Streaming Video News: November 21, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with one important new addition to the catalog. India’s official submission to next year’s Oscars — Newton — is now available for streaming. Critics who want to watch Newton in advance of year-end-awards voting can follow this link for a free 7-day trial of Heera.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix to include the addition of another Krish Trish and Baltiboy cartoon — Face Your Fears — plus the news that Gangs of Wasseypur will depart the service on December 18, 2017. Netflix broke the 5-hour-plus epic into eight 40-minute-long episodes, so there’s no excuse not to watch this gripping gangster drama.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of three Hindi-dubbed films that can be watched with ads even without a Prime subscription: the Tamil movies Billa 2 and Ek Dumdaar The Powerful, and the Punjabi film Jatt James Bond. For everything else new on Amazon Prime and Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

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Movie Review: Tumhari Sulu (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Actors Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul carry Tumhari Sulu, a task made more difficult by the story’s lack of perspective. It’s hard to tell how first-time feature filmmaker Suresh Triveni expects the audience to feel about his characters and their journey.

Balan plays Sulu, a bored housewife who entertains herself by entering radio contests. Her husband, Ashok (Kaul), ekes out a meager paycheck managing a dysfunctional tailoring shop. Their eleven-year-old son Pranav (Abhishek Sharma) earns money on the side by selling dirty DVDs and magazines to his classmates.

Sulu’s more successful sisters delight in their sibling’s lower-middle-class status, chiding Sulu for not having a job while reminding her that her lack of a degree precludes her from getting a reputable gig, anyway.

When Sulu goes to the radio station to collect her latest prize — a pressure cooker — she notices an ad for a late-night radio show host. She finagles a meeting with the station manager, Maria (Neha Dhupia), who gives Sulu a shot, if only for the chance to laugh at the frumpy, naive housewife. However, Sulu’s sultry delivery is just what Maria is looking for, and a new radio star is born.

Triveni’s story — which he wrote and directed — takes a long time to get to this point without advancing the characters’ development. The plot meanders, never lingering long enough to develop any of the potential themes — topics like Sulu’s self-worth, women’s financial independence, or the challenges of a two-income household — beyond a surface level examination.

Even if one assumes that Triveni is leaving it to the audience to draw their own conclusions, he doesn’t give them enough information to do so, chiefly because the characters don’t have meaningful conversations. Sulu doesn’t take her husband seriously, and she has no friends to confide in. Without substantive dialogues — or even internal monologues — it’s hard to infer what is important to the characters, and there’s only so much meaning we can derive from their actions alone.

Triveni also takes for granted the notion that a family’s ability to function is ultimately a woman’s responsibility. When complications arise concurrent with Sulu’s new job, it’s implied that, even if the problem’s aren’t specifically Sulu’s fault, they are her responsibility to fix. Nevermind that Ashok’s work situation was hardly ideal or that Pranav was already a junior pornographer before Sulu started her radio gig.

As is the case with every movie starting Vidya Balan, she is Tumhari Sulu‘s greatest asset, always fun and engaging. Yet, Kaul’s performance enables Balan to be her best. During Sulu’s and Ashok’s happier moments, the pair are adorable together — an unexpected delight, given that Kaul usually plays villains. Dhupia is a great choice to play a hip radio station manager, but her character is too easygoing to be convincing, given the competitive nature of that industry.

Songs are weirdly integrated into Tumhari Sulu, and the inclusion of random parkour stunts into one of them almost hints at an insecurity about whether the film itself is exciting and cool enough to grab the audience’s attention. Perhaps a co-writer for Triveni would have mitigated some of the burden on Balan’s and Kaul’s shoulders.

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Bollywood Box Office: November 17-19, 2017

Vidya Balan’s Tumhari Sulu had a nice opening weekend in North America. From November 17-19, 2017, the comedy-drama earned $176,146 from 59 theaters ($2,986 average; adjusted average of $3,523 from 50 theaters*).

It will be fascinating to see if the postponement of the release of Padmavati affects Tumhari Sulu and the handful of other Hindi films in North American theaters. Kapil Sharma’s November 24 release Firangi was the only movie willing to open anywhere near Padmavati‘s planned December 1 debut, and the next film scheduled after that is Fukrey Returns on December 15. Both Firangi and Fukrey Returns will likely open in fewer than 100 theaters here, so what are cinemas going to do with the space freed up by Padmavati‘s absence? Will it mean longer theatrical runs for Bollywood movies that are currently performing well, like Tumhari Sulu and Ittefaq, or will cinemas just allot the extra space to Hollywood fare? We’ll see.

Speaking of Ittefaq, the murder mystery had another good weekend, earning $48,986 from 35 theaters ($1,400 average). Its total after three weekends of release is $673,662, ranking it in 17th place for the year so far among Hindi films in North America.

Secret Superstar keeps chugging along as well, earning $34,242 from 28 theaters ($1,223 average). Its total stands at $2,115,505. Qarib Qarib Singlle was close behind with $34,065 from 31 theaters ($1,099 average), bringing its total after two weekends to $212,901. Finally, there’s Golmaal Again, which finished its fifth weekend with $16,725 from 17 theaters ($984 average) for total North American earnings of $2,336,042.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening November 17: Tumhari Sulu

Vidya Balan plays a housewife-turned-radio-host in the comedy Tumhari Sulu, hitting Chicago area theaters November 17, 2017.

Tumhari Sulu opens Friday at the AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

Ittefaq carries over for a third week at the Cantera 17, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, and South Barrington 24, which also holds over Qarib Qarib Singlle. Secret Superstar gets a fifth week at the South Barrington 24, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which gives a fifth week to Golmaal Again as well.

Other Indian and Pakistani movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Streaming Video News: November 15, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix, and I am thrilled to bits about one of the titles that just joined the catalog. In addition to Salman Khan’s Lucky: No Time for Love, the other new movie available for streaming is — drum roll, please — A FLYING JATT!!! Finally! I’ve been wanting to watch this again since the moment I stepped out of the theater the first time, and it hasn’t been available on DVD or any other streaming service in the United States until now. I AM SO EXCITED!

Here’s what I love about A Flying Jatt: movies like this are hard to find these days. Bollywood filmmakers rarely make films explicitly for children, and contemporary Hollywood assumes that families are only interested in animated fare or movies about kids, with PG-13 ratings making superhero movies inaccessible to younger children. Thus, A Flying Jatt feels like a welcome throwback. It has obvious parallels to the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks of the late ’70s and early ’80s, but it has a lot in common with goofy Tom Hanks films like The ‘Burbs and Joe Versus the Volcano, as well. These were films that I enjoyed and drew meaning from even though the live-action characters were grownups and I wasn’t. And while A Flying Jatt functions perfectly well as a fun, accessible way to kill a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon, there’s more going on under the surface. Shortly after A Flying Jatt released, I was inspired to write a followup piece to my initial review about the main character’s struggle with his religious faith. I still think about the movie a lot. My point is: watch A Flying Jatt. It’s really good, and not many people had the chance to see it in the theater.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the 2016 Telugu transgender revenge drama Arddhanaari. For everything else new on Netflix and Amazon Prime — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Bollywood Box Office: November 10-12, 2017

Qarib Qarib Singlle had a good opening weekend for a movie in somewhat limited release, but it wasn’t able to fend off a strong second weekend by Ittefaq. From November 10-12, 2017, Qarib Qarib Singlle earned $126,268 from 61 North American theaters ($2,070 average; adjusted average of $2,428 from 52 theaters*). Ittefaq bested that total with $152,956 from 66 theaters ($2,318 average; adjusted average of $3,122 from 49 theaters), bringing its total earnings after ten days to $563,374. Ittefaq‘s Weekend-1-to-Weekend-2 retention rate of 53% is fifth best for the year.

Secret Superstar finished third among Hindi films in North America for the weekend, earning $105,179 from 73 theaters ($1,441 average), enough to nudge its overall total across the $2 million mark to $2,051,162. Golmaal Again was next, with $66,612 from 58 theaters ($1,148 average). Golmaal Again has a comfortable lock on third place for the year so far — trailed by Secret Superstar in fourth — with total earnings of $2,292,508.

One theater in the United States carried Chefnow available on Heera! — earning $207 and bringing the movie’s North American total to $94,374.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: November 11, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with one new addition to the catalog. The October, 2017 theatrical release Chef is now available for streaming. It’s a decent one-time watch. Heera also recently added two other 2017 releases: the Marathi family drama Baapjanma and the Telugu thriller Raju Gari Gadhi 2.