Bollywood Box Office: October 17-19

Bang Bang and Haider continued their strong box office performances in their last uncontested weekend before Shahrukh Khan’s Happy New Year hits theaters. In its third weekend in North America, Bang Bang earned an additional $138,308 from 128 theaters ($1,081 average per screen), bringing its total earnings to $2,523,614. That makes it the second highest earning Hindi film in North America in 2014, behind The Lunchbox.

Haider added $62,361 from 49 theaters ($1,273 average) to its coffers, bringing its total earnings in the United States and Canada to $1,022,727. That total puts it in eighth place in North America for the year.

Other Hindi movies showing in U.S. and Canadian theaters during the weekend of October 17-19, 2014:

  • Khoobsurat: Week 5; $2,296 from three theaters; $765 average; $725,610 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 34; $370 from one theater; $4,050,233 total
  • Daawat-e-Ishq: Week 5; $229 from one theater; $385,415 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

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Movie Review: Hit the Road: India (2013)

HitTheRoad3 Stars (out of 4)

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Perhaps the best part of watching Hit the Road: India — a documentary about an auto rickshaw race from Mumbai to Chennai — is knowing that I don’t have to run the race myself. The movie follows two North Americans as they pilot a tiny, unreliable vehicle across India for an adventure that is equal parts beautiful and terrifying.

The race is the Mumbai Xpress, part of a series of road races that make up The Rickshaw Challenge. All of the races require participants to drive auto rickshaws: the dinky, three-wheeled vehicles ubiquitous in Indian cities.

Auto rickshaws are designed for quick urban jaunts, not highway driving. The vehicles driven by the racers have no doors, seat belts, or windshield wipers, a barely functioning headlight, and an engine that puts out a whopping seven horsepower.

Our guides in Hit the Road: India are Canadian chef Keith King and Chicagoan Ric Gazarian, who works in real estate. They are the least organized of the six teams competing, eschewing maps and GPS in favor of, well, who knows?

The twelve-day, 1,900 km race starts with the simple-sounding yet nerve-wracking task of getting out of Mumbai. Overloaded motorcycles dart in between humongous trucks, nearly clipping the small, slow auto rickshaw driven by two guys who elected to pack a Spider-Man mask and an Elmo costume for a trip through rural India.

Ric and Keith and their auto rickshaw

Ric and Keith and their auto rickshaw

Once out of Mumbai traffic, it’s surprising how quickly the city fades and the scenery becomes lush and green. What’s delightful about seeing India from this perspective is realizing how much beauty exists in areas that Bollywood filmmakers tend to ignore.

Part of that has to do with when the race takes place. It’s run in August during monsoon season, a time when it doesn’t make financial sense to shoot a film outdoors. However, the overcast August skies make the greenery more vibrant and augment the power of the churning ocean waves.

Virtually all of the drama in Hit the Road: India is due to Ric & Keith’s decrepit vehicle. It burns through gas at a furious rate, and it needs a new engine after just a few days. The long drives up winding hills are as hard on the rickshaw as they are on the drivers.

As funny as some of the mishaps are — like when Ric loses a shoe while lifting the rickshaw out of a watery ditch — it’s impossible to ignore the real danger of the race. The men must navigate potholes while avoiding driving into the path of annoyed bus drivers. Rural roads are poorly lit at night, so one could hardly blame a bleary-eyed trucker for failing to notice the sputtering little auto rickshaw in time to avoid a collision.

Somehow, the guys make it to the finish line alive, enabling Ric to present Hit the Road: India at the 2014 Chicago South Asian Film Festival. Ric spoke of plans to turn Hit the Road into a series, filming other adventurous road rallies around the world. It’s a natural fit for The Travel Channel, PBS, or even Netflix.

With more corporate financial backing, future editions could add some neat features. Onscreen text in Hit the Road: India notes the day of the race and the remaining distance to Chennai, but a map graphic could give a sense of how far the racers travel each day.

A bigger budget could also enable the filmmakers to follow more than one team. Ric & Keith’s adventures are captured by a dash-mounted camera as well as a camera crew in a pace car that drives alongside them. By only following one team, it’s hard to get a sense of how the actual race is unfolding (especially since Ric & Keith are almost always in last place).

All of the other racers are introduced by name during the closing credits, and until then, I had no idea that so there were so many women participating. One team consists of three women from the United Kingdom and Australia. It would’ve been fascinating to see how they fared in a country with a troubled history of gender inequality and a well-known lack of public restrooms for women.

Hit the Road: India presents an interesting side of the country as well as a great first entry into what should be a series. I can’t wait to see where Ric & Keith Hit the Road next.

"Elmo" and "Cookie Monster" visit a school

“Elmo” and “Cookie Monster” visit a school

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In Theaters: October 17, 2014

For a second week in a row, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area. We’ll have to wait until October 24 for Happy New Year.

