Tag Archives: 2018

Opening August 15: Gold and Satyameva Jayate

Two new releases hit Chicago area theaters on August 15, 2018, in honor of Indian Independence Day. The wider release of the two is Gold, starring Akshay Kumar in the story of India’s first Olympic gold medal victory in 1948. The movie features Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor, and Farhan Akhtar in supporting roles and is directed by Talaash‘s Reema Kagti.

Gold opens on Wednesday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles (in IMAX 2D), AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington (in IMAX 2D), Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 31 min.

Also new for the holiday is the action thriller Satyameva Jayate, starring John Abraham and Manoj Bajpayee. Satyameva Jayate opens Wednesday at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 22 min.

Fanney Khan gets at third week at the South Barrington 24, while Mulk and Dhadak carry over in limited showings at MovieMax.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters this weekend:

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Bollywood Box Office: August 10-12, 2018

It was a slow weekend for Bollywood movies at the North American box office, with audiences holding off in anticipation of Wednesday’s Independence Day releases (or maybe everyone was watching The Meg). The only new Hindi release was Vishwaroop 2, accompanied by its Tamil counterpart, Vishwaroopam 2. Most Indian movies that release in multiple languages don’t publish separate earnings figures for each language, but Viswaroop(am) 2 did. According to Bollywood Hungama, Vishwaroop 2 (Hindi) made $17,865 from 41 theaters in North America ($436 average), a figure I assume includes earnings from Thursday night previews. 143 Cinema reports Thursday-Sunday earnings for Vishwaroopam 2 (Tamil) of $353,321 from 127 theaters ($2,782 average).

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Fanney Khan: Week 2; $24,164 from 32 theaters; $756 average; $253,831 total
  • Karwaan: Week 2; $21,424 from 16 theaters; $1,339 average; $164,766 total
  • Mulk: Week 2; $12,192 from 13 theaters; $938 average; $104,408 total
  • Sanju: Week 7; $5,958 from eight theaters; $745 average; $7,872,912 total
  • Dhadak: Week 4; $5,072 from eight theaters; $634 average; $851,588 total
  • Soorma: Week 5; $488 from one theater; $378,637 total
  • Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3: Week 3; $36 from one theater; $44,445 total

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

Movie Review: Fanney Khan (2018)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

The corny family drama Fanney Khan lacks the self-awareness to notice its obvious thematic flaws.

Anil Kapoor’s title character is the only one that really matters in the film. Fanney traded in his life as a small-time band leader for a steady factory job following the birth of his daughter, Lata, whom he named after his favorite singer in the hopes that little Lata would one day achieve the stardom he never could himself.

Stardom proves hard to come by for Lata, however. As a teenager (played by Pihu Sand), Lata is repeatedly booed off stage at talent competitions by audiences and judges more interested in teasing her about her weight than listening to her sing. She finds her dad’s musical taste cheesy, but performing racy pop songs isn’t working for her either. Instead of allowing Lata to find her own way, the movie leaves it to Fanney to chart Lata’s course for her.

A chance encounter with the famous pop star Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) inspires Fanney’s boldest plan for Lata’s success. He kidnaps Baby and holds her for ransom — not for the money his family desperately needs, but in exchange for getting Lata in the recording studio with Baby’s manager, Kakkad (Girish Kulkarni). Fanney recruits his jobless friend, Adhir (Rajkummar Rao) to keep watch over Baby, but Adhir’s crush on the star makes him an ineffective guard.

Fanney Khan might have succeeded as a pedestrian-yet-heartwarming family film were it not for a bizarre minor theme that alters the movie’s moral message in a way that debutant writer-director Atul Manjrekar appears not to have noticed.

The theme is first introduced when Lata plans her next live performance with her best friend, Rhea (Barbie Rajput, who is fantastic in her few scenes). When Rhea speculates that many top female stars slept with producers or other benefactors in order to become famous, Lata’s mother, Kavita (Divya Dutta), slowly enters the room, accompanied by music as somber as the expression on her face. She forbids the two girls from discussing the topic, even though were Rhea and Lata were both grossed out by the prospect and not actually considering it.

