Opening September 21: Batti Gul Meter Chalu

Shahid Kapoor, Yami Gautam, and Shraddha Kapoor star in the social issue picture Batti Gul Meter Chalu, opening in Chicago area theaters on September 21, 2018.

Batti Gul Meter Chalu opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 41 min.

Manmarziyaan gets a second week at all three of the above theaters. Stree carries over at the South Barrington 24 and MovieMax, which also holds onto Mitron for a second week.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

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TV Review: Breathe (2018)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Breathe on Amazon Prime

Amazon’s TV series Breathe is brilliant at times: sharp and thought-provoking, giving skilled actors known mainly for their film work a chance to shine in a different medium. Yet it’s a series of ups and downs, with more downs than ups as the story progresses.

R. Madhavan leads the series as Danny Mascarenhas, father to an ailing son named Josh (Atharva Vishwakarma). The severity of Josh’s illness is mentioned indirectly at first, when Danny pulls a relative aside during a birthday party and asks him to take back an overly generous gift for Josh, lest the boy realize something is up. “Why do we have to tell him what we know?” Danny kindly tells the uncle. When next we see Josh, he’s in the hospital, being treated for a disease that’s given him months to live unless he receives a lung transplant. The whole sequence is beautifully constructed.

In order to receive a new set of lungs, Josh not only has to wait for a donor with the correct rare blood type to pass away — and in a manner that keeps their organs viable for transplant — he has to wait for the three people ahead of him on the recipient list to get their lungs first. Bereft of options, Danny steals a list of registered donors and hatches a morally questionable (at best) plan to extend the lives of Josh and those ahead of him on the transplant list.

Elsewhere in Mumbai, another father tortures himself over his own failure to protect his child. Police detective Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) lost his young daughter three years earlier when the curious girl accidentally shot herself with his service revolver. Kabir’s resultant misery and alcoholism have driven his wife, Ria (Sapna Pabbi), to file for divorce. As Kabir finally tries to pull himself out of his depression, he senses something fishy about a series of accidents among a cohort of people with the same blood type, who all happen to be organ donors.

Sadh and Madhavan are perfectly cast as the two fathers: one searching for redemption and the other trying to save his son while he still can. Both actors command attention despite some flaws in the way their characters are written. Kabir spends the first few episodes mired in a drunken funk, but he’s really engaging when his plotline finally meets with Danny’s. Danny is better from the get-go, although his arc becomes scattershot he pivots from cold-hearted to conflicted from scene to scene.

On the whole, the show is strongest during the setup phase, as Danny pursues a course of action prohibited by his Catholic faith (and laws and general human decency, of course). Interesting graphical illustrations of the factors he must consider when incapacitating his victims cleverly forces the audience to put themselves in the mind of a methodical killer. (Note: though the dialogue is primarily in Hindi, the articles and written materials shown onscreen in this sequence are written in English.)

During this phase of the story, we see Danny’s schemes play out in real-time. It’s intense, since there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. However, in later episodes of Breathe, Danny’s crimes are shown only after we know he’s gotten away with them, removing all the tension. This also makes the later crimes seem ridiculous and impossible to execute, rather than meticulously planned operations.

The weakest point in the entire series is Episode 5: “Bad Fish.” With Kabir convinced that he’s on the trail of a serial killer, he first asks his boss for leave to investigate before heading to Ria’s to warn her. Both scenes — which together make up the first ten minutes of the episode– are nothing but people shouting at Kabir as he tries to explain himself. Kabir’s boss wants him to focus on his overdue paperwork, and Ria and her father just want Kabir to leave.

This is bad writing for multiple reasons. First, it’s annoying to endure ten consecutive minutes of characters screaming the same things over and over. Second, one of the points Breathe emphasizes is that, for all his faults, Kabir is an excellent detective. Everyone around him says so. For him to be dismissed by both his boss and his ex-wife and her family makes no sense given what they know about him. Finally, his father-in-law’s refusal to listen to Kabir’s concerns for Ria makes little sense in a show built around the paternal desire to protect one’s offspring.

Despite being a show about a guy who hunts down organ donors, Breathe does a good job challenging stigmas against organ donation particular to India. Danny discusses concerns over the spiritual implications of organ donation with another family in the hospital waiting room in a scene that explains both objections to the practice as well as scriptural evidence that supports the practice. The series repeatedly shows just how critical the need is for donors willing to make one last compassionate act as they exit this life.

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Bollywood Box Office: September 17, 2018

After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Manmarziyaan — aka “Husband Material” — had a good opening weekend in North America. From September 14-16, 2018, Manmarziyaan earned $292,463 from 100 theaters ($2,925 average), according to figures provided by Sumit Chadha. The weekend’s other new release — the Jackky Bhagnani comedy Mitron — fared predictably poorly, bringing in $7,674 from 13 theaters ($590 average).

Forty Hindi films (including a few multilingual movies) have released in North America in so far in 2018, making it a convenient time to establish benchmarks for success by separating those movies into quartiles (figures below are estimates because I like round numbers). Based on total North American earnings, the bottom quartile includes titles that earned less than $80,000. The second quartile ranges from $80,000 to about $300,000, with the next ranging from $300,000 up to $1.1 million. Essentially, a movie needs to earn more than $1 million to make it into the top quartile here, but just $300,000 to make it into the top half.

