sort of professional protocol or victim’s rights, Maya and Rahul are deposed in front of their coworkers, some of whom are openly hostile to Maya. As the proceedings drag on, Mrs. Kamdhar brings Rahul into Maya’s session so they can “talk this out face to face,” as though this is a schoolyard tiff between children.

Mishra’s blindness to his own bias makes it impossible for him to tell a balanced story. He uses negative stereotypes of women to create Maya’s character without any narrative foundation. If there are to be any shades of grey in the case, then Maya must have some kind of agenda. She is routinely called “ambitious” — particularly by Rahul — a common slam against women deemed to be aiming above their station.

However, Maya doesn’t do anything aggressively ambitious other than perform her job well. At one point, she takes a dead-end job in Delhi just to get away from Rahul, but she’s so good that she gets reassigned to New York, where her stellar performance earns her a seat on the firm’s Board of Directors.

Rahul is the only one who claims that Maya is gunning for his job. She voices no such desire, and neither does anyone else in the firm believe that’s what she wants. Yet Mishra uses Rahul’s paranoia as sufficient evidence of Maya’s ambition.

Mishra further stacks the odds against Maya by routinely depicting her as a drunk. On the flip side, Rahul’s childhood is nostalgically shown in flashbacks, his father teaching him lessons about male pride. Cutaways in the present show Rahul tending to his ailing dad, affirming Rahul as a loyal family man.

Early in Maya’s career at the ad firm, she and Rahul — her mentor — become romantically involved. Much is made of the sexual relationship’s ramifications for Maya’s career, but no one questions whether it is appropriate for Rahul. He sleeps with an exec from another firm and a model working on an ad campaign, and no one raises concerns about how his behavior affects his company’s image. It’s taken for granted that a man can sleep with whomever he chooses, without consequence.

The real giveaway of Mishra’s bias is the different standard by which everyone in the film judges Maya’s and Rahul’s professional conduct. Her one professional transgression is that she pitches an idea that Rahul had originally conceived — and rejected — to a client without crediting Rahul. Everyone in the meeting flips out, as though this is the absolute worst thing one can do in a professional setting.

However, the characters barely react at all to Rahul’s much more detrimental conduct. First, he admits to deliberately withholding crucial client information from Maya in order to tarnish her image, resulting in the firm losing the client’s business. Rahul costs his company millions of dollars, and no one bats an eye.

Second, he admits in the hearing to propositioning Maya with sexual favors in exchange for a better working relationship. Adjourn the meeting, Mrs. Kamdhar! Prepare Rahul’s termination letter!

But that’s not what happens. Everyone in the meeting — including Mrs, Kamdhar — buys Rahul’s horrendous excuse: he only sexually harassed her to avoid doing what he really wanted to do, which was slap her.

Mishra could’ve let that comment hang, but instead, he tries to make violence against women sexy. He shows Rahul and Maya silhouetted against a blue background, Maya’s hair flying as her head snaps in response to Rahul’s slaps.

Inkaar depicts violence and harassment of women as titillating tabloid fodder in a world of unchallenged patriarchy. Rather than fire a male sexual predator who has cost his employer millions of dollars, the boss, KK (Kaizaad Kotwal) — who tells Maya that by filing the sexual harassment complaint, she proves that “women are too weak and emotional for senior management positions” — proposes not only terminating and counter-suing Maya, but making sure she can’t get a job at any other firm in India.

Maya’s only allies in the office aren’t in a position to help her. Even the supposedly neutral and experienced mediator Mrs. Kamdhar is susceptible to bribes and Rahul’s flirtatious flattery. She fails to render a verdict because Maya and Rahul “both seem to believe what they are saying.”

The resolution to the conflict is decided by Rahul, who gets the chance to redeem himself. Maya doesn’t determine her own fate, and nothing in the resolution suggests her co-workers feelings toward her have improved. Mishra’s message in Inkaar confirms entrenched patriarchy, warning women to be grateful that sexual harassment exists as an alternative to violence.

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Streaming Video News: April 27, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. Finally, Kill Dil is available for streaming. I liked this stylish flick from 2014 a lot more than most Bollywood gangster movies.

One Hindi film is set to expire from Netflix this week. 2013’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola — which I loved — leaves the streaming service on May 1, 2015.

Box Office Analysis: Yash Raj Films

The recent release of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! inspired me to take a look at the US box office history for all of the Yash Raj Films releases from the past decade. I based my analysis on data provided by Box Office Mojo and Bollywood Hungama (which in turn uses information from Rentrak).

Looking at the total grosses of all films, it looks like there’s a slight trend upward in total box office, over time. (The orange line represents a simple linear regression of all data.)


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You might notice that one film did disproportionately well in late 2013. That’s Dhoom 3, which raked in about $8M. Remove this outlier from the equation, and the other YRF releases are actually on a gentle decline in total box office take.


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Despite the stagnancy of total box office dollars, YRF’s widest releases are being shown in more US theaters than ever.


