Author Archives: Kathy

Streaming Video News: January 18, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the Hindi cop drama Soni, making its worldwide debut on the streaming service today after a short festival run last year. I also added three Bangladeshi films to the Bengali movies section: 2018’s Komola Rocket, Television, and Ant Story, aka Piprabidya.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a few newly added 2018 releases: Mumbai Pune Mumbai 3 (Marathi), Seethakaathi (Tamil), and Shambo Shankara (Telugu). While scrolling through the 1,000+ Indian titles on Amazon, I found several dozen that have been removed from the service. Sadly, one of those is Village Rockstars, India’s submission to this year’s Oscars. It was only up for a few days before disappearing, which is what happened to Tumbbad before it finally made its triumphant return. Hopefully the same thing happens to Village Rockstars.

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2018 Access Bollywood Wrap-Up

With my Best Movies and Worst Movies lists posted, it’s time to bid farewell to 2018 (at least until I do one final box office post for the year). It was a phenomenal year for Access Bollywood! We celebrated the site’s 10th anniversary on September 13, an accomplishment I can still hardly believe. This was also Access Bollywood’s best year in terms of viewership, by far. We closed out 2018 with an astonishing 1,787,087 pageviews! That’s up from 1,057,489 views in 2017. Just looking at those numbers renders me speechless.

In case you’re curious, Access Bollywood’s most-viewed movie review of 2018 was…1971’s Anand? The internet is a mysterious place.

I am grateful to everyone who visited Access Bollywood in 2018. Special thanks to the generous folks who donated via PayPal, and to those who purchased something via one of my Amazon links or signed up for a free Prime trial, since I receive a small commission from Amazon whenever you do. You all help keep the lights on here at Access Bollywood HQ.

Have a wonderful 2019, everyone! — Kathy

Kathy’s 2018 Bollywood Movie Rankings

Note: I didn’t get to review Tumbbad until after I’d finished this list. I’d rank it 2nd for the year.

  1. Andhadhun — 4 Stars
  2. Raazi — 3.5 Stars
  3. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero — 3.5 Stars
  4. Veere Di Wedding — 3.5 Stars
  5. Stree — 3.5 Stars
  6. Beyond the Clouds — 3 Stars
  7. Karwaan — 3 Stars
  8. Welcome to New York — 3 Stars
  9. Pataakha — 3 Stars
  10. Kedarnath — 3 Stars
  11. Hichki — 3 Stars
  12. 102 Not Out — 3 Stars
  13. Pari — 2.5 Stars
  14. Love Per Square Foot — 2.5 Stars
  15. Once Again — 2.5 Stars
  16. Manmarziyaan — 2.5 Stars
  17. Thugs of Hindostan — 2 Stars
  18. Padmaavat — 2 Stars
  19. Vodka Diaries — 2 Stars
  20. Gold — 2 Stars
  21. Fanney Khan — 1.5 Stars
  22. Aiyaary — 1.5 Stars
  23. Race 3 — 1.5 Stars
  24. October — 1 Star
  25. Zero — 0.5 Stars

In Theaters: January 18, 2019

Why Cheat India didn’t make the journey overseas, but there are still three Hindi films showing in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning Friday, January 18, 2019. After a very good opening weekend, Uri carries over at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

The Accidental Prime Minister gets a second week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24.

Simmba holds over for a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Streaming Video News: January 16, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with several new additions to the catalog. Recently added 2018 theatrical releases include Adhugo (Telugu), Echcharikkai (Tamil), Next Enti? (Telugu), Pari (Urdu), and Saif Ali Khan’s corporate thriller Baazaar.

In other cool Netflix news, they reinstated language as a genre category. Baazaar is now filed under both Indian Movies and Hindi-Language Movies, Pari is under Pakistani Movies and Urdu-Language Movies, etc. (This led me to discover that I failed to add Ali Zafar’s 2018 release Teefa in Trouble to the list last month. Eek!) Note that the new categories only apply to languages in which Netflix has a significant number of titles. For example, Assamese and Manipuri movies are still filed under the general Indian Movies category, and there’s nothing in the film’s description about the dialogue language. You have to actually play the movie and check the audio options to verify. There’s also still no option to sort titles by most recent additions, but that’s what I’m here for.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with several dozen additions — mostly older Hindi and Tamil titles returning to the streaming catalog after having disappeared a few months ago, but some Telugu and Gujarati titles as well.

Update: Tumbbad is on Amazon Prime!!!