Other Hindi films still showing in North American theaters:

  • Stree: Week 3; $96,170 from 41 theaters; $2,346 average; $665,464 total
  • Gold: Week 5; $2,118 from two theaters; $1,059 average; $1,127,974 total
  • Paltan: Week 2; $470 from three theaters; $157 average; $17,923 total

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Sumit Chadha

Streaming Video News: September 15, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with seven new additions to the catalog, including two 2018 releases: the Malayalam film Eeda and the Tamil sequel Goli Soda 2. The other titles now available for streaming were all released in 2017: the Assamese film Maj Rati Keteki, starring Adil Hussain; the Mumbai-set documentary Jugaad; and three Bengali movies — Mayurakshi, Red Oleanders Raktokarobi, and Samantaral. For everything else new on Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Streaming Video News: September 14, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a bunch of recently added titles. In addition to a dozen older Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu titles, several 2018 releases are now available for streaming: Bus Stop (Marathi), Shaadi Teri Bajayenge Hum Band (Hindi), Uma (Bengali), and the Telugu films Goodachari and Srinavasa Kalyanam. The comedy special Improv All Stars: Game Night is also available, as is the English-language, Bollywood-inspired musical Basmati Blues, which is all kinds of problematic.

Amazon released the teaser for the new dating show Hear Me Love Me, hosted by Shilpa Shetty. It premieres September 28:

One bit of Netflix news is that, after a one-day absence, PK is available for streaming again.

Access Bollywood’s 10th Anniversary

Access Bollywood turns ten today! I can hardly believe it. The site’s come a long way since I posted my first review on September 13, 2008 — Salman Khan’s God Tussi Great Ho.

I’m blown away by how much the site has grown over the years. In its first full year of operation (2009), the site was viewed 3,719 times. Fast forward to 2017, we finally hit the milestone of 1 million views in a year, ending the year with 1,057,499 hits. I’m proud to say that we surpassed last year’s view total on September 1, with over 1.1 million hits so far in 2018. We had our busiest day ever on September 8 — with 8,749 views in a single day!

Access Bollywood originated offline as a newspaper column in 2007. I spotted the Naperville Sun’s movie critic at the time, Josh Larsen, at an event and pitched him an idea: “No Chicago newspapers review Hindi movies. Can I do it?” Josh and his editor, Wendy Fox Weber, kindly agreed, and Access Bollywood was born (Josh came up with the name). I took my reviews online before the column wrapped in late 2008, and the rest is history.

The site has been a great vehicle to share my enthusiasm for Hindi films and hopefully help longtime fans and newcomers find movies they’d be interested in, whether in theaters or on streaming. It’s also connected me with so many lovely people who share my interests, many of whom have become good friends — be they across the world like Parth and Keyur in India and Sammy in New Zealand, or close to home like Melanie, who lives a few miles away.

One of the greatest gifts the site has given me is my friendship with Shah Shahid. What began with us trading comments on each other’s websites developed into the Split Screen Podcast, where Shah allows me to vent about things I don’t like, including the girl in Rocky Handsome and the kid in Little Boy. More importantly, Shah’s been a kind, funny, and wonderful friend, and I’m lucky to know him.

The unsung hero behind Access Bollywood is my husband, Greg. He pitches in as the site’s editor, graphic designer, tech expert, and occasional photographer. More importantly, he’s the one with a job that has health insurance and a steady paycheck, stuff that makes my life possible. He’s the best husband anyone could ask for.

Thank you very much to everyone over the years who has contributed money to Access Bollywood via PayPal. As opposed to ad revenue and affiliate links, it’s a direct source of income for me, so every contribution is greatly appreciated.

And thanks to all of you who’ve visited the site over the years, whether you’ve left a comment, tweeted to me, or even if you’ve just dropped in to see what’s new on the Netflix list. We’re exploring new ideas for the site, including the possibility of page sponsorships in place of ads, so stay tuned.

Yours,
Kathy Gibson

 

Opening September 14: Manmarziyaan and Mitron

After its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Manmarziyaan — known internationally as “Husband Material” — hits Chicago area theaters on September 14, 2018. The romantic drama from director Anurag Kashyap stars Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, and Abhishek Bachchan.

Manmarziyaan opens Friday at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 36 min.

Also new this weekend is the Jackky Bhagnani comedy Mitron, which no one outside of the Bhagnani family is excited about. It opens Friday at the South Barrington 24 and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles.

Stree and Paltan carry over at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24, which also holds over Gold.

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

Bollywood Box Office: September 7-9, 2018

Stree is on fire in North America. The delightful horror comedy just posted the best Weekend 1-Weekend 2 holdover for the year so far, hanging onto nearly 80% of its opening weekend business despite dropping a handful of theaters. From September 7-9, 2018, Stree earned $162,044 from 52 theaters ($3,116 average), bringing its total to $504,448 after ten days — a wonderful accomplishment for a movie that opened in just 60 theaters.

