Bollywood Box Office: August 26-28, 2016

The opening weekend performance of A Flying Jatt in the United States and Canada wasn’t exactly super. From August 26-28, 2016, the Tiger Shroff movie earned $107,439 from 79 theaters ($1,360 average). Limited Thursday preview showings added another $3,286 to its total. Though not entirely unexpected — Hindi-film audiences tend to steer clear of indigenously produced fare deemed “kid-friendly,” despite the recent success of Hollywood kids movies in India — distributors had to have hoped for a bit more. Shroff’s April release, Baaghi, earned more than twice as much as A Flying Jatt in its opening weekend from just seventeen more theaters. This lackluster performance is shame because A Flying Jatt is really entertaining.

Happy Bhag Jayegi held over very well in its second weekend in North America, earning $52,933 from 33 theaters ($1,604 average). That’s a drop of about 64% from last weekend, which is the ninth best Week 1-Week 2 hold over rate for the year. Its total currently stands at $284,554. If Happy Bhag Jayegi is able to double the amount it earned in its opening weekend — and it needs less than $28,000 to do so — it will be just the eighth Bollywood movie to accomplish that feat in North America this year.

Rustom continued its impressive run, posting the weekend’s highest returns among the Hindi films still in theaters. It earned $139,130 from 74 theaters ($1,880 average). That brings its total after three weekends to $1,731,184 — fifth place for the year so far.

In contrast, Mohenjo Daro limped through its third weekend, earning just $16,342 from 21 theaters ($778 average). Its North American total stands at $1,227,519 — ranking it in ninth place despite getting the third widest release of 2016. It needs $7,320 to overtake Udta Punjab for eighth place.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: A Flying Jatt (2016)

AFlyingJatt3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

A Flying Jatt is a throwback to a time when superhero movies could be colorful and silly instead of grimly serious. It’s so much fun.

One nice feature of genre films is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Drawing on classic examples like Christopher Reeve’s Superman films and Michael Keaton’s Batman allows writer-director Remo D’Souza to add specific cultural influences to a formula that is proven to work. For years, filmmakers have tried to create an Indian superhero from scratch, but none has been as successful as D’Souza is here.

Tiger Shroff plays Aman, a martial arts instructor with low self-esteem. He’s lived in the shadow of his heroic, deceased father for so long that he feels no one can see him for who he is. That goes for both his disappointed mother (Amrita Singh) and Kirti (Jacqueline Fernandez), a chipper fellow teacher with whom he’s secretly in love.

Aman’s mom and Kirti aren’t his only problems. The school’s music teacher, Goldie (Sushant Pujari, without the curly hair he sported in ABCD), is trying to woo Kirti. More importantly, an industrialist named Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon, with a perm) wants to tear down the colony where Aman’s family lives, including a sacred tree bearing a Sikh Khanda symbol.

Aman isn’t as religious as his mom, so he’d rather sell their land to Malhotra to avoid a confrontation. Mom’s refusal prompts Aman to visit the tree one rainy night to beg God to protect his mother. There he finds a large Aussie named Raka (Nathan Jones of Mad Max: Fury Road) poised to take down the tree with a chainsaw at Malhotra’s behest.

The two men engage in a fight, during which Raka slams Aman against the tree’s Khanda symbol. Lightning strikes, imbuing Aman with superpowers and launching Raka far away into one of Malhotra’s piles of toxic waste. Raka emerges from the sludge hand-first — a la Jack Nicholson’s Joker — as a monster who feeds on pollution.

In keeping with his character development, Aman doesn’t automatically embrace his superhero status. His brother, Rohit (Gaurav Pandey), is the first to fully understand what has happened to Aman, triggering a funny scene in which Rohit and Mom take turns stabbing a sleeping Aman just so they can watch his wounds heal immediately.

Mom and Rohit enthusiastically select a costume for Aman and study old Superman films for tips on proper flying techniques. However, Aman is still the same timid guy he always was, scared of dogs and too nervous to fly more than a few feet above the ground. Televised reports of his successful hostage rescue are equal parts inspiring and embarrassing.

Ultimately, it’s Rohit that makes the point to both Aman and the audience that real heroes are those who stand up to evil without superpowers to protect them. This is a family-friendly film, so messages about bravery and environmental stewardship are made explicit for the benefit of kids. D’Souza lays the environmentalism on pretty thick, but it fits with the tone of the film.

D’Souza delivers on his vision for A Flying Jatt, turning limitations into strengths. Fight scenes that rely heavily on slow-motion and harnesses emphasize the movie’s retro vibe. A Flying Jatt doesn’t have a big Hollywood budget, but it doesn’t need one.

I was unimpressed by Shroff in his two previous films, but he’s really good in this. His physical gifts are on display again — both in terms of his impressive martial arts skills and abs — but he’s also funny and vulnerable. It took a well-written character to allow Shroff to show his charming side.

