In Theaters: January 20, 2017

With two big movies coming out January 25 — Raees and Kaabil — there are no new Hindi films opening in Chicago area theaters on Friday, January 20, 2017. At the time of this writing, the only theaters with confirmed Wednesday showtimes for Raees and Kaabil are MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, though certainly that will change in the coming days.

Last weekend’s unpopular new release, OK Jaanu, sticks around at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Tuesday is the last day for OK Jaanu at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17, and it shifts to one showing per day — at 11:15 p.m. — at MovieMax starting Wednesday.

Dangal carries over for a fifth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: January 13-15, 2017

Let’s hope that the lackluster performance of Bollywood’s first 2017 release in North America isn’t an ill omen for the rest of the year. From January 13-15, OK Jaanu earned $211,660 from 136 theaters ($1,556 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Box Office Mojo reports the number of theaters as 121, which only improves the per-theater average slightly to $1,749. Any opening weekend average of less than $2,000 is bad. Sure, OK Jaanu was up against several new South Indian releases, but Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday should’ve boosted overall theater attendance, especially on Sunday.

What compounds the heartache for OK Jaanu is that it earned less than Dangal, which is four weeks old! Over the weekend, Dangal added another $339,057 from 90 theaters ($3,767 average) to its astounding North American total of $11,736,636.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: OK Jaanu (2017)

okjaanu3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

OK Jaanu (“OK, Darling“) is a straightforward, contemporary romance. No twists, just two attractive people falling in love. The movie works because it knows what it is.

OK Jaanu is a Hindi remake of the 2015 Tamil film OK Kanmani (which I haven’t seen), and from what I understand, it’s pretty faithful to the original. OK Jaanu‘s director, Shaad Ali, got his start as an assistant director under Mani Ratnam, who directed OK Kanmani.

The Hindi version stars Aditya Roy Kapur as video game designer Adi and Shraddha Kapoor as Tara, an architect. At a mutual friend’s wedding, they discover a shared disdain for marriage. They both have plans to leave India in short order: Tara to Paris to continue her architectural studies, and Adi to the United States to “give Zuckerberg a run for his money.”

Allow me a nerdy digression. Mark Zuckerberg is the creator of Facebook, but he’s not a game designer. It would’ve been more accurate for Adi to say he was heading to America to become the next Mark Cerny or Will Wright. (Yes, I know how geeky I sound.)

Adi’s flirty friendship with Tara blooms into a full-blown love affair, though they refuse to utter the word “love”–since their romance must end once they expatriate. The sequence leading up to the consummation of their relationship is very sexy without showing much skin, other than a brief glimpse of Kapur’s shirtless back. The camera pans around the bedroom, letting the sounds of a thunderstorm and A.R. Rahman’s stirring score fill the audience’s imagination.

Adi’s and Tara’s belief that their fling is temporary and free of emotional strings is met with a collective, “We’ll see about that,” by the elder members of their social circle. Their landlord, Gopi (Naseeruddin Shah), recognizes in them the same fondness he and his wife, Charu (Leela Samson), shared in their younger days. As Gopi cares for Charu as her Alzheimer’s progresses, Adi and Tara see a depth of love that they might experience if they were willing to commit to each other.

The main characters’ family situations are a bit confusing, which is unfortunate given that those relationships exist in the story to explain why Adi and Tara are both so biased against marriage. At other times, scene transitions fail to clarify where the characters are geographically.

The lead actors are pretty good, and Kapur’s smile is a killer. However, the characters themselves never really won me over, despite multiple “Having Fun!” montages of the duo and their friends standing in moving convertibles or driving a moped through a cafe. Adi’s and Tara’s first conversation is over cell phones during the middle of a church service, which seems more rude than charming.

Where OK Jaanu redeems itself is in showcasing characters who are open and unapologetic about their sexual desires, all within a narrative that is strongly pro-monogamy. It’s a nice blend of modern and traditional.

Links

Opening January 13: OK Jaanu

The first Bollywood movie to release in Chicago area theaters in 2017 is OK Jaanu, a remake of the 2015 Tamil hit OK Kanmani (available on Netflix). The Hindi remake hits theaters on January 13 and stars Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor.

OK Jaanu opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Dangal carries over for a fourth week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, and AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

Movie Review: Mostly Sunny (2016)

mostlysunny2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes

Watching the documentary Most Sunny, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what felt off about the film. Only later did I read that the documentary’s subject, actress Sunny Leone, has all but disowned the movie, refusing to attend its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. I can’t say I blame her, because the film is a mess.

During her interview segments, Sunny comes across as warm, funny, and smart. She’s candid about not just her history in the adult film industry but about money as well, celebrating the $100,000 signing bonus she demanded to appear on the Indian reality show Bigg Boss in 2008 as a life-changing sum.

Her killer curves and salacious past distract from her most admirable quality: her business acumen. With the help of her husband and business partner, Daniel Weber, she parlayed a lucrative career in porn into a production company and eventually success in mainstream Indian movies. Sunny herself says, “One thing I was good at was turning a quarter into a dollar.”

It’s difficult to tell Sunny’s story chronologically because her extended family cut ties with her when she became Penthouse “Pet of the Year” in 2003. No one from the Sikh community in her hometown of Sarnia, Ontario — where she was raised as Karenjit Kaur Vohra — would agree to talk about her on camera. Her parents died several years ago, so the only relative to speak on her behalf is her younger brother, Sunny (whose name she stole in a panic to invent a stage name). Even though the siblings maintain a close relationship, they never appear together in the documentary.

