Streaming Video News: June 15, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the worldwide debut of Lust Stories, a followup to 2013’s anthology film Bombay Talkies (also available on Netflix), featuring new short movies from the same four directors: Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, and Anurag Kashyap.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the April theatrical release Blackmail, starring Irrfan Khan. Other recent additions include the Tamil films Rombha Nallavan Da Nee, Saivam, Vetri Selvan, and Yaamirukka Bayamey.

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Movie Review: Veere Di Wedding (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Veere Di Wedding (“Friend’s Wedding“) released to higher expectations than usually precede Bollywood buddy comedies, yet its four female leads rose to the challenge, turning out a warm, relatable, and very funny movie.

Well, relatable if you overlook how obscenely rich the characters are, driving around in cars that cost as much as a house (at least here in the Midwest). The only speaking character who isn’t wealthy is a maid who appears in one scene, crying after being beaten by her abusive husband. Her wounds are addressed in a couple of lines before she’s forced to participate in the excitement of one of the rich friends’ upcoming nuptials. It’s one of the film’s few off moments.

The friend getting married is Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan), one of a quartet of lifelong buds that includes stuffy lawyer Avni (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), stay-at-home mom Meera (Shikha Talsania), and drunkard Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar). Reuniting in Delhi for the wedding gives the women a chance to cut loose, but also resurfaces buried conflicts, primarily between the adult children and their parents.

There isn’t really a villain in Veere Di Wedding. The conflict is driven by complicated family dynamics, a boundless well that keeps the plot moving and gives everyone in the audience something to identify with. Kalindi became estranged from her father (Anjum Rajabali) following her mother’s death. Avni’s mom (Neena Gupta) is desperate for her daughter to wed. Meera married a white man named John (Edward Sonnenblick) against her dad’s wishes. There’s tension in Sakshi’s household over demise of her short-lived marriage.

The family of Kalindi’s fiance, Rishabh Malhotra (Sumeet Vyas), is the most colorful source of drama, often literally so. Eager to fill the void left by Kalindi’s mother, Rishabh’s dad (Manoj Pahwa), mom (Ayesha Raza), and aunt (Alka Kaushal) take over the wedding planning, their tacky, kaleidoscopic taste in decor and attire sending Kalindi into a daze. Kapoor Khan’s glazed expressions as they parade garish garment choices in front of her are hilarious.

Yet Veere Di Wedding is careful not to make too much fun of the Malhotra family. Kalindi herself says that she knows how important the pomp and circumstance are to Rishabh’s family, rejecting Rishabh’s offer to tell his family to back off.

That’s what’s amazing about this movie: the characters are so nice. The four friends will do anything for one another. Rishabh and Meera’s husband John are loyal and supportive partners, as are Kalindi’s uncle Cookie (Vivek Mushran) and his boyfriend Keshav (Sukesh Arora). Conflict is borne from hurt feelings and stubborn grudges, not from any inherent malice. The resolution to a subplot involving Kalindi’s well-intentioned stepmother Paromita (Ekavali Khanna) is especially touching.

That good nature makes Veere Di Wedding a joy to watch. Hype over the film’s bawdy language and (tame) masturbation scene is overblown. It’s important that female movie characters be given as wide a range to inhabit as male characters, and Veere Di Wedding does so in an uplifting, unthreatening way. It’s a welcome change to see topics such as sexual compatibility and the changes that happen to a woman’s body following childbirth discussed from a female perspective in a mainstream Bollywood film. Farah Khan’s choreography of the song “Tareefan” — in which white men are treated as eye candy instead of white women — is noteworthy, too.

What gives Veere Di Wedding lasting appeal beyond its present cultural significance is that it really is charming, thanks to the performances by the lead quartet. Kalindi’s bewilderment in the face of her in-laws stands in contrast to Avni’s stuffiness, which is at odds with Sakshi’s constant insobriety. Even maternal Meera goes wild on the dance floor. Kapoor Khan, Kapoor Ahuja, Bhaskar, and Talsania each bring something different to the table, and their efforts combine to make a movie that’s a real treat.

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Bollywood Box Office: June 8-10, 2018

Rajinikanth’s multilingual release Kaala dominated the North American box office in its opening weekend. (Well, just the US box office, really, since it only opened in one theater in Canada.) From June 8-10, 2018, it earned $802,041 from 286 theaters ($2,804 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. That’s in addition to the $1,031,649 it earned on Wednesday and Thursday. 143 Cinema’s daily breakdown shows the film’s earnings heavily weighted toward opening day, due to a combination of peak interested and inflated ticket prices. We don’t know exactly how much of Kaala’s earnings are attributable to each version, but the bulk is from fans watching in Tamil. Not only is that version showing in the most theaters — assuming that the Chicago region reflects the rest of the nation — but it commands higher ticket prices than either the Telugu or Hindi version (which didn’t even release until Thursday).