Pandey’s endearing performance is essential to the film’s success. Rohit not only guides Aman through his hero’s journey, but he has motivations of his own. Envious of his brother’s abilities, Rohit dons the Flying Jatt costume — only to have their mother mistake him for Aman and break a coconut on his head.

Instead of the sexy characters Fernandez often plays, Kirti is cute, her playful punches among the only things that still hurt Aman after his transformation. Kirti wears glasses, which in a typical movie would require removal via a makeover sequence, so that she could finally realize how pretty she is. In A Flying Jatt, the only time she takes them off is for dance numbers, which is more a practical matter than an aesthetic one. When Aman finally tells Kirti that he thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, she’s still wearing her glasses.

For a movie aimed at a family audience, A Flying Jatt is a little long. The song “Beat Pe Booty” feels more appropriate for the closing credits than the run-up to the climax. Failing to pit Shroff against Pujari in a dance battle is a missed opportunity (but maybe there’s room for it in a sequel?).

D’Souza never disappoints as a choreographer, but he’s become a really good director as well. I loved the dance flick ABCD, and now he’s created a terrific superhero movie. The world needs the kind of fun films that D’Souza makes.

Links

How Do New Bollywood Heroes Fare in the US?

The release of Tiger Shroff’s A Flying Jatt got me thinking about just how hard it is to launch a career as a Bollywood hero abroad. It’s difficult enough to succeed in India, but even more so overseas, where fans aren’t bombarded with the same kind of media saturation. That’s assuming that a distributor is even willing to put your film in theaters. Although Arjun Kapoor is a star now, his first picture — Ishaqzaade — didn’t release in the United States.

A Flying Jatt is Shroff’s third release since his 2014 debut, a promising sign for his Bollywood career prospects (at least for a while). I looked at some of his contemporaries from 2010 on to see how they’ve fared since their debuts. I only considered actors who launched under similar circumstances to Shroff: first-time actors without previously established entertainment careers (regional films, singing, TV, etc.) who were the sole male lead in their film, as opposed to, say, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra who launched together in Student of the Year. Also, the hopeful hero’s film needed to be released in the United States (which excludes Kapoor and Saqib Saleem).

That leaves us with six contenders, including Shroff. Here they are, in order of their debuts:

Ranveer SinghBand_Baaja_Baaraat_poster
Debut film: Band Baaja Baaraat
Release date: December 10, 2010
US box office: $71,374
Of the 32 films that released in US theaters in 2010 for which I have data, Band Baaja Baaraat ranked 30th in total gross. That early hiccup didn’t hinder Singh’s rise to stardom. His most recent film — Bajirao Mastani — earned $6,653,317 last year.

Girish KumarRamaiyaVastavaiya
Debut: Ramaiya Vastavaiya
Release date: July 19, 2013
U.S. box office: $52,200
While $52,000 is nothing to crow about, Kumar’s followup film — Loveshhuda — made just $1,787 in the US earlier this year. Might be time to accept that this dog won’t hunt.

Shiv DarshanKarle_Pyaar_Karle_Movie_Poster
Debut: Karle Pyaar Karle
Release date: January 17, 2014
US box office: $3,110
I have an inexplicable fondness for Karle Pyaar Karle because of how hilariously horrible it is, and Shiv Darshan is especially awful in it. The only reason I don’t recommend the movie is because it’s racist near the end (also, I have no idea where to find it). You may not have a future as an actor, Shiv, but I’ll always remember you.

Tiger ShroffHeropanti_Poster
Debut: Heropanti
Release date: May 23, 2014
US box office: $63,172
While Heropanti wasn’t a hit here, Shroff’s followup — Baaghi — made $437,243 earlier this year. If A Flying Jatt can come close to that, it bodes well for Shroff’s longevity.

Armaan JainLekar_Hum_Deewana_Dil_poster
Debut: Lekar Hum Deewana Dil
Release date: July 4, 2014
US box office: $10,529
Even after rereading my review of Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, I still have no recollection of having seen it. That’s the kind of impression Armaan Jain made on me: none at all.

Sooraj PancholiHero
Debut: Hero
Release date: September 11, 2015
US box office: $83,973
Hero did comparatively well for a debut film, but Pancholi’s personal/legal problems could make studios consider him a liability, especially if he’s ever convicted of a crime related to Jiah Khan’s suicide. The jury’s still out on Pancholi, in more ways than one.

Box Office Sources: Box Office Mojo and Bollywood Hungama

Opening August 26: A Flying Jatt

Tiger Shroff plays a superhero in A Flying Jatt, opening in Chicago area theaters on August 26, 2016.

A Flying Jatt opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 29 min.

Last weekend’s new release, Happy Bhag Jayegi, only carries over at MovieMax. Construction projects at multiple Chicago area theaters will limit the number of screens available for the remainder of the year, so Bollywood movies aren’t going to stick around for as long as they would have in the past. If a movie interests you, plan on seeing it in the first week.