The weekend’s two new Hindi releases would’ve been better off not opening here at all, combining to earn less than $20,000. The war drama Paltan earned $13,418 from 14 theaters ($958 average) in the United States and Canada. The romance Laila Majnu — which only opened in the US — earned $4,090 from eleven theaters ($372 average), setting a new low for the year for opening weekend total and opening weekend average.

Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se — which released with Stree two weeks ago — fared poorly as well, taking in $12,236 from 21 theaters ($583 average), bringing its total to $103,691.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:

  • Gold: Week 4; $10,840 from twelve theaters; $903 average; $1,124,374 total
  • Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi: Week 3; $4,397 from seven theaters; $628 average; $135,815 total
  • Satyameva Jayate: Week 4; $3,103 from three theaters; $1,034 average; $224,707

Source: Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Stree (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

A female ghost teaches the men of a small town to respect women in the hilarious horror comedy Stree, from the filmmaking duo Raj & DK.

Legend has it that, every night during a four-day holy festival, a ghost known only as “stree” — which translates as “woman” — steals any man wandering the town of Chanderi alone at night, leaving only his clothes behind. Residents write “Oh stree, come back tomorrow” on the walls of their homes, hoping to deter the ghost until the festival ends and she disappears until the next year.

Some of Chanderi’s young men doubt the story’s truth, none more so than Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a gifted tailor of ladies’ clothing. He and his cronies Bittu (Aparshakti Khurana) and Janna (Abhishek Banerjee) attend a raucous guys-only house party where one of guests is snatched — right after Vicky pees on the outside wall, washing away the protective writing.

Earlier that day, Vicky met a beautiful woman (Shraddha Kapoor) in need of a new dress, falling in love “at first eyesight,” he brags in English. The woman — who never gives her name — says she’s only in town for the festival, so she needs the dress completed quickly. After the disappearance at the party, Bittu and Janna assume that this mystery woman is “stree”, driving a wedge between the friends right when their survival depends on them sticking together.

My chief complaint about one of Raj & DK’s earlier horror comedies — the 2013 zombie flick Go Goa Gone — is that the jokes dragged on too long, but Stree‘s jokes are crisp and well-timed (as was the humor in the duo’s 2017 action comedy A Gentleman). Perhaps it helped that the duo ceded directorial duties to Amar Kaushik, who does a wonderful job interpreting their screenplay in his feature debut.

The superb cast deserves a ton of credit as well. Rao is charming as a lovestruck dope, and Kapoor gets her character’s befuddlement at Vicky’s naiveté just right. Banerjee primarily works in films as a casting director, but he’s hysterical as Janna. Khurana is great as well, as is the always reliable Pankaj Tripathy as the town’s ghost expert, Rudra. Atul Srivastava — who plays Vicky’s father —  gets a stand-out scene opposite Rao. Dad tries to talk to his son about sexual responsibility, but Dad is so uncomfortable he resorts to euphemisms for everything. Sensing the discomfort, Vicky plays dumb, goading his father to explain exactly what he means by the advice: “Be self-reliant.”

The real surprise of Stree is how deftly it conveys its message of respect for women within such a funny movie. The men of Chanderi — young and old — are all losers in love, too immature to be able to form the kinds of romantic relationships with women that might actually lead to sex (without having to pay for it). It’s a legacy that’s haunted the town for centuries, when “stree” was murdered before her wedding night. Though Stree doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, there’s a narrative justification for it, since this is a story of men learning from one another how to stop objectifying women.

Two of the film’s song numbers help illustrate the men’s progress. “Kamariya” features Nora Fatehi in a more traditional item number, dancing at the house party just before the first man is snatched. The camera focuses on specific features and body parts as she performs in the living room among all the rowdy men. This kind of item number in which a woman dances at the center of a group of male audience members — as opposed to out of reach on a stage — is intimidating, yet the number ends with Fatehi escorted from the party by two bodyguards, letting the movie’s audience know that she was never in any danger. It’s an important cue that most other filmmakers neglect to include in similar numbers.

Contrast “Kamariya” with the closing credits song “Milegi Milegi”. The men in the audience are along the sides of the room while Kapoor dances in the middle of a group of female backup dancers. There are no closeups of specific parts of Kapoor’s body. When Rao joins in, Kapoor first manipulates his body to dance the moves she wants him to before he starts dancing alongside her. It’s a clever way to show the characters’ moral development while also making sure there are enough catchy tunes to fill out the soundtrack.

Links

Opening September 7: Paltan and Laila Majnu

Two new Bollywood films get limited releases in Chicago area theaters on September 7, 2018. The historical war drama Paltan features an ensemble cast that includes Arjun Rampal, Jackie Shroff, and Sonu Sood.

Paltan opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs 30 min.

Also opening Friday at MovieMax is the romance Laila Majnu, with a screenplay by Imtiaz Ali.

After a good opening weekend in North America, Stree carries over at the South Barrington 24 and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se also gets a second week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24.

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi sticks around a third week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24, which holds over Gold and Satyameva Jayate as well.

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