Veere Di Wedding continued its strong showing for a second weekend, taking in another $507,919 from 120 theaters ($4,233 average). Its first-to-second weekend holdover wasn’t as good as some of the year’s other blockbusters — just 44%, versus 62% for Raazi and 52% for Padmaavat. We’ll see how it holds up this coming weekend against Race 3 and Incredibles 2. Veere Di Wedding‘s impressive total stands at $2,183,412.

Raazi is inching its way toward $3 million, though the above mentioned new releases will make that goal more challenging as the spy thriller heads toward its sixth weekend in theaters. In its fifth weekend of release, Raazi earned $77,931 from 44 theaters ($1,771 average). It has total earnings so far of $2,898,173.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Parmanu — The Story of Pokhran: Week 3; $37,908 from 20 theaters; $1,895 average; $411,740 total
  • Bhavesh Joshi Superhero: Week 2; $3,934 from eight theaters; $492 average; $61,310 total
  • 102 Not Out: Week 6; $820 from three theaters; $273 average; $1,336,114 total

Sources: 143 Cinema and Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: June 9, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with two 2018 theatrical releases. Varun Dhawan’s October and Mahesh Babu’s Bharat Ane Nenu are now available for streaming. Other recent additions include Karthik Kumar’s standup comedy special Blood Chutney, the Kannada film Puta Tirugisi Nodi, the Hindi-dubbed flicks Mera Aakrosh and Shivam the Warrior, and the Tamil movies Engaeyum Eppothum, Naaigal Jaakirathai, and Pisasu. For everything else new on Prime — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Opening June 6: Kaala

Rajinikanth storms into Chicago area theaters on June 6, 2018, with Kaala.

Kaala is releasing in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi — all with English subtitles — on a staggered schedule, with the Tamil and Telugu versions releasing on Wednesday and the Hindi version on Thursday. The multiple releases are throwing Fandango for a loop, as they have separate title listings for each version, plus a fourth title option that aggregates all versions showing at some theaters. It’s whack. Here’s where to find Kaala in the Chicago area, and in which format:

Tamil and Telugu (opening Wednesday): Studio Movie Grill Chatham in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison in Addison, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge

Tamil only: AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Oak Brook Center 12 in Oak Brook, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, and Century 12 Evanston in Evanston (Wednesday and Thursday only)

Hindi (opening Thursday): SMG Chatham, MovieMax, Rosemont 18, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Stratford Square, Tinseltown USA, Cantera 17, and Seven Bridges

Veere Di Wedding gets a second week at the South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Cantera 17, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is out after just one week, unfortunately.

The South Barrington 24 also carries over Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran and Raazi, which holds on at the Woodridge 18 as well.

Stratford Square has the Punjabi film (with English subtitles) Carry on Jatta 2.

Starting Friday, the AMC Loews Streets of Woodfield 20 in Schaumburg is showing the independent English-language drama The Valley, from writer-director Saila Kariat and starring Dil Chahta Hai‘s Suchitra Pillai and Northern Exposure‘s Barry Corbin (in a casting mashup I’d never have expected to happen). It’s rated R and has a runtime of 1 hr. 35 min.

Movie Review: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Hindi cinema loves a vigilante, that one good man who fights against a corrupt system. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero takes that template in a fresh, contemporary direction, addressing problems that are uniquely Indian but tie in with struggles being fought around the world.

After the government crushes their political opposition group, young activists Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyali) and Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor) take their fight for justice to YouTube. Wearing paper bags over their heads, they confront lawbreakers for infractions like public urination and traffic violations, while their videographer buddy Rajat (Ashish Verma) records the encounters.

Years of small-scale victories but no systemic change take their toll on the trio, emotionally and also physically when the occasional video subject decides to fight back. Siku and Rajat are ready to move on, accepting a broken social contract as an annoying inconvenience in their otherwise comfortable middle class lives. Unemployed Bhavesh resents his friends for quitting before the fight is won.

Things come to a head when Bhavesh uncovers evidence of a scam to divert water from the municipal supply. He doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle, but he’s willing to take risks to find them. Siku’s too preoccupied with a potential job transfer to Atlanta and how that will affect his relationship with his girlfriend Sneha (Shreiyah Sabharwal) to care.

India’s water infrastructure problems are uniquely complicated, and basing the story’s big crime around it roots the film in a specific place. Yet the characters’ frustrations are relatable to anyone who isn’t rich.