Rustom carries over at the South Barrington 30, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which also holds over Mohenjo Daro.

Other Indian films showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Movie Review: Jugni (2016)

Jugni3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

Writer-director Shefali Bhushan makes a promising debut with Jugni. Despite some plot hiccups, Bhushan’s film shows her knack for characterization and her passion for music.

The plot issues are present from the beginning. As the opening credits run, a woman travels from Mumbai to Hasanpur, a small town in Punjab. It’s a full twelve minutes before we learn that the woman is named Vibs (short for Vibhavari), played by Sugandha Garg, who’s gaining recognizability with roles in Patang, My Name Is Khan, and the Tere Bin Laden films.

Vibs is a rookie music director looking for fresh talent for a movie soundtrack. Her target is a lauded classical singer named Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh), but Bibi’s son Mastana (Siddhant Behl) gets to Vibs first. Mastana is also a singer, though his tastes are more modern than his mother’s. For example, the lyrics of his biggest hit on the local party circuit rhyme “kidney” with “Sydney”.

The amount of time Vibs and Mastana spend together rankles Preeto (Anuritta Jha), Mastana’s de facto girlfriend. She and Bibi worry that Mastana is reading too much into Vibs’ interest in him, letting Bollywood dreams cloud his vision.

Mastana is used to being the big fish in his small pond, so he’s certain his local fame will translate to success in Mumbai. Even when their song is a hit, Vibs cautions Mastana about the fickleness of the industry. Promises made in Mumbai don’t mean as much as they do in Hasanpur.

This city-versus-country conflict is at the heart of Jugni, not just in the way it governs careers but relationships as well. Preeto and Mastana aren’t officially girlfriend-boyfriend because they don’t need to be; it’s just a given that they will get married someday. On the flip side, Vibs shares an apartment with her boyfriend, Sid (Samir Sharma), but recent problems have rendered their relationship essentially an open one.

A night of passion between Vibs and Mastana holds different meaning for both of them. While Vibs treats it as a fling, Mastana considers it the foundation for a romantic relationship. Much like his dreams of success in Bollywood, he also envisions a future with Vibs and pushes Preeto aside to make way.

Refreshingly, Bhushan doesn’t take the side of either character, presenting them as complex young adults at a critical stage in their lives. Mastana is naive, but is he wrong to view sex with Vibs as a significant, possibly life-changing event? Vibs is nonchalant, but why shouldn’t two adults be able to have fun without it requiring a commitment?

One side-effect of this balanced presentation is a blurring of who the film’s main character actually is. That then clouds the ultimate goals for each character, making it hard to get a sense of where we are in the story at any given point. Not every movie needs to rigidly follow a traditional structure, but Bhushan shows enough familiarity with that structure that certain deviations just make things confusing.

As for the performances, Behl — who also gets an associate writer credit for Jugni — imbues Mastana with a mixture of innocence and arrogance. Garg has a challenging job because Vibs spends a lot of time listening to other people play music, and it’s hard to make that look interesting onscreen. Garg is good at portraying Vibs’ internal conflict, making her vacillation understandable without coming across as manipulative.

Jugni is an aesthetic delight for both eyes and ears. The movie looks lovely, thanks to cinematographer Divakar Mani. Clinton Cerejo provides a terrific soundtrack, with contributions from luminaries like A. R. Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj.

There’s an awful lot to like about Jugni. I’m really interested to watch Shefali Bhushan grow as a filmmaker.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: August 19-21, 2016

Happy Bhag Jayegi turned in a perfectly respectable opening weekend in North American theaters. From August 19-21, 2016, the romantic comedy earned $156,110 from 77 theaters, an average of $2,027 per theater.

In its second weekend in North American theaters, Rustom extended last weekend‘s narrow victory over Mohenjo Daro by a large margin. Rustom earned $359,432 from 118 theaters ($3,046 average). Those earnings are down just 53% from last weekend — one of the best retention rates of the year. Rustom‘s total earnings stand at $1,444,888.

Mohenjo Daro didn’t hold up nearly as well. It earned $166,308 from 164 theaters ($1,014 average) in its second weekend, down about 77% from last weekend (which is almost exactly the median Weekend 1-Weekend 2 drop for 2016 releases). That decline is better than Fitoor‘s 87% plunge but worse than Fan‘s 74% drop. Mohenjo Daro‘s total stands at $1,145,847, putting it in ninth place for the year — not good enough for a movie that opened in more than 200 theaters.

Sultan held on for a seventh week in two theaters, earning $1,247 ($624 average) to bring its total to $6,191,282.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: August 21, 2016

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. The charming adventure Dhanak (“Rainbow“) is now available for streaming. I loved this sweet movie about an adorable brother and sister who hit the road in search of a cure for the boy’s blindness.

In other strange Netflix news, 2016’s Laal Rang was available for streaming for less than a week before being pulled from the service. I’ll update my list if it returns.