2015 Thanksgiving Bollywood-on-Netflix Marathon

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving as a kid was the annual “Turkey Day” marathon on Comedy Central, featuring back-to-back episodes of my favorite show: Mystery Science Theater 3000. The marathon’s name referred to not only the traditional Thanksgiving turkey we all dined on, but also to the awful movies — “turkeys” — the guys from MST3K skewered each episode.

Though the old Comedy Central event featured lousy films, it got me thinking about how I would organize a Thanksgiving marathon of good Bollywood movies, using only titles available on Netflix. I’ve posted my list below, complete with a fictionalized account of what the day would be like if I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my family (which will never happen, BTW).

I’d love to know what your Thanksgiving Bollywood-on-Netflix marathon would be. Here are the rules:

Make sure to limit your movies to those on this Netflix list. This isn’t your ideal Bollywood marathon, just a Netflix marathon. Post your lineup in the comment section below. Happy Turkey Day!

Kathy’s 2015 Bollywood-on-Netflix Turkey Day Marathon

9 a.m. — Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Gotta start out strong. The catchy tunes are perfect background music for early morning prep. (My review | Netflix link)
11:30 a.m. — Kill Dil. By this point, my brother and his wife have come over to help cook. Kill Dil is quirky enough to appeal to my brother, and Ali Zafar can be the eye candy for my sister-in-law. (My review | Netflix link)
2 p.m. — Dhoom 2. The great thing about Dhoom 2 is that it’s just as entertaining (and makes just as much sense) if you come in halfway through the movie as it is if you watch it from the beginning. Perfect for the time period when most of the guests will arrive. (My review | Netflix link)
4:30 p.m. — Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The main course. Dancing, crying, family reunions… This has “Thanksgiving” written all over it. (My review | Netflix link)
7 p.m. — Hawaizaada. How about some kid-friendly fare to go with my Aunt Mary’s pumpkin pie? (My review | Netflix link)
9:30 p.m. — Aurangzeb. My cousins Lara and Jill have taken their kids home, so any adults still lingering are subject to my whims. That means a soap opera about twins separated at birth swapping places to take down their gangster father. Good times. (My review | Netflix link)

Opening November 25: Tamasha

Director Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha gets an early release in the United States to capitalize on Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. The romance — starring Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor — opens on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, two days before it opens in India.

Tamasha opens on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in seven Chicago area theaters: : AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo carries over for a third week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

On Thursday, Size Zero (Telugu w/English subtitles) opens at the Cantera 17, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, which also carries its Tamil version: Inji Iduppazhagi.

Kumari 21F (Telugu w/English subtitles) carries over at the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Bollywood Box Office: November 20-22

Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo faltered in its second weekend in North American theaters. From November 20-22, 2015, it earned $602,044 from 307 theaters ($1,961 average), bringing its total earnings in the United States and Canada to $3,929,227. [Update: Box Office Mojo’s reports weekend earnings figures for PRDP that are about $25,000 higher than those reported by Rentrak.]

PRDP‘s box office returns dropped by 74% from Weekend 1 to Weekend 2. By contrast, Khan’s second weekend returns for Bajrangi Bhaijaan fell by just 40%. The differences in the two films’ per-screen averages are telling, too. PRDP‘s opening and second weekend PSAs were $7,612 and $1,961, respectively. Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s PSAs were much better: $9,468 and $5,636.

Not only is PRDP out of the running to best Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s chart topping $8,114,714, the romantic drama will struggle to clear $5 million in North America, especially with the early release of Tamasha on Wednesday. Still, Khan must be pretty happy having the two highest earning Hindi films in North America this year.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: November 20, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. 2006’s star-studded romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is now available for streaming. This was one of the first Bollywood flicks I saw in a theater. I’m a sucker for it because of its soundtrack.

In Theaters: November 20, 2015

No new Hindi movies are opening in Chicago area theaters on November 20, 2015, ceding the field to the blockbuster Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. On Friday, PRDP carries over in eleven area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood.

[Note: According to MovieMax’s schedule, it looks like we’ll be getting Tamasha here in the States on Wednesday, November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. The movie opens in Indian on Friday, November 27.]

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Thoongaa Vanam (Tamil w/English subtitles) at Seven Bridges and MovieMax, which also carries Cheekati Rajyam (the Telugu version of Thoonga Vanam), Kumari 21F (Telugu), Rani Padmini (Malayalam), and Vedalam (Tamil).

Bollywood Box Office: November 12-15

Salman Khan scored another massive hit in North America with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. From November 12-15, 2015, PRDP earned $2,746,673 from 310 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Bollywood Hungama. That’s an average of $8,860 per theater over the film’s first four days. (Box Office Mojo puts the film’s four-day earnings at $2,813,018 from 287 theaters, for an average of $9,801.)

When looking at the traditional Friday-Saturday-Sunday total, PRDP‘s $2,359,703 ranks second for the year in North America, behind Salman’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan ($2,613,192). Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s opening weekend total is even more impressive considering that it opened in 34 fewer theaters than PRDP.

The next Bollywood film likely to open in North American theaters is Tamasha on November 27, giving PRDP a second weekend with no direct competition. Will that be enough for PRDP to eclipse Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s impressive North American total earnings of $8,114,714?

Two other Hindi films went largely ignored in North American theaters over the weekend:

  • Shaandaar: Week 4; $806 from two theaters; $403 average; $603,444 total
  • Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2: Week 5; $363 from two theaters; $182 average; $242,008 total

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)

PremRatanDhanPayo2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Devoted Salman Khan fans have expectations of movies starring their Bhai, and surely Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (“Received a Treasure Called Love“) fulfills their expectations. For moviegoers who aren’t hardcore Salman fans, the film seems too familiar.

Don’t get me wrong, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP, henceforth) is a fine enough film. It lives up to its billing as a spectacle, with colorful dance numbers and magnificent sets. The story is full of teary-eyed reunions and blossoming romance.

But this all feels like something we’ve seen before, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t seen any of Salman’s three previous collaborations with writer-director Sooraj Barjatya. Salman plays the same character he always plays these days, no matter if he’s starring in an action flick or a romantic comedy.

Prem (Salman) is a supremely righteous devotee who narrates religious plays. His best friend, Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal), is an actor who dresses in drag to perform the lead female roles in the plays. At Prem’s insistence, they donate all of the money they earn to a charity run by the beautiful Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor).

On their way to meet the princess in person for the first time, the guys are intercepted by representatives of the princess’s betrothed, Prince Vijay (also Salman). Prem looks exactly like the prince, who is presently comatose following an attempt on his life by his scheming younger brother, Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Vijay’s right-hand man, Deewan Saheb (Anupam Kher), convinces Prem to temporarily pose as the prince, giving Prem the perfect opportunity to spend time with the princess.

While posing as the prince, innocent Prem comes to learn that Vijay is kind of a jerk. Complicated family dynamics — Vijay is his father’s firstborn, Ajay was born to their father’s second wife — have strained the relationship between the brothers. Their younger half-sisters — Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia) — by their father’s mistress have turned their back on the family completely.

Worst of all, from Prem’s perspective, is that Vijay is mean to Maithili. The royal couple argues all the time, and Vijay once tried to get fresh with Maithili (a big no-no to Prem, who doesn’t even approve of kissing before marriage).

Prem takes his opportunity as Vijay to try to heal the relationship between the siblings and to make things right with Maithili. If he can’t have her himself, at least he can lay the foundation for a happy marriage to Vijay. Prem asks her to list all of Vijay’s faults, which she does in song form. Unfortunately for international fans, the song lyrics in PRDP are not subtitled.

As one would expect, Salman is almost always the focus of attention. This myopia means that the villainous machinations against Vijay take place primarily offscreen. The revelation of who was plotting what and why is abrupt and confusing.

If you’re going to cast Neil Nitin Mukesh as the villain, use him. Don’t give him fewer than thirty minutes of total screentime, especially in a movie that’s nearly three hours long.

Same goes for Deepak Dobriyal, whose character is sidelined once they get to Vijay’s palace. Dobriyal is one of those actors who has my attention whether he’s the focus of the scene or not. Again, if you’re going to cast him, use him.

Prem describes his relationship with Kanhaiya thusly: “You’re my compulsory companion.” That’s a good description of any character who plays sidekick to Salman. Salman’s characters are often written as being unconcerned by money, which means that it falls to his “compulsory companions” to pay for everything Salman’s characters buy. Since Salman’s characters are usually supposed to embody moral purity, why are they always mooches?

PRDP delivers a bunch of songs, many of which are lavish spectacles. Sonam is pretty, and Salman is heroic. Things proceed pretty much as expected. A happy ending is all but guaranteed.

I don’t know that that’s enough to make PRDP a must-see movie for its own sake. For a holiday weekend outing with family and friends, it’s reasonably entertaining (although the lengthy runtime is a challenge, especially if your theater doesn’t have an intermission break). But is it unique? Is it memorable? I’m not so sure.