Bollywood Box Office: January 11-13, 2019

The first two new Hindi films of 2019 fared really well in their opening weekend in North America. The wider release of the two — Uri — earned $536,179 from 96 theaters ($5,585 average) during the weekend of January 11-13, according to Bollywood Hungama. Released on about a third as many screens, The Accidental Prime Minister earned $122,703 from 38 theaters ($3,229 average). Those average theater earnings are better than the averages of most of the movies currently in the top ten at the overall North American box office, showing again what a good bet Bollywood movies are for exhibitors.

Simmba continued its impressive run for a third weekend, taking in $318,223 from 136 theaters ($2,340 average), according to Box Office Mojo. That brought its total to $4,717,024.

Other Hindi films still in North American theaters:

  • K.G.F — Chapter 1: Week 4; $3,125 from five theaters; $625 average; $773,813 total
  • Zero: Week 4; $1,022 from three theaters; $341 average; $2,300,528 total

Sources: 143 Cinema, Bollywood Hungama, and Box Office Mojo

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2018

As with my Best Bollywood Movies post, I’m only including five titles in my Worst Bollywood Movies list for 2018. There simply weren’t enough Hindi films terrible enough to warrant such a dubious distinction. But believe me, those that did make the list earned their spots.

In fifth place is Fanney Khan, a dull but mostly harmless family film, except for one very troublesome subplot. The parents of aspiring teenage singer Lata (Pihu Sand) fret that their daughter will be pressured to trade sex for stardom. Yet her father Fanney (Anil Kapoor) has no problem trading another woman’s body in exchange for Lata’s success, kidnapping Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s pop star character to do so. That sound you hear is me smacking myself in the forehead.

Aiyaary makes the list due to its muddled writing. Filmmaker Neeraj Pandey belabors obvious points while glossing over complicated conspiracies in this bland, slow spy thriller, starring Sidharth Malhotra and Manoj Bajpayee.

Race 3 is another bloated narrative mess. I’m a fan of director Remo D’Souza’s movies ABCD and A Flying Jatt, but this franchise outing proves how hard it can be to include a superstar actor in an ensemble picture, while still allotting said superstar a disproportionately large portion of screentime. It also proves that Salman Khan’s star power doesn’t guarantee a movie’s box office success (more on that to come).

The two worst Hindi films of 2018 are bad for many of the same reasons. Both bungle their handling of traumatic injury and disability. Both feature loathsome male protagonists who depend on the suffering of women in order to grow emotionally — only the protagonists don’t actually undergo any emotional growth.

That’s how October wound up in second place for the year. Varun Dhawan plays the awful male lead in question. His character is obsessed with a comatose co-worker because he thinks she may have harbored feelings for him before the accident that injured her. The premise is plain gross, made all the worse by Varun’s character inserting himself into the finer details of her medical care (he LOVES checking her catheter bag). Even after the co-worker regains consciousness, her brain and body are so damaged that she can’t tell him to leave her alone if she wishes him to do so, let alone physically push him away. He takes advantage of her vulnerability, and he ends the movie no more morally improved than he was at the beginning.

As demoralizing as October is, first place goes to a movie that failed on a grander scale. Zero is my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2018. Granted, Shah Rukh Khan’s film wasn’t the biggest box office flop by one of the Three Khans for the year (in North America, that honor belongs to Aamir Khan’s Thugs of Hindostan). But Zero was easily the most offensive of the year’s disappointing films. Khan plays Bauua, a man with dwarfism —  his diminutive stature achieved using CGI and camera techniques — who falls in love with Aafia (Anushka Sharma), a woman with cerebral palsy. Writer Wendy Lu posted a piece on Huffington Post just yesterday explaining the problems with able-bodied actors playing disabled characters in Hollywood, and the same problems apply to the two lead actors in Zero. This is a movie that should never have gotten off the drawing board.

Yet Zero went ahead, and the resultant movie is even worse than feared. Not only is the movie out-of-step in the way it treats disability, it’s also sexist. Bauua thinks Aafia is his equal since they’re the same height when she’s in her wheelchair — never mind that she’s a rocket scientist and he’s an almost-40 high school dropout who’s never held a job. The rest of the story is utterly ridiculous. The only person who emerges from Zero with an unblemished reputation is Katrina Kaif, whose excellent performance stands to be overlooked, as everyone else tries to pretend that Zero never happened.

