Streaming Video News: May 24, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions to the catalog. Piya Behrupiya is a filmed version of the stage play by the same name, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that played at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater last fall (though I’m not sure where the Netflix version was recorded). Also new is comedian Hasan Minhaj’s stand-up special Homecoming King.

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon’s Heera Channel with another new stand-up special — Biswa Kalyan Rath: Biswa Mast Aadmi. Biswa gained fame as a member of the duo behind Pretentious Movie Reviews, and he had a killer cameo in Brahman Naman.

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Bollywood Box Office: May 19-21, 2017

Half Girlfriend and Hindi Medium earned roughly the same amount in their opening weekend in North America, only Hindi Medium did so in less than half as many theaters as Half Girlfriend. From May 19-21, 2017, Half Girlfriend earned $238,001 from 127 theaters ($1,874 average; adjusted average of $2,106 from 113 theaters*). During the same time period, Hindi Medium earned $225,755 from 58 theaters ($3,892 average; adjusted average of $4,703). So, despite opening in twice as many theaters — and with a story based on a preexisting propertyHalf Girlfriend out-earned Hindi Medium by just $12,246? Yikes.

Meanwhile, the previous weekend’s new releases saw their audiences drop by more than 80%. Sarkar 3 fared better, earning $25,034 from 44 theaters ($569 average), bringing its total to $236,583. Meri Pyaari Bindu took in $14,924 from 28 theaters ($533 average), for a ten-day total of $171,280.

Also over the weekend, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion raked in another $596,035 from 232 theaters ($2,569 average) — good enough to finish in 14th place in the overall North American box office and push its total earnings to $20,009,763. Wowzers.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in 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.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Half Girlfriend (2017)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes
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Half Girlfriend is a tiresome retread of a familiar Bollywood setup. The world within the film exists for the manipulation and satisfaction of the male lead character, regardless of the toll it takes on the woman he pursues.

Just as in another problematic movie from earlier in 2017 — Badrinath Ki DulhaniaHalf Girlfriend tries to justify its outdated formula by having its main character hail from a state with a bad reputation regarding gender equality. Half Girlfriend‘s Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) is from Bihar, a state that borders Badrinath’s Uttar Pradesh. Neither movie is interested in actually addressing the causes or consequences of inequality in either state, just in appropriating a regressive mindset so that the female lead can be treated as a prop rather than a real person.

Lest we dismiss Madhav as some uneducated hick, the story — based on a book by Chetan Bhagat and adapted for the screen by Tushar Hiranandani and Ishita Moitra — emphasizes that he’s the son of a royal family. He lives in a mansion with his mother (played by Seema Biswas), who runs a school in their small town.

Yet, Madhav is so privileged and insulated that only after he graduates with a degree in sociology from St. Stephens College in Delhi does he ask his mother, “Why don’t any girls attend our school?” How did he not notice that earlier?!

As with so many Bollywood heroes before him, it’s Madhav’s job to bend the universe to his will. That primarily takes the form of him forcing everyone to engage with him in Hindi, even though instruction at St. Stephens is conducted exclusively in English. No matter how high the stakes, Madhav steadfastly refuses to apply himself enough to become proficient in English. The movie rewards him at every turn by having English speakers claim to have understood Madhav’s “heart,” if not his words.

Then there’s Riya (Shraddha Kapoor), with whom Madhav is smitten on first sight. “Such a beautiful girl plays basketball?” he wonders, insultingly. He’s apparently never heard of hoops legend/fashion model Lisa Leslie, which is surprising since Madhav’s a b-ball nut and a big fan of “Steven Curry.”

The basketball in Half Girlfriend is absolutely terrible, by the way. The camera only shoots the actors from the shoulders up since apparently neither of them learned how to dribble for their roles as college athletes. (Frankly, their entire performances in Half Girlfriend lack commitment.) Also, a scene in which Madhav wildly airballs dozens of attempted half-court shots is unbelievable. That’s a shot serious basketball players practice for fun from an early age.

Once Madhav decides that he wants beautiful, popular Riya for his own, he follows her everywhere, memorizing every detail she posts on Facebook. They strike up a friendship on the court, but she’s clearly not interested in him romantically. She pulls her hand away whenever he tries to touch it. Well, she tries to, but Madhav literally won’t let her go.