When the theater schedules turn over on Friday, October 17, 2014, four local theaters will continue to carry Bang Bang: Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

Haider continues its run at MovieMax, Cantera, and South Barrington, which also holds over Khoobsurat for a fifth week.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include the Malayalam films Vellimoonga and Money Ratnam and the Telugu movies Oka Laila Kosam, Dikkulu Choodaku Ramayya, Govindudu Andarivadele, and Loukyam.

Bollywood Box Office: October 10-12

With no new Bollywood films for competition, Bang Bang and Haider continued to dominate the North American box office during the weekend of October 10-12, 2014. According to Bollywood Hungama, Bang Bang held the lead, earning $482,043 from 257 theaters ($1,876 average). That brings Bang Bang‘s total earnings to $2,214,333, putting it in third place for the year among Hindi films released in the United States and Canada. Advantages like a holiday (Columbus Day) across much of the U.S. today and another weekend without new competition in theaters should provide enough of a boost to push Bang Bang into second place for the year, ahead of Kick ($2,403,553).

Haider continued its strong performance as well, earning another $218,287 from 104 theaters ($2,099 average). With total earnings of $891,734 so far, it should easily pass Shaadi Ki Side Effects ($947,787) to finish its run in eight place for the year.

[Box Office Mojo lists slightly higher weekend and overall totals for Bang Bang ($499,182/$2,248,354) and Haider ($226,840/$901,610).]

Other Hindi movies still in theaters:

  • Khoobsurat: Week 4; $4,419 from five theaters ($884 average); $721,451 total
  • Daawat-e-Ishq: Week 4; $734 from one theater; $384,848 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 33: $96 from one theater; $4,049,709 total

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

New Netflix Streaming Page

I just added a new page to Access Bollywood with a list of Hindi movies streaming on Netflix in the United States. The link to the page is always accessible at the top of the right sidebar under “Other Pages at This Site”.

I’ll update the list regularly with movies newly added to Netflix as well as movies soon to expire from the service. For example, Refugee (2000) and Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl (2011) are both expiring this week. Enjoy!

Movie Review: Purani Jeans (2014)

PuraniJeans2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Purani Jeans (“Old Jeans“) compares friendship to that pair of broken-in blue jeans in your closet that make you feel your most comfortable. However, the friendships depicted in the film are fraught with complicated emotions, as adulthood is forced upon five reluctant young men.

The Kasauli Cowboys are a quintet of early twenty-somethings who live in a picturesque mountain town. They have a clubhouse and wear matching cowboy hats. They have a list of friendship rules, one of which is, inexplicably: “Always marry a virgin.”

The quintet comprises two leaders and three peripheral members, easily distinguishable by their physical characteristics: rotund Tino (Kashyap Kapoor), scrawny Suzy (Raghav Raj Kakker), and musclebound Bobby (Param Baidwaan). Sid (Tanuj Virwani), the film’s narrator, is the poet of the group and its unofficial vice president.

Hip rich kid Sam (Aditya Seal) is the Cowboy’s acknowledged leader. He brings back cool presents and far-fetched stories of romantic conquests from his trips abroad. He has a guitar and a Jim Morrison fixation. Sid — Sam’s only true peer — is his best friend.

Even with foreign colleges and day jobs looming just over the horizon, the Cowboys seem reluctant to admit that their carefree childhood is coming to an end. They yell, “Friends forever!” in unison more often than any actual group of young men would. Their Peter Pan existence is rocked by the usual culprits: girls.

Tino and Suzy both like Roxy, the blonde exchange student. Bobby gets overly involved with Aisha. And Sid and Sam both fall for Nayantara (Izabelle Leite), the pretty new girl in town.

Sam employees still all-too-typical Bollywood hero tactics while wooing Nayantara: he carves her name into his arm with a knife and threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t accompany him. What sets Purani Jeans apart is that these tactics don’t work. Nayantara prefers Sid’s less dramatic approach. She’s so upset by Sam’s tactics that she begs Sid to tell his friend about their relationship as way of getting Sam to back off.

The film is progressive about relationship issues in other ways. There’s a crisis involving Aisha and Bobby, and the Cowboys stand by Aisha at Bobby’s expense. Sam’s actions are framed within a context of mental illness, not just attributed to boys-will-be-boys behavior.

Besides some progressive stances, Purani Jeans is a fairly predictable Bollywood coming-of-age film. There are fights and reunions, and there are way too many songs about friendship and partying. The performances are good, although everyone talks too fast. While not exactly ground-breaking, the movie nudges the genre in a more modern direction.

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New Trailer: October 10, 2014

The trailer for Saif Ali Khan’s Happy Ending is out in advance of its theatrical release on November 21, 2014. Since the trailer lacks English subtitles, I can’t make heads or tails of the movie’s plot.

Notice the extreme sexualization of all of the women in the trailer who are cast in background roles. (Ileana D’Cruz and Kalki Koechlin are exceptions since their sexuality is integrated into their characters.) Then notice that none of those hypersexualized women are Indian.