Streaming Video News: December 10, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime because the Yash Raj Films catalog has returned! Thanks so much to Dhaval Shah on Twitter for letting me know! All of the YRF titles from before 2016 expired in September, but they’re back on Prime once again. As a bonus, two YRF titles that weren’t previously available on Prime have been added: Madhuri Dixit’s Aaja Nachle and Vaani Kapoor’s Aaha Kalyanam (the Tamil remake of Band Baaja Baaraat, which itself is sadly not part of the streaming package). [Update: Band Baaja Baaraat was just added to Prime!] Oh, and Jab We Met is back on Prime again, too.

Here are all of the YRF titles just returned to Amazon Prime:

[Disclaimer: all of my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links.]

Streaming Video News: December 9, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the today’s addition of Saif Ali Khan’s October release Laal Kaptaan.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with yesterday’s addition of the Hindi version of Saaho. (Saaho was already available on Amazon Prime in Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.) The Priyanka Chopra Jonas/Farhan Akhtar family drama The Sky Is Pink hits Netflix on December 11.

Over the weekend, the Twitter account Cinema Rare tweeted a thread of Netflix Originals from India coming to the service in the next year or so. The only one with a confirmed release date is the anthology movie Ghost Stories, from the filmmakers behind Bombay Talkies and Lust Stories. It premieres December 31. I found links for nine of the twenty-two Netflix Original movies and series Cinema Rare mentioned, in case you’d like to add them to your Netflix queue:

Streaming Video News: December 6, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian films and shows added in the last several days, including a new season of Inside Edge, available in Hindi with English subtitles (standard and 4K UHD) and English-dubbed (standard and 4K UHD). Recently added 2019 movies include Ardab Mutiyaran (Punjabi), Bharaate (Kannada), and the Bengali titles Dash Mash Dash Diner Galpo and Unish Bish.

I also found thirty Hindi films that will expire from Amazon Prime within the next two weeks. I’ve organized them by expiration date:

December 13

December 14

December 18

[Disclaimer: all of my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links.]

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because Half Girlfriend is back after disappearing for a couple days. Please be excited. The Hindi version of Saaho comes to Netflix on Sunday.

Streaming Video News: December 1, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of seven Punjabi films — including the 2019 releases Guddiyan Patole and High End Yaariyaan — and the romantic comedy The Zoya Factor. The Sonam Kapoor Ahuja-Dulquer Salmaan-starrer didn’t make a splash at the box office, but I thought it was really fun.

Even more intriguing than what was added is what’s on its way to Netflix. The Hindi version of Saaho arrives on December 8, followed by The Sky Is Pink on December 11. It also turns out that Netflix is the new home for the Excel Entertainment back catalog, which left Amazon Prime last week. (More recent releases like Gully Boy will stay on Prime for the foreseeable future.) Netflix was Excel’s original streaming partner about 4 or 5 years ago. We’ve got new web addresses and a confirmed debut date of December 15 for all of the Excel films that haven’t been on Netflix before, including Bangistan, Dil Dhadakne Do, Game, and Karthik Calling Karthik.

While I can’t confirm that the rest of the catalog will definitely return on December 15, here are the addresses for all of the Excel films that were previously on Netflix so that you can add them to your List, just in case:

I also updated list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with about a dozen Indian films added in the last few days, including the 2019 releases The Gambler (Malayalam), Malli Malli Chusa (Telugu), and Ottam (Malayalam).

Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag that may earn me a commission on purchases made via the links.

Streaming Video News: November 27, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian titles added in the last week, including today’s blockbuster addition of the Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff action extravaganza War, one of my favorite movies of the year. War is now available for streaming in Hindi (standard and 4K UHD) and Telugu (standard and 4K UHD). The Hindi version of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is available as well, also in standard and 4K UHD. Other 2019 releases added in the last week include:

It looks like the Excel Entertainment back catalog really is leaving Prime for good on Thursday, November 28. To see a list of all the titles on their way out, scroll past the “Newly Added” section at the top of my Amazon Prime page to find the “Expiring Soon” section, or click here. Bon voyage, Dil Dhadakne Do. [Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag that may earn me a commission on purchases.]