Kathy’s Worst Bollywood Movies of 2018

  1. Zero
  2. October — Buy at Amazon/watch on Prime
  3. Race 3 — watch on Prime
  4. Aiyaary — Buy at Amazon
  5. Fanney Khan — watch on Prime

Previous Worst Movies Lists

Streaming Video News: January 11, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the September, 2018 theatrical release Sui Dhaaga: Made in India, available in both standard format and 4K Ultra-HD. Other 2018 additions from the last two days include the Bengali movie Generation Aami and the Telugu film Rachayitha. Also new is the 2014 Sherlock knockoff Samrat & Co., which neither good nor awful. And if the release of Petta has given you Rajinikanth fever, his 1995 film Muthu is now available for streaming.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

In 2018, it feels like most of the Hindi films I reviewed fell into the “okay” category — not horrible but not necessarily outstanding either. Only five movies merited a star-rating of 3.5 or higher, and just five earned a star-rating of 1.5 or lower. (Obligatory critic’s disclaimer that star-ratings are convenient shorthand lacking context, so please read the reviews!) As a result, I’m only doing a Top 5 and Bottom 5 for 2018.

That said, I think the movies at the top of the list are fantastic for different reasons, and I’d love to revisit all of them someday. Let’s see what made the list!

[Note: I didn’t get to review Tumbbad until after I’d written this post. I’d rank it in second place for the year.]

One of the year’s most delightful surprises was the horror comedy Stree. I wasn’t even sure it was going to open in the United States, given that movies starring Stree‘s lead pair — Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor — aren’t locks for international release. Thank goodness it did, because Stree was a ton of fun, weaving hilarious moments with a progressive message discouraging male objectification of women.

While Stree was about how men view women, Veere Di Wedding was as woman-centric as can be. The female buddy comedy gave wider latitude to its characters than most women are allowed onscreen in Bollywood, and it did so while being positive and uplifting. I have a soft spot for movies about nice people behaving nicely, and Veere Di Wedding was just that.

A buddy film of a different sort, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero follows a trio of vigilantes and what happens when two of them abandon their revolutionary ideals in exchange for middle-class comfort. It’s a timely story of the importance of organized resistance and a rejection of complacency among financially secure citizens, in India and abroad.

In the runner-up spot for 2018 is the top-notch spy thriller Raazi, about a young woman forced to leave her homeland in order to save it. Raazi was another win for women in Hindi cinema–not just because of Alia Bhatt’s riveting performance in the lead role, but because of the two talented women behind the camera: screenwriter Bhavani Iyer and writer-director Meghna Gulzar.

Another thriller was my favorite Bollywood movie of 2018, and the only one to which I awarded 4 stars: director Sriram Raghavan’s fiendishly clever Andhadhun. Ayushmann Khurrana’s first $1 million movie of the year featured him as a blind pianist drawn into danger by a calculating trophy wife, played by a devilish Tabu. Radhika Apte plays Khurrana’s love interest, adding to the talent level of a cast directed by a filmmaker who’s cemented his position as Bollywood’s neo-noir master. Andhadhun is currently on Netflix in the United States, which is great for first-time watchers and those of us who can’t wait to watch it again.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

  1. Andhadhun — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  2. Raazi — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes/stream on Prime
  3. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  4. Veere Di Wedding
  5. Stree

Previous Best Movies Lists

Opening January 11: Uri and The Accidental Prime Minister

The first new Hindi films of 2019 hit Chicago area theaters on January 11. The military drama Uri — starring Vicky Kaushal — gets the wider release of the two.

Uri opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs 7 min.

Also new this weekend is The Accidental Prime Minister, starring Anupam Kher as former Indian PM Manmohan Singh.

The Accidental Prime Minister opens Friday at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 50 min.

Simmba carries over for a third week at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Streaming Video News: January 8, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with five dozen Indian films added to the streaming catalog today. Remember all those movies that expired from Prime a couple of months ago? They’re baaaack. Well, most of ’em, anyway. Many of the Hindi titles from that batch have found their way back into the collection in recent weeks, and the bulk of the 46 Tamil movies added today are from that expired batch as well. It’s the perfect excuse for me to post Amazon’s image for one of the returned titles (I need a poster of this):

Punjabi movie fans will be excited by the influx of new additions to Prime into what had previously been a small collection of titles. In the last few days, eleven Punjabi movies joined Prime, boosting the selection from 23 to 34 Punjabi films available for streaming. The oldest of the recent additions is from 2016, and three 2018 releases were just added today: Banjara: The Truck Driver, Bhagat Singh Di Udeek, and Punjab Singh.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a couple of expiration dates. The Dirty Picture leaves the service on January 14, followed by Margarita with a Straw on January 15.