Madhav’s roommate Shailesh (Vikrant Massey) — who is otherwise the voice of reason in the film — says that the only way to know Riya’s feelings for sure is to “get her in the room.” In case that didn’t sound rapey enough, Madhav locks the door once Riya is inside. When Riya resists Madhav’s attempted seduction (the author writes euphemistically), he gets violent with her. Riya refuses to talk to him after that, triggering a sad musical montage of Madhav screwing up in a basketball game because he’s too upset to concentrate. Boo hoo.

Madhav’s violence toward Riya renders a romance between them unsatisfactory. However, because we know the beats of the male-entitlement Bollywood romance storyline, we know that Riya won’t be able to rid herself of Madhav that easily.

Half Girlfriend is monstrously unfair to Riya. Every man in her life is abusive to her in some way.  While Madhav claims to love Riya, he refuses to accept a relationship with her on her terms; he wants to possess her. Rather than protecting Riya, the older women in her life insist that she tolerate the intolerable and put a man’s needs before her own. Riya is utterly alone. If told from her perspective, Half Girlfriend would be a horror movie.

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Opening May 19: Half Girlfriend and Hindi Medium

Two more Hindi movies hit Chicago area theaters on May 19, 2017. Things are getting crowded! The wider of the two new releases is Half Girlfriend — based on the Chetan Bhagat novel of the same name — starring Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. The trailer looks abysmal.

Half Girlfriend opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 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.

The more promising new release is the family comedy Hindi Medium, starring Irrfan Khan.

Hindi Medium opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 13 min.

MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Woodridge 18 all give a second week to Meri Pyaari Bindu and Sarkar 3, which also carries over at the Cantera 17.

Entering its fourth week, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion still plays in eleven Chicago area theaters:

Telugu: MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Kerasotes Showplace ICON in Chicago, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge

Tamil: MovieMax, Tinseltown USA, and Seven Bridges

Hindi: River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, and AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles

Malayalam: MovieMax

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

Streaming Video News: May 17, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions to the catalog, both from 2017. The Hindi films 30 Days in September and The Big Fat City are now available for streaming. It’s hard to find much information about these movies — such as whether they ever released theatrically — but both appear to be filmed versions of plays written by Mahesh Dattani, who directed both movies.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of 2006’s My Faraway Bride (aka My Bollywood Bride) to the streaming catalog. For everything else new on Amazon Prime, check Instant Watcher.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with one new addition. The 2007 drama Swami — starring Manoj Bajpayee and Juhi Chawla — is now available for streaming.

Bollywood Box Office: May 12-14, 2017

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is still the hottest ticket in North America, even after three weeks. New releases Sarkar 3 and Meri Pyaari Bindu didn’t stand much of a chance against it during their opening weekend, May 12-14, 2017. Here’s how all three films fared:

  • Baahubali 2: $1,588,259 from 386 theaters; $4,115 average (adjusted average of $4,235 from 375 theaters*); $18,998,681 total
  • Sarkar 3: $161,052 from 118 theaters; $1,365 average (adjusted average of $1,579 from 102 theaters*)
  • Meri Pyaari Bindu: $118,313 from 70 theaters; $1,690 (adjusted average of $2,151 from 55 theaters, but I think 70 is the correct number*)

Obviously, Baahubali 2 is raking in unprecedented amounts of cash, and studios can’t wait forever to release their films — especially with Ramadan approaching at the end of May, during which most Muslims avoid going to the theater. Still, the distributors of Sarkar 3 and Meri Pyaari Bindu had to see Baahubali 2‘s huge second weekend performance and think, “Shoot.” There’s no guarantee that either movie would have been a hit without Baahubali 2 in theaters, but they surely would have sold a few more tickets.

Half Girlfriend and Hindi Medium are poised to open on Friday, and I can’t see many of the big theater chains in the United States devoting five screens to Indian titles (since Baahubali 2 isn’t going anywhere). [Update: I was totally wrong about this, BTW.] This might be it for Sarkar 3 and Meri Pyaari Bindu.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in 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.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: May 15, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with five new additions to the catalog. Three early ’90s Shah Rukh Khan movies — Chamatkar, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, and Ram Jaane — are now available for streaming, as is the TV series Buddha and the Bollywood biography series Classic Legends, hosted by Javed Akhtar. For everything else new on Netflix (Bollywood or not), check Instant Watcher.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon’s Heera channel with one new addition: 2016’s Poorna, a biopic about a 13-year-old girl who climbed Mt. Everest, directed by Rahul Bose. Click here to try Heera free.