It’s an especially interesting choice by writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane — whose impressive resume includes Udaan, Lootera, and Trapped — and his co-writers Abhay Koranne  and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap to set up a class conflict within the main trio. Siku is an engineer and Rajat a journalist, so they have options that Bhavesh does not. Bhavesh sympathizes with the underclass because he’s a member of it. Champions of workers rights across the globe face the same challenge: how to motivate members of the middle class for whom matters like access to water or healthcare are merely academic, not an urgent need.

Much of the press leading up to the film’s release focused on Harshvardhan Kapoor, the son of a prominent acting family, in his second movie after a disastrous debut (at least from a box office perspective). He’s perfectly fine in this, as are Verma and Sabharwal. The movie’s villains are likewise well acted, although I found their relationships a little complicated due to my unfamiliarity with job titles within the Indian bureaucracy.

The real surprise is Priyanshu Painyuli as Bhavesh. He pivots easily from Bhavesh’s exuberance during happy times to his simmering rage when things start to fall apart. Bhavesh is frequently lit in red to emphasize his righteous anger and revolutionary spirit, and Amit Trivedi’s dynamic score sets the perfect tone.

Even though Bhavesh Joshi Superhero draws from Bollywood’s vigilante legacy, it makes the case that social movements aren’t a solo effort. They require a group of people working together. One person may sacrifice more than the others, but you can’t change the world alone.

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Bollywood Box Office: June 1-3, 2018

What an astounding debut for Veere Di Wedding in North America! From June 1-3, 2018, Veere Di Wedding earned $1,161,504 from 114 theaters ($10,189 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Gitesh Pandya reports earnings of more than $1.2 million from 118 theaters for the buddy comedy.

So far in 2018, the highest opening weekend per-theater averages belong to Padmaavat, Veere Di Wedding, Raazi, and Pad Man. North American Bollywood fans want to see women-driven content, and theaters are reaping the benefits.

The weekend’s other new release fared poorly against such monstrous competition. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero made just $39,635 from 44 theaters ($901 average). Veere Di Wedding‘s success isn’t entirely responsible for Bhavesh Joshi Superhero‘s shortcomings, but the matchup didn’t help. It’s too bad, since Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a really good movie. It’s also too bad for star Harsh Kapoor because his sophomore film’s total earnings are even lower than the disappointing returns of his debut movie, Mirzya, back in 2016. It might be time for a career reassessment since this solo hero thing isn’t working out for Harsh.

Raazi is still going strong, adding another $163,460 from 70 theaters ($2,335 average) to bring its total to an impressive $2,752,321.

Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran had a good second weekend, earning $68,378 from 31 theaters ($2,206 average). It has total earnings of $342,346.

102 Not Out stuck around in 15 theaters, earning $9,726 ($648 average) and bringing its total to $1,330,555.

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Gitesh Pandya

Streaming Video News: June 4, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of two movies that released in theaters earlier this year, each starring a stellar lead actress. The thriller Missing — starring Tabu and Manoj Bajpayee — is now available for streaming, which is cool since it only released theatrically in India, not in the US. Rani Mukerji’s Hichki is also now available (and well worth watching). Thanks to Gaurav Arora for giving me the heads up about Hichki!

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a newly announced expiration date. You’ve got until July 3, 2018, to catch all thirteen episodes of the 2015 TV series Adrishya. This is part of the purging of shows produced by the TV channel Epic, which were only under contract to air on Netflix for two years. Six shows just expired on June 1, and we can expect to see Ekaant and Siyaasat hit bricks in September.

Streaming Video News: June 2, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of some new TV shows and comedy specials. Besides the Hindi series Pushpavalli and Shaitaan Haveli, the Amazon exclusive drama Gangstars premiered in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. The new comedy specials feature comedians Kautuk Srivastava, Nishant Tanwar, and Rahul Subramanian.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a few additions to the catalog. B.A. Pass 2, the Marathi film Natsamrat: Asa Nat Hone Nahi, and the TV series Gabru: Hip Hop Revolution are all now available for streaming. For everything else new to Netflix and Prime — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

The most interesting addition to the world of streaming video this week is the debut of Saif Ali Khan’s black comedy Kaalakaandi on Hotstar. If you haven’t taken advantage of their free week trial, this might be a good time to do so.

Opening June 1: Veere Di Wedding and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

The Kapoor siblings face off in Chicago area theaters on June 1, 2018. Big sister Sonam’s movie gets the wider release of the two with her buddy comedy Veere Di Wedding, co-starring Kareen Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhaskar, and Shikha Talsania.

Veere Di Wedding opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, 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. 2 min.

Little brother Harshvardhan’s sophomore film Bhavesh Joshi Superhero also opens locally on Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 34 min.

Last weekend’s new release Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran carries over at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. All three theaters also hold over Raazi for a fourth week, as do the River East 21 and Woodridge 18. 102 Not Out gets a fifth week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend: