Bollywood Box Office: October 21-23, 2016

There’s a reason why studios and distributors don’t release movies the weekend before a major holiday: nobody goes to the theater. Case in point, the weekend of October 21-23, 2016 (the weekend before Diwali). The five Hindi films showing in North American theaters — including one new release — earned a combined total of just $31,223.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story accounted for the lion’s share of the above total, earning $18,952 from nineteen theaters ($997 average). Its total after four weekends in North American theaters is $1,816,166. It may stick around for a fifth weekend in a few theaters, but its run is just about over.

Pink closed out its sixth weekend with $6,409 from six theaters ($1,068 average). Its total of $1,246,384 ranks it in ninth place for the year in North America.

The lone new release — 31st October — only managed to finish in third place for the weekend, with $5,625 from seventeen theaters ($331 average). It’s one of the rare instances of a Hindi film opening in more theaters in Canada than the United States: ten in Canada versus seven in the US. Not that it mattered. 31st October had the third worst opening weekend of the year.

Mirzya closed out its third week with $209 from one American theater. Its final total is $84,035: 29th place for the year, after releasing into the 14th highest number of theaters. Ack.

Last on the list is MSG The Warrior: Lion Heart, which earned $29 from one Canadian theater. Until now, I’d never seen a movie in its second weekend of release earn less than 1% of what it earned in its first weekend. Kudos, MSG 3. It closes out its theatrical run with total North American earnings of $4,243.

October 28 can’t get here fast enough.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Sanam Re (2016)

sanamre1 Star (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

Screenwriter Sanjeev Dutta is stuck in a time warp. His previous film, Heropanti, was an out of touch throwback when it released in 2014. His latest movie, Sanam Re, is similarly dated in its notions of characterization and storytelling.

Director Divya Khosla Kumar compounds the problems by relying on goofball sound effects to set the tone. Such effects may have been the norm in Hindi films ten years ago, but they’ve fallen out of favor in all but the broadest comedies. It’s as though Khosla Kumar and Dutta are determined not to evolve.

Pulkit Samrat of Fukrey fame plays Akash, an office lackey desperate for a promotion that will send him to America. He has a blowhard boss (played by Manoj Joshi), a wacky landlord, and a sassy maid — required characters if you want to make a movie that the audience has seen a thousand times before.

A family emergency requires Akash to return home to his quaint mountain town, a snow-covered place frozen in time following the exodus of all the young people to the city for better opportunities. There’s a brief moment where it appears that the story will explore the aging of small towns in India, but that spark is quickly snuffed.

Instead, we get flashbacks to Akash’s childhood, which he spent dressed as Oliver Twist even though it was the 1990s. Akash’s grandpa (played by Rishi Kapoor) hoped his bratty grandson would one day take over his photo studio. Little Akash only dreamed of marrying his true love, Shruti (played as an adult by Yami Gautam).

Teenage Akash abruptly leaves town to attend college in the city, without so much as a goodbye to Shruti. The plot offers no explanation for his decision. It only happens as a pretext to separate the sweethearts.

Sanam Re routinely takes such things for granted, failing to assign the characters motivations for their actions. The “why” behind an action doesn’t matter, so long as the plot is advanced.

The film also takes for granted that the audience will sympathize with Akash simply because he is the protagonist, overlooking the fact that Akash is a selfish jerk. He abandons his family and friends more than once, always putting his own feelings first. As he says: “Destiny wants it. Because I want it.”

Dutta’s story is built with Akash at the center of the universe, and Shruti only exists to further Akash’s development. The reason she rebuffs his romantic overtures when they reunite as adults is cliched and predictable.

Yet there’s a reason for Shruti to exist, which is more than can be said for the character Akanksha (Urvashi Rautela). Her backstory ham-fistedly positions her as the third member of a  grade school love triangle, which doesn’t ultimately matter to the plot. Akanksha only reappears in the adult portion of the storyline so that Akash can seduce her, thus allowing director Khosla Kumar to objectify Rautela in the grossest way possible.

In keeping with her outdated styling, Khosla Kumar insists that female performers wear skimpy outfits no matter how obviously cold the climate is. In one scene, you can see Gautam’s breath, even though she’s wearing only shorts and a belly shirt.

Many of the film’s jokes are homophobic, racist, or made at the expense of overweight people. Khosla Kumar and Dutta refuse to acknowledge that they are making movies in the 21st century.

Samrat’s delivery during romantic scenes is too slimy to qualify him as a swoon-worthy leading man, no matter how chiseled his abs may be. When Gautam isn’t absurdly chipper, she’s forgettable. Just like Sanam Re.


Opening October 21: 31st October

Well, heck. Because of the profiles of the films scheduled for release, I didn’t expect any new Hindi movies to open in the Chicago area in the two weeks before Diwali weekend. Two weeks in a row, I’ve been wrong. The historical drama 31st October opens at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles on October 21, 2016.

Given that 31st October is only releasing in one Chicago area theater, that means it’s probably getting a really limited release across the continent: fewer than thirty theaters, for sure. Taking that into account, I’d be surprised if it makes even $20,000 over the weekend.

The only other Hindi film showing locally is M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington.

Other Indian films playing in Chicago area theaters:

Bollywood Box Office: October 14-16, 2016

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh likes to tout the records he achieves, but he might not want to brag about his latest: 2016’s worst opening weekend per-theater average for a Hindi film in North America. Singh’s new vanity project — MSG The Warrior: Lion Heart — earned a grand total of $3,353 from 23 theaters during the weekend of October 14-16, 2016. That’s a per-theater average of $146 for a whole weekend’s worth of shows. MSGTW:LH safely bested Loveshhuda‘s lowest opening weekend gross of $1,399, but that film only released in eight theaters, starred a couple of noobs, and wasn’t the third in a series.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story had the best weekend of any of the Hindi films still in theaters, earning another $78,995 from 79 theaters ($1,000 average). Its total stands at $1,779,768, ranking it in sixth place for the year.

In its fifth weekend, Pink earned $13,512 from twelve theaters ($1,126 average). That amount plus its weekday earnings were enough to push it past Udta Punjab into tenth place for the year, with total earnings of $1,236,038. It needs just $3,736 to wrest ninth place from Mohenjo Daro.

Mirzya‘s business fell by 92% in its second weekend, with earnings of $4,200 from fifteen theaters ($280 average). More than thirty percent of its $82,801 total came from a handful of Canadian theaters: sixteen theaters in the film’s opening weekend and six in its second weekend.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: October 16, 2016

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions to the catalog. The 2016 Kannada thriller U Turn is now available for streaming, as is the 2016 Hindi thriller Raman Raghav 2.0 one of my favorite films of the year so far. For everything else new on Netflix, check Instant Watcher.

Movie Review: Force (2011)

force3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at Amazon or iTunes

Force is a damned fun movie, successfully integrating Bollywood’s signature “everything under the sun” approach to storytelling into an exciting action film.

Force opens with a man we later learn is named Yash (John Abraham) being thrown out of a window and over a cliff’s edge. He scales the cliff, only to collapse — body riddled with bullets — at the top. Taken by his friends to a hospital, his consciousness wavers as a surgeon begins to operate. Yash remembers… a montage?

Specifically, it’s a song montage featuring a beautiful woman named Maya (Genelia D’Souza). The song’s lyrics list the qualities any Bollywood heroine must possess: “The looks and complexion, the gait and attitude.” Maya certainly fits the bill.

The flashback takes us through Yash’s unconventional meet-cute with Maya, scaring her as he beats up drug dealers by throwing a motorcycle at them. Maya assumes — as do we — that tattooed, beefed-up Yash is a thug himself. A series of misunderstandings reveal Yash to be an undercover narcotics officer.

Acting on tips from an informant, Yash assembles a team of officers to help him obliterate the local drug trade: the veteran, Atul (Mohnish Bahl); the rookie, Mahesh (Ameet Gaur); and the loose cannon, Kamlesh (Kamlesh Sawant).

Meanwhile, Yash struggles with his desire to let Maya into his life. Atul’s wife, Swati (Sandhya Mridul), chides him for using Maya’s safety as an excuse to push her away. Swati explains that the wives of police officers know what they are getting into, and that it’s okay for Yash to allow himself to love. Cue the requisite romantic song number featuring Maya in a formal gown atop a sand dune!

However, Yash and his crew don’t realize that their successful operation opened the door for a new gang to take the drug trade in a more violent direction. Aided by his brother, Anna (Mukesh Rishi, best known as Bulla from Gunda), the sadist Vishnu (Vidyut Jammwal) returns from faking his death abroad to make the lives of Yash and his crew into a living hell.

Jammwal’s martial arts background makes him such an asset in action films. His skills enable impressive fight scenes that don’t rely upon wires and stunt doubles. Note how much longer the camera lingers on Jammwal during action sequences as compared to the quick cuts when Abraham fights.

Director Nishikant Kamat does some smart work in Force — aided by cinematographer Ayananka Bose and editor Aarif Sheikh — especially when it comes to storytelling efficiency. For example, when Yash and his crew concoct their plan to take out the gangs, the dialogue is delivered as though it is part of one continuous conversation, yet the camera cuts between the various groups of people involved at different points in the plan’s development. The first shot shows Yash receiving partial instructions from his boss; the second features Yash conveying the next set of instructions to his crew; then back to the boss, and so on. The audience knows that everyone involved is up to speed, without having to hear the same instructions twice.

Most impressive of all is a haunting song sequence that juxtaposes a funeral with violent action. As a mournful hymn builds to a crescendo, the camera cuts between mourners crying next to a pyre and Yash’s crew taking bloody revenge. It’s absolutely riveting, one of my favorite Hindi film song sequences of all time.

Force balances its darker elements with lighter ones, too. D’Souza is bubbly in the very best sense of the word, and her character gives Yash plenty of reasons to smile, bringing out Abraham’s softer side as a result. Swati, Atul, and the other members of the crew are sympathetic and well-developed, fleshing out the world in which Yash lives.

And then there’s that fight scene where Yash’s and Vishnu’s shirts simultaneously rip off for no good reason. Who wouldn’t be charmed by that?


In Theaters: October 14, 2016

Well, I guess I was wrong about no new Indian films opening in the Chicago area before October 28. A week after its Indian theatrical release, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles is picking up MSG: The Warrior Lion Heart, the third film by controversial religious figure Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Enjoy this delightful plot synopsis from the film’s Wikipedia page.

The story is about a medieval warrior who fights for the honor of his land and the dignity of the womenfolk. The story travels centuries apart as he emerges in another role as a modern Indian equivalent of James Bond, a stylish top secret agent. The marauding aliens run amok, as they are hundreds of years ahead in technology. Lionheart is their only stumbling block in their march to overpower planet Earth.

I didn’t think things could get much crazier than the original MSG, but I guess I underestimated the self-styled Saint. Feast your eyes upon the trailer for MSG: The Warrior Lion Heart, which opens on Friday at MovieMax.

Besides MSG 3, what other Hindi films are showing in Chicago during the weekend beginning October 14, 2016? M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story has the biggest foothold locally, carrying over for a third week at MovieMax, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

MovieMax and the South Barrington 30 also hold over Pink and Mirzya, which is worth seeing on the big screen because of how pretty it looks and to hear its amazing soundtrack on a good speaker system.

Other Indian films still in Chicago area theaters:

If you’ve already exhausted your theatrical options, check out my up-to-date lists of Indian films available for streaming in the United States on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.