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A flat box office and more theaters means that opening weekend averages per screen are also trending downward, even when including Dhoom 3 in the calculations. Blockbusters have been immune to the trend, but the underperformers are doing worse than ever. The last four Yash Raj movies released in 2014 (Bewakoofiyaan, Mardaani, Daawat-e-Ishq, and Kill Dil) each came in at under $2,000 per screen.


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Taking into account that average ticket prices have also climbed almost $2 (from $6.41 in 2005 to $8.17 in 2014, according to Box Office Mojo), this lack of growth in box office also means that fewer tickets are being sold for each Yash Raj Films release, on average.

The good news for YRF is that Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! bucked recent trends, averaging about $4,000 per screen in US theaters in its opening weekend. That puts it on par with films from the studio’s most reliable period, 2007-08.

For the remainder of 2015, Yash Raj Films has only one film officially planned for release: Fan, starring Shahrukh Khan. Yet Fan‘s release date has been changed multiple times, and it’s not currently listed on Bollywood Hungama’s release calendar. The surprise success of the romantic comedy Dum Laga Ke Haisha in India prompted Yash Raj Films to create an international trailer for the movie, renaming it My Big Fat Bride. There’s a chance that it could open in US while Fan is completed — though its star, Ayushmann Khurrana, isn’t a guaranteed money maker like Shahrukh Khan.

Even if Yash Raj Films doesn’t release another movie in 2015, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! has nudged the studio’s fortunes in the US back in the right direction.

Author’s note: My thanks to Box Office Mojo, Bollywood Hungama, and Rentrak for the raw information. Note: there’s no reliable box office data for a pair of 2010 releases — Badmaash Company and Pyaar Impossible — so I couldn’t take them into account in this analysis.

The charts were generated by my husband, Greg Gibson, using the d3.js JavaScript library. Visit his GitHub site to view more YRF charts or to peruse the project’s source code.

Finally, here’s a table of estimated box office data for all YRF releases since 2005:

Title Total Gross Max Screens Opening AVG Release Date
Bunty Aur Babli 942756 51 8544 Fri May 27 2005
Salaam Namaste 1413283 63 8014 Fri Sep 09 2005
Neal ‘n’ Nikki 111551 44 1705 Fri Dec 09 2005
Fanaa 2105352 72 10459 Fri May 26 2006
Dhoom 2 2643586 63 15540 Fri Nov 24 2006
Kabul Express 302458 50 2852 Fri Dec 15 2006
Ta Ra Rum Pum 872643 85 5001 Fri Apr 27 2007
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom 695157 83 5485 Fri Jun 15 2007
Chak De India 1120404 62 5676 Fri Aug 10 2007
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag 675102 60 5350 Fri Oct 12 2007
Aaja Nachle 484108 66 3902 Fri Nov 30 2007
Tashan 457380 75 4016 Fri Apr 25 2008
Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic 365401 68 2671 Fri Jun 27 2008
Bachna Ae Haseeno 702166 71 4541 Fri Aug 15 2008
Roadside Romeo 55202 29 1440 Fri Oct 24 2008
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi 2078956 83 11096 Fri Dec 12 2008
New York 997437 60 7795 Fri Jun 26 2009
Dil Bole Hadippa! 644046 54 6508 Fri Sep 18 2009
Rocket Singh 164649 70 2352 Fri Dec 11 2009
Band Baaja Baaraat 71374 32 1369 Fri Dec 10 2010
Mere Brother Ki Dulhan 496172 74 5448 Fri Sep 09 2011
Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl 222019 80 2775 Fri Dec 09 2011
Ek Tha Tiger 2347774 120 9495 Wed Aug 15 2012
Jab Tak Hai Jaan 3047539 164 7973 Tue Nov 13 2012
Aurangzeb 149000 62 1468 Fri May 17 2013
Shuddh Desi Romance 641000 116 2980 Fri Sep 06 2013
Dhoom 3 8090250 239 14320 Fri Dec 20 2013
Gunday 887675 150 3656 Fri Feb 14 2014
Bewakoofiyaan 106800 66 1026 Fri Mar 14 2014
Mardaani 393619 86 1965 Fri Aug 22 2014
Daawat-e-Ishq 385415 113 1814 Fri Sep 19 2014
Kill Dil 246107 87 1977 Fri Nov 14 2014

In Theaters: April 24, 2015

No new Hindi movies are opening in the Chicago area on Friday, April 24, 2015, and those that remain are few and far between. The Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville holds over Mr. X in 3D for a second week. The AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington gives a fourth week to Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area include the Telugu movie Dohchay at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, which also carries the Malayalam movies Bhaskar the Rascal and Oru Vadakkan Selfie. OK Kanmani (Tamil) and OK Bangaram (Telugu) get a second week at both MovieMax and the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Bollywood Box Office: April 17-19

Mr. X wasn’t just invisible onscreen, but at the North American box office as well. Emraan Hashmi’s latest tanked hard in its opening weekend, from April 17-19, 2015. According to Box Office Mojo, Mr. X earned $30,097 from 52 theaters ($579 average). Considering the higher ticket prices that accompanied 3D showings of the film in some theaters, that total is atrocious.