The same somber musical accompaniment reappears when Fanney asks Baby if she’d ever been pressured into sex for the sake of her career, when Kakkad is alone in a hotel room with Lata, and when Kavita sees Lata dressed in a (modest) one shoulder gown that Kavita nevertheless finds too revealing.

This repeated focus on women’s bodies and sexuality as they relate to fame is meant to convey the moral that women’s bodies are not tradeable commodities.

How, then, does director Manjrekar fail to notice the irony that his protagonist kidnaps a woman in order to trade her body for his own daughter’s success?

Fanney Khan is not a black comedy, and the sex-for-fame cautionary subplot isn’t explicitly juxtaposed against the main plot. Fanney is unquestionably a hero, slow-clapped by the very cops who come to arrest him as a way of praising his fatherly devotion.

Perhaps the point of the subplot is to convey that men may do what they like with women’s bodies, but women themselves may not treat their bodies as commodities. None of the men in the film face any repercussions for mistreating or intending to mistreat women’s bodies. Not Fanney or Adhir for kidnapping Baby, and not the studio head who wants Baby to have an “accidental” wardrobe malfunction in order to garner publicity. The character of a female recording engineer is invented specifically so that Kakkad can leer at her, thus making it appear as though Lata is in moral jeopardy when she’s alone in a room with him later. That Kavita doubts for a second whether Lata actually slept with Kakkad shows how little the film’s writers think of women’s ability to make their own moral judgements.

Fanney Khan lets down its main cast, who are all very good in the movie. Sand acquits herself well in her film debut, and she shares a nice mother-daughter rapport with Dutta. Rai Bachchan is natural in the role of a superstar, of course, and Rao is entertaining as always. Kapoor is flat-out terrific as the ultimate family man, making Fanney all the more endearing through his enthusiasm and cheerfulness. One way Kapoor could turn Fanney Khan into a positive is by taking Fanney’s band and backup dancers on the road, because they are a hoot. Enjoy them performing “Badan Pe Sitaare” in the video below:

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Opening August 10: Vishwaroop II

Kamal Haasan’s multilingual action film Vishwaroop 2 hits Chicago area theaters on August 10, 2018. Shot simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil (as Vishwaroopam 2), the film’s Telugu-dubbed version releases locally as well.

Vishwaroop 2 (Hindi) opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, with preview shows starting Thursday night. Vishwaroopam 2 (Tamil and Telugu-dubbed) opens Thursday night at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge. All versions have English subtitles and listed runtimes of 2 hrs. 25 min.

Fanney Khan gets a second week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and the Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Karwaan and Mulk also carry over at the South Barrington 24 and MovieMax, which holds on to Dhadak and Sanju as well.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: August 3-5, 2018

Three new Bollywood releases, three lackluster opening weekends. Fanney Khan, Karwaan, and Mulk struggled during the weekend of August 3-5, 2018, with all three posting totals well below $200,000, the median opening weekend total for Hindi films in North America for the year so far. Fanney Khan scored the widest release, giving it the biggest returns: $139,584 from 69 theaters* ($2,023 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Karwaan was next with $91,108 from 58 theaters ($1,571 average), followed by Mulk, with $53,747 from 25 theaters ($2,150 average). Those low totals aren’t just a result of modest theater counts. All of the films’ per-theater averages were far below this year’s median average of approximately $3,000, indicating a lack of audience interest.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:

  • Dhadak: Week 3; $28,154 from 25 theaters; $1,126 average; $831,378 total
  • Sanju: Week 6; $22,731 from 16 theaters*; $1,421 average; $7,852,209 total
  • Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3: Week 2; $529 from five theaters; $106 average; $43,910 total
  • Soorma: Week 4; $450 from one theater; $378,148 total

*Bollywood Hungama routinely counts Canadian theaters twice in its weekly reporting, at least for a movie’s first few weekends of release. When possible, I try to verify the correct theater count with other sources. The above figures represent what I believe to be the actual theater counts. Bollywood Hungama’s reporting technically puts Fanney Khan in 83 theaters (making for a $1,682 per-theater average), Karwaan in 68 theaters ($1,340 average), Mulk in 31 theaters ($1,734 average), and Sanju in 22 theaters ($1,033 average).