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of two 2019 releases: the Rajeev Khandelwal-starrer Pranaam and the Telugu film Evvarikee Cheppoddu. Twenty Marathi titles are set to expire from Netflix on December 1, as are Shah Rukh Khan’s Deewana and the excellent drama Masaan. (Half Girlfriend is leaving as well, but you don’t want to watch it.) The expiring titles will be replaced on December 1 by seven Punjabi titles, which you can find listed in the “Coming Soon” section near the top of my Netflix page.

Happy Thanksgiving! — Kathy

Opening November 29: Commando 3

Give thanks, for Vidyut Jammwal has returned with Commando 3. Unfortunately, it’s showing hardly anywhere in the Chicago area. The AMC South Barrinton 24 in South Barrington gets it a day early on Thursday, November 28, with the AMC River East 21 in Chicago and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles joining the party on the official release date of Friday, November 29, 2019. Its streaming partner is Zee5, which isn’t available in the United States. I’m devastated.

Bollywood fans have several other theatrical options this Thanksgiving weekend. Pagalpanti gets a second week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Bala hangs around for a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and the Regal Cantera in Warrenville.

MovieMax holds over Marjaavan and Housefull 4 as well.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend (all films have English subtitles):

Manikarnika vs. The Warrior Queen of Jhansi

2019 has seen two theatrical releases about legendary revolutionary Rani Lakshmibai hit North American theaters: Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and the international production The Warrior Queen of Jhansi. Warrior Queen completed its principal photography almost a year before Manikarnika, yet even with extensive re-shoots, Manikarnika debuted nearly nine months ahead of Warrior Queen. How do these two different versions of the same story compare?

Manikarnika is truly an epic. Its battles are large in scale, with lots of extras and horses and smoky battlefields. Ranaut gets a number of slow-motion shots as Manikarnika rallies her troops and dodges her enemies’ swords. Warrior Queen‘s battles are by contrast drab and sparsely populated, opting for realism over awe-inspiring visuals. The film highlights just how beaten down the British troops and Indian revolutionaries are from years of fighting, so nothing moves especially quickly. It’s an effective choice given what the story wants to emphasize.

The looks of the films are governed by their differing agendas and target audiences. Manikarnika‘s protagonist is depicted as an Indian national hero and martyr. Her glorious battles and fiery rhetoric are meant to stoke the fires of patriotism. With an A-list actress like Ranaut in the lead role and notable supporting actors from various industries, Manikarnika aims to appeal to a wide swath of Indian film fans.

Warrior Queen takes a more global approach. The biggest names in the film are British screen veterans Derek Jacobi, Rupert Everett, and Nathanial Parker, with comparatively unknown Indian-American actress Devika Bhise (who co-wrote the screenplay with her producer-director mother, Swati) in the title role. The story paints Lakshmibai as a progressive feminist pioneer who refused to accept the social limitations of caste and gender while fighting capitalist aggression.

Despite aiming for a wider, less diaspora-dependent audience, Warrior Queen fared much worse than Manikarnika in its opening weekend in North American theaters. Warrior Queen opened in 276 theaters on November 15 and earned $112,208, for an average of $406 per theater. Manikarnika released into just 152 theaters on January 25 but earned $571,130, or $3,757 per theater.

It’s safe to say that The Warrior Queen of Jhansi had quite a bit working against it, coming out less than a year after a big budget Bollywood version of the same story which is currently available for at-home viewing on Amazon Prime. On top of that, the title may not have drawn in the Victoria & Abdul crowd (i.e. white seniors who enjoy British costume dramas) as easily as if it had been called something more generic — maybe “India’s Warrior Queen” or something like that. Would Warrior Queen have fared better with an earlier release date or slightly different title? Maybe. I found both films to be similarly enjoyable given their differing styles and objectives.

Streaming Video News: November 20, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, which is available in the following languages: Kannada/4K UHD, Malayalam/4K UHD, Tamil/4K UHD, and Telugu/4K UHD. The Hindi version should become available next week. Other recently added 2019 releases include Doorbeen (Punjabi), Mafi Dona (Malayalam), and the Hindi-dubbed version of the Malayalam movie Mikhael. [Disclaimer: All of my Amazon links include an affiliate tag that may earn me commissions on purchases.]