The opening weekend figures for Mr. X reported by Bollywood Hungama are broken out by country, and that’s where the story gets really interesting. Of the $24,806 from 62 North American theaters ($400 average) Bollywood Hungama reports for Mr. X, $13,528 came from 52 theaters in the U.S. and $11,278 came from 10 theaters in Canada. That means that Mr. X was vastly more popular in Canada, with per-screen average earnings of $1,128 compared to an average of just $260 in the U.S.

Further proof of Mr. X‘s failure is that it got beat by another Hindi movie that didn’t even have an IMDb page until five days after it opened in theaters. Nanak Shah Fakir posted opening weekend earnings of $47,727 from 50 theaters ($955 average).

Also trouncing Mr. X was Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, now in its third week of release. According to Bollywood Hungama, it added another $50,038 from 31 theaters ($1,614 average). Bollywood Hungama reports total North American earnings for DBB of $568,398, which is less than the total earnings Box Office Mojo reported for the movie after its second weekend ($579,055). However, Box Office Mojo doesn’t presently have any DBB Week 3 data at all. My hunch is that DBB has earned more than $600,000 in North America by this point, but I can’t prove it.

Somehow, Dharam Sankat Mein lingered for a second weekend in six North American theaters, adding another $1,413 ($236 average) to bring its total to $9,948.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: April 19, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition the catalog. 2014’s Bhoothnath Returns is now available for streaming, though I can only recommend it halfheartedly. A better choice is ABCD: Any Body Can Dance, which expires from Netflix on April 24, 2015.

Movie Review: Mr. X (2015)

Mr._X_Official_Poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

When I described the plot of Mr. X to my father and brother, they both asked: “If you can’t see the hero, then why is the movie in 3D?” Good question. Having seen the movie, the best answer I can give is that director Vikram Bhatt is the market for a yacht and wants to pay for it with the 3D upcharge for tickets.

The use of a pointless 3D gimmick fits in a movie that is a collection of half-baked ideas. It’s a romantic revenge critique of the Indian justice system with a side of superhero origin story that’s also a sci-fi action thriller about an invisible cop.

Emraan Hashmi plays Raghu, an anti-terrorism agent in love with a fellow agent, Siya (Amyra Dastur). In order to save Siya’s life, Raghu is blackmailed into publicly murdering the Chief Minister.

Raghu flees, only to be cornered by his blackmailers and tossed into a pit of chemicals, a la the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. He survives an explosion at the chemical plant, but not without severe radiation poisoning.

Raghu’s friend Popo’s sister (stay with me) works at a pharmaceutical company, and she gives Raghu an experimental drug that will either cure the radiation poisoning or kill him immediately. He lives, with the side effect that he’s now invisible except in sunlight or under blue neon lights.

In the course of taking revenge on those who tried to murder him, Raghu encounters his greatest obstacle: Siya, who is all impulse, no introspection. She never questions why a good cop like Raghu killed the Chief Minister, deciding that their love must have been a lie and professing to hate him. When he finally tells her what really happened, she loves him again.

The reunion is short-lived, because she pulls a gun on him when he rejects her plan to arrest the culprits in favor of just killing them. Her feelings are absolute, until they change completely.

What’s funny is that Siya’s law-and-order approach actually works until Raghu shows up with a gun and sparks a hostage situation. He claims to be a “protector of justice” while actively working against a system that seems functional.

All this is to set up Raghu/Mr. X as a kind of folk hero, and Bhatt uses my least favorite Bollywood trope to do so: the man-on-the-street interview. A news report is interspersed with shots of everyday dopes praising Mr. X with stupid crap like, “I’ve heard Mr. X is totally cute.”

The problem — besides the sheer laziness behind this trope — is that the public doesn’t know the motive for Mr. X’s murders. They don’t know that he was set up. As far as anyone knows, the people Mr. X kills are upstanding public servants, yet the moronic interviewees hail Mr. X as a superhero.

As mentioned above, the 3D adds nothing to the film. However, the CGI invisibility effects are pretty good. Raghu appears and disappears smoothly as he moves from light to shadow, with sometimes only parts of his body disappearing. Bhatt uses the lighting to direct the audience to areas in each shot where Raghu is likely to turn invisible.

However, the practical effects leave a lot to be desired. A chase scene in which Raghu disappears leaves us with a visual of a wobbly, riderless motorbike being pulled along by an offscreen mechanism. It looks equally dumb when Raghu vanishes while holding Siya in his arms, making her appear to float in mid-air. The film’s fight choreography is awful.

Raghu is a hard guy to like because he doesn’t show much personality, except for when Siya makes him mad and his eyes get all buggy. It’s not Hashmi’s most interesting role by a long shot. Dastur is at least committed to Siya’s absolute sense of morality, but she needs to train her voice not to sound so shrieky when she screams. Siya’s wardrobe is outstanding.

Mr. X rates high in terms of novelty, but its execution doesn’t justify an overpriced 3D ticket.

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