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

Movie Review: Vodka Diaries (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Vodka Diaries on Amazon Prime

Vodka Diaries is uneven as a mystery, yet Kay Kay Menon fans will find plenty to like in the talented actor’s lead performance.

Menon plays Officer Ashwini Dixit, a detective in the small mountain resort town of Manali. He and his wife, Shikha (Mandira Bedi), share a playful antagonism, though their relationship often takes a backseat to his career.

A young woman’s murder leads Ashwini to Vodka Diaries, a swanky hotel’s awkwardly named nightclub, populated by half-a-dozen or so additional characters who wind up involved in the investigation. The introductions of the new characters are poorly integrated into the main story, with Ashwini’s storyline progressing on an entirely different track that only meets with the other plotlines after a half-hour has passed.

It’s not just the length of time that makes the parallel story tracks a problem. The other characters — including a bickering young couple and two friends on a first date — are either uninteresting or annoying (specifically the cloying hotel manager, played by Sooraj Thapar). The only character we assume will be important to the plot going forward is a woman played by Raima Sen, whose defining characteristic is her mysteriousness. But without clear reasons for their presence in the story, the attention paid to these other characters feels like an interruption, pulling our attention away from Menon’s performance.

Thankfully, that all changes when multiple supporting characters are killed, putting the spotlight back on Ashwini as he tries to connect their deaths to the initial murder. Around the same time, it becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong with Ashwini–as his sporadic, violent hallucinations increase in frequency and severity (punctuated by effectively jarring sound design courtesy of Jitendra Chaudhary). Ashwini and the audience are equally confused about what is real and what isn’t.

Vodka Diaries is unquestionably Kay Kay Menon’s movie, and he is compelling throughout. The film’s opens with a scene of Menon’s character running through the snowy countryside, and if that was all there was to Vodka Diaries, it would still be riveting stuff.

With her role in Ittefaq last year and now this, Mandira Bedi has become the go-to actor to play a cop’s wife. It would be fun to see Bedi turn her current specialization into a starring role, perhaps as a wife who learns so much by talking to her detective husband about his job that she starts secretly solving crimes on her own. I know I’d pay to watch that.

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Opening August 3: Fanney Khan, Karwaan, Mulk, and Puzzle

It’s a busy weekend for Chicago are Bollywood fans with three new Hindi films opening locally. The movie getting the widest release on August 3, 2018, is Fanney Khan, starring Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Fanney Khan opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 9 min.

Also new this week is the road trip flick Karwaan, featuring Irrfan Khan and Malayalam-film star Dulquer Salmaan in his Bollywood debut. Karwaan opens Friday at the River East 21, MovieMax, and South Barrington 24. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 54 min.

Last among the new releases is the courtroom drama Mulk, starring Taapsee Pannu and Rishi Kapoor. Mulk opens Friday at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Sanju carries over for a sixth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodrige. Dhadak gets a third week at the South Barrington 24 and MovieMax, which also holds over Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3.

Karwaan isn’t Irrfan Khan’s only new local release this weekend. He co-stars in the English-language film Puzzle, a drama about a New England housewife whose life changes after receiving a puzzle as a gift. It debuts Friday at the River East 21, Century Centre Cinema in Chicago, and Century 12 Evanston in Evanston before it opens region-wide on August 24. I haven’t stopped thinking about Puzzle since I watched it.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: July 27-29, 2018

It appears North American fans would rather watch movies about Sanjay Dutt than movies starring him. From July 27-29, 2018, Dutt’s latest film — Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 — earned $22,695 from 41 theaters* ($554 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. That per-screen average is second worst for the year. Releasing the movie overseas seems like a last-minute attempt to capitalize on the phenomenal success of Sanju, because I don’t recall much publicity or buzz in the run-up to its release. The original Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster did so poorly in North America — with lifetime earnings of $14,231 — that they didn’t bother to release the sequel here in 2013, so opening Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 here was always going to be a gamble.

Speaking of Sanju, the biopic earned $69,508 from 44 theaters* ($1,580 average) in its fifth weekend of release, bringing its total to $7,777,222.

Dhadak held up reasonably well in its second weekend, holding over about 34% of its opening weekend business with earnings of $107,635 from 44 theaters* ($2,446 average). It has total earnings of $719,382 so far.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:

  • Soorma: Week 3; $14,871 from 17 theaters; $875 average; $374,028 total
  • Veere Di Wedding: Week 9; $692 from one theater; $2,712,314 total

*Bollywood Hungama routinely counts Canadian theaters twice in its weekly reporting, at least for a movie’s first few weekends of release. When possible, I try to verify the correct theater count with other sources. The above figures represent what I believe to be the actual theater counts. Bollywood Hungama’s reporting technically puts Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 in 49 theaters (making for a $436 per-theater average), Sanju in 59 theaters ($1,178 average), and Dhadak in 58 theaters ($1,856 average).

Sources: Bollywood Hungama, Box Office Mojo, and Gitesh Pandya

 

Opening July 27: Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 — the latest installment in director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s thriller franchise — hits Chicago area theaters on July 27, 2018.

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3 opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Dhadak, Sanju, and Soorma all carry over at both of the above theaters. Dhadak also gets a second week at the Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, while Sanju holds over at the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian and Pakistani movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Movie Review: Puzzle (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

Puzzle opens July 27, 2018, in New York and Los Angeles and in additional cities throughout August.

An innocuous gift makes a homemaker question her life in the insightful drama Puzzle.

We meet Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) as she’s fulfilling all of the duties of a party host: serving drinks, picking up the pieces of a broken plate, even taking the time to glue the pieces back together. It’s when she lights the candles on a birthday cake only to blow them out do we understand that this is her party, and she’s not able to enjoy it.

Agnes’s husband Louie (David Denman) and their young adult sons Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and Gabe (Austin Abrams) take her efforts for granted, in part because she’s so good at running a household. She’s detail oriented and attuned to how long each task takes, starting the laundry before she runs to the grocery store so that it’s ready to go in the dryer as soon as she gets home, leaving just enough time to prepare dinner before the men in the family get home from work or school.

She finally loses track of time when she opens one of her birthday presents: a puzzle depicting a map of the world. Agnes flies through it, assembling the 1000-piece puzzle in hours (minutes, maybe) instead of the days it would take most people. She enjoys herself so much that she breaks up the puzzle and does it again, not realizing she’s forgotten to make dinner until Louie and Ziggy walk through the door.

Louie’s dismissal of puzzles as “childish” forces Agnes to pursue her hobby secretly. At a specialty shop in the city, she meets a man in search of a “puzzle partner”: Robert (Irrfan Khan), a wealthy divorcee who is as worldly and intelligent as Louie is parochial and incurious. Robert’s fascination with Agnes and his encouragement of her independence makes her realize how little attention she’s given to her own wants and needs since she became a wife and mother.

Even as a more equitable division of household chores has become normalized, women are still responsible for the majority of housework (even when they are the primary breadwinner). As such, the depiction of Agnes’s plight will resonate with a lot of women. In the immediate term, it’s easier for Agnes to do everything herself rather than ask Louie and Gabe to help (Ziggy sometimes offers), especially since they’d just feign ignorance rather than try. Clean clothes are made dirty again and dinner needs to be cooked every night — an endless loop of mundane tasks that allows precious little time to question one’s purpose in life.

Louie isn’t abusive or mean, but his vision of how life is supposed to be hinges on a wife who accepts her role in it. When Agnes does start to question her part, her rebellion is staged on a small scale. There’s little in Puzzle that could be described as explosive, but the film’s message is impactful nonetheless.

Driving that is a well-constructed script, written by Oren Moverman and Natalia Smirnoff, who wrote and directed the Argentine film of the same name upon which Puzzle is based. The dialogue is direct and memorable, particularly Robert’s explanation for why Agnes finds solving puzzles so satisfying: “When you complete a puzzle, when you finish it, you know that you have made all the right choices.”

The film’s performances are likewise strong, though Macdonald’s precise dialogue delivery comes off as bit affected and takes some getting used to. Khan at first seems to channel Jeff Goldblum, but quickly makes the role his own. Weiler’s turn as Agnes’s unexpected ally Ziggy is sweet.

Keeping a tight focus on one woman’s evolution helps Puzzle to illuminate a particular aspect of modern gender dynamics. It’s as thought-provoking as it is enjoyable to watch.

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