There are hardly any interviews with people who’ve worked with Sunny in India either. Director Mahesh Bhatt says some kind words about her potential, as does the CEO of the channel that airs Bigg Boss. Sunny’s Ek Paheli Leela costar Rajneesh Duggal mentions that other actors turned down his role before him because they didn’t want to work opposite Sunny, but he doesn’t mention what it’s like to actually work with her. Sunny’s costumer and close confidant Hitesh isn’t comfortable talking on camera.

Sunny Leone’s story is about her fame and acceptance in sexually conservative India following a career in porn, but filmmaker Dilip Mehta is hung up on Sunny’s racy past. Topless shots of the actress scroll across the screen multiple times, a choice that does nothing to inform the audience about the woman herself but to capitalize on a career she acknowledges but has left behind.

Mehta makes a bizarre choice during a segment about Sunny’s adult film production house, SunLust Pictures, where she directs movies but doesn’t appear in the them. There is a shot of a movie in production featuring a full-on sex scene between a man and a woman, their genitals blurred as they engage in intercourse. What is the narrative purpose of this shot? If the point is to titillate, why bother blurring the genitals? It’s not like we can’t tell what’s happening. Mostly Sunny has no MPAA rating, but this scene alone makes otherwise PG-13 content into a hard R.

The topless shots and the sex scene ensure that any people still reluctant to embrace Sunny will never watch the movie. What is the point of Mostly Sunny if not to showcase her as an interesting, normal person? Who does Mehta think his audience is?

It’s hard to decipher Mehta’s objectives for this movie. Scene transitions frequently consist of footage of poor people shot from inside a moving car. Sunny herself isn’t in the car, so this isn’t meant to show what she sees on he way to work at a Mumbai movie studio. It neither reinforces nor juxtaposes with anything else we’re hearing and seeing. It’s just poverty porn.

The footage that runs behind the ending credits is likewise inexplicable. As patrons exit a movie theater following a film showing, they notice Mehta’s camera pointed at them and start dancing or mugging for the camera. What purpose does this serve?

As is often the case in her Bollywood movies, Sunny’s charisma transcends the mediocre quality of this film. That a documentary specifically about her lets her down is disappointing.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: January 6-8, 2017

Dangal passed PK to become the highest grossing Bollywood film in North America ever, taking just seventeen days to do so. During the weekend of January 6-8, 2017, Dangal earned another $770,084 from 226 theaters ($3,407 average), bringing its total earnings to $11,084,912.

Dangal‘s success in North America perfectly illustrates Canada’s theater dearth. The film opened in 26 theaters in Canada and 331 theaters in the United States for a total of 357 theaters, the film’s widest release. (The US figure may be in dispute, but I’m using it since it doesn’t significantly alter the point I’m trying to make). Based on those numbers, Canada accounts for 7.3% of the total theaters to ever carry Dangal in North America. Yet the film has earned $1,871,072 in Canada, accounting for 16.9% of the North American total. Dividing each country’s total earnings thus far by the highest number of theaters Dangal released in gives each of those 331 US theaters a lifetime average earnings of $27,836, versus a lifetime average of $71,964 for each of the 26 Canadian theaters!

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Dear Zindagi: Week 7; $720 from two theaters; $360 average; $2,453,270 total
  • Kahaani 2: Week 6; $348 from one theater; $489,873 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2016

With a new year underway, let’s take one last look at the biggest Hindi cinema duds of last year. Here are my picks for the worst Bollywood movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

I’m a little loath to include Baaghi on this list because the film is so unintentionally funny, but it’s also really, really bad, so I guess I have to.

Confusing narratives land Banjo and Ghayal Once Again on the list, though Naam Hai Akira ran away with the 2016 award for Worst Overall Story Construction.

Madaari tries to paint a guy who kidnaps and threatens to kill a little kid as a hero, thus earning it a spot on the list.

All the rest of the worst films of 2016 are problematic in the way they relate to women. Shivaay is weirdly hostile, while Sanam Re is tacky and outdated.

Ki and Ka‘s comedic approach to gender norms falls flat when its male character becomes a national role model just by doing chores. Still, Ki and Ka is positively progressive compared to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, a movie built around the stereotype that white women are sluts.

The worst film of the year is written and directed by the same man who wrote the dialogue for Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Milap Zaveri. Mastizaade is hatred masquerading as comedy, a mean-spirited attack on everyone who isn’t a straight, Indian man. Zaveri’s targets include women, addicts, and non-Indians, but he’s particularly fond of picking on people with disabilities. His characters literally point and laugh at a man in a wheelchair. This is about as loathsome as a film can be. Mastizaade‘s title as my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2016 is well deserved.

Kathy’s Ten Worst Bollywood Movies of 2016

  1. Mastizaade
  2. Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 — Buy at Amazon
  3. Naam Hai Akira — Buy at Amazon
  4. Ki and Ka — Buy at Amazon
  5. Ghayal Once Again — Buy at Amazon
  6. Madaari — Buy at Amazon
  7. Banjo — Buy at Amazon
  8. Sanam Re — Buy at Amazon
  9. Shivaay
  10. Baaghi — Buy at Amazon

Previous Worst Movies Lists