In other Amazon Prime news, most of the Excel Entertainment back catalog is set to expire by the end of this month. Unlike the recent departures of movies from Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions, I’m not sure that this exodus is permanent. Excel has new seasons of Inside Edge and Mirzapur coming to Amazon in the next few months, and I haven’t found any news stories about them striking a deal with another streamer. Still, if you have any of their titles in your Watchlist, you might want to watch them in the next week. Excel’s fantastic debut production, Dil Chahta Hai, expires on November 27, followed by these other titles on November 28:

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the additions of the 2019 Telugu releases Dorasaani and Mallesham and the documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator.

Streaming Video News: November 15, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian films added in the last week. Notable additions in the last day include Sanjay Dutt’s September theatrical release Prassthanam and the Amazon original series One Mic Stand, in which celebrities like Taapsee Pannu and Richa Chadha are coached in the art of standup comedy. Other recently added 2019 releases include:

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the additions of the Telugu film Guna 369, the Naseeruddin Shah-narrated nature documentary SunGanges, and the Netflix original comedy House Arrest, starring Ali Fazal and Jim Sarbh.

Movie Review: The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi takes an in-depth look at a pivotal battle between Indian resistance fighters and British soldiers, but filters it though a morally questionable lens.

The film is an international production, with dialogue in both English and Hindi. Filmmaker Swati Bhise directs her daughter Devika — who co-wrote the screenplay — in the role of Rani Lakshmibai, the titular warrior queen.

Lakshmibai spends only a few minutes narrating the story of her marriage to Gangadhar Rao (Milind Gunaji), King of Jhansi, and the loss of their infant son. The action shifts to Lakshmibai’s preparations for a siege by forces from the British East India Company. In the years since her husband’s death and her assumption of sole rule, her army has been decimated by attempted takeovers by neighboring kingdoms and skirmishes with the Brits. Herself a skilled fighter, Lakshmibai trains the women of Jhansi in the arts of war.

The Brits too are in bad shape. More than a year into a rebellion against the cruelty of the East India Company, their forces are strained, suffering from cholera and heatstroke. It’s up to veteran soldier Sir Hugh Rose (Rupert Everett) to take Jhansi, whether by force or persuasion. Local governor Robert Hamilton (Nathaniel Parker) wants blood, but Major Ellis (Ben Lamb) — a former confidant of Lakshmibai — hopes he can convince her to surrender.

When Ellis fails, the war begins. The exhausted Brits fire cannons into the castle walls while Lakshmibai tries to keep up morale inside. Both sides hope for reinforcements. It’s not exciting, but the agony of waiting adds realism. The story provides enough context to understand the stakes for both sides as well as all the key players, whether in India or England.

Bhise plays Lakshmibai as appropriately dignified, but it’s a one-note performance. She’s always in royalty mode, even when she’s alone with her adopted son Damodar Rao (Arush Nand) or her closest servants. The only time we see the woman behind the title is when she’s in mourning.

However, the real problem in The Warrior Queen of Jhansi is a moral perspective that places all of the blame for atrocities committed by the British solely on capitalism, and not also imperialism — as if they can be disentangled. In England, Queen Victoria (Jodhi May) frets to her prime minister Lord Palmerston (Derek Jacobi) that the East India Company’s brutal tactics reflect badly on England (and thus her). When her instructions to quell the rebellion with minimal bloodshed are disregarded, she is sincerely shocked. Yet she never suggests calling off the assault, even though her favorite councilor Saleem (Omar Malik) has family in Jhansi. All she offers are thoughts and prayers, as if she’s powerless and not the single person who could stop it with a word.

Ellis is another example of the “not all Brits” approach the film takes. Despite his obvious infatuation with Lakshmibai, all he offers in her defense are forceful objections. He never risks anything for her sake until it’s too late to matter. Closing scenes explain that he returned to England and started a family — but I’m sure he thought about Lakshmibai from time to time.

England ruled India for another ninety years after the rebellion. The movie notes that the East India Company’s shareholders were compensated for the corporation’s dissolution. While the context is appreciated, I wish The Warrior Queen of Jhansi had kept its focus on Lakshmibai instead of trying to absolve Britain for some of its crimes.