Tag Archives: 2019

Streaming Video News: September 13, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with more than two dozen Indian films added in the last week, including the following 2019 releases:

In other big Amazon Prime news, looks like we have confirmation that the Yash Raj Films catalog really is leaving Prime, with a handful of movies departing in the next two weeks. Kabhi Kabhie, Salaam Namaste, and Vijay all expire on September 25, followed by Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year on September 27. I’ll post expiration dates as they appear. In the meantime, if you’d like to prioritize watching YRF movies on Prime before they migrate to their new home (probably Hotstar), here’s a Wikipedia list of YRF releases.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a bunch of Indian movies are set to expire on September 15:

Kabir Singh comes to Netflix in India on September 19, but I haven’t seen confirmation of its US availability yet, so stay tuned. In other Netflix news, Karan Johar signed a multi-year contract to produce fiction and non-fiction content exclusively for the streaming service.

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Opening September 13: Dream Girl and Section 375

Two new Hindi films hit Chicago area theaters September 13, 2019, including Ayushmann Khurrana’s latest comedy — Dream Girl.

Dream Girl opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 17 min. Dream Girl‘s streaming partner is Zee5, which is not available in the United States, so catch it in the theater while you can.

Also new is the courtroom drama Section 375, named for the portion of the Indian Penal Code that governs rape. It stars Richa Chadda and Akshaye Khanna.

Section 375 opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 4 min. Section 375 is scheduled to join Amazon Prime in November.

Chhichhore carries over for a second week at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera, CMX Old Orchard Market in Skokie, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Saaho holds over in Hindi at the Niles 12, South Barrington 24, and Cantera, and in Telugu at the South Barrington 24, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Mission Mangal gets a fifth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend (all films have English subtitles):

Movie Review: Notebook (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Notebook on Amazon Prime

A reluctant teacher at a remote schoolhouse finds a diary left by his predecessor, leading him to fall in love with the author and the profession of teaching in the charming drama Notebook.

Based on Thailand’s entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2014 Oscars — The Teacher’s DiaryNotebook sets its story in Kashmir in 2008. Kabir (Zaheer Iqbal) is struggling to readjust to civilian life, following a stint in the army that ended when he inadvertently caused a child’s death. Haunted and directionless, he’s summoned to his ancestral home in Srinagar by his uncle. The elementary school Kabir’s deceased father founded is in danger of closing because it has no teacher, and Kabir agrees to fill in, despite his lack of experience.

The school is a collection of small buildings built on rafts, lashed together and floating on a wide lake. Though the school is six hours from the nearest town and only accessible by boat, it offers the only educational opportunity for children in the region. The gorgeous setting is an ideal place for introspection, but Kabir finds the practicalities hard to handle. There’s no cell network, running water, or electricity. A frog lives in the cistern.

Kabir’s students don’t make his job easy on him, disappointed as they are at the loss of their beloved teacher, Firdaus (Pranutan Bahl). After a disastrous first day, Kabir almost calls it quits, until he finds a diary Firdaus left behind. Her writings and drawings give Kabir insight into his students, and they lead him to fall in love with her — or at least with who he imagines her to be. Yet even as he immerses himself in the lives of his students, the camera often shoots Kabir through windows or reflected in mirrors, while flashbacks of Firdaus feature her fully in frame. The technique symbolizes Kabir’s yet unrealized sense of self and his still-developing connection to the school.

Notebook is whimsical in the best possible ways. There’s the novelty of a love story involving two people who’ve neither met nor seen each other. The school’s isolation forces both Firdaus and Kabir to embrace what’s truly important to them, and in doing so, steers them toward each other. Then there’s the school’s magical setting, floating on a lake covered in lily pads and surrounded by mountains. It’s straight out of a fairy tale.

Notebook released theatrically in the spring of 2019, several months before the Indian government cut off Kashmir’s cell network and internet access (which has been ongoing for over a month at the time of this writing). A boatman who ferries Kabir to the school explains that the unreliable cell phone network only works “when weather is good and peace prevails,” hinting at the region’s long-standing instability.

While the film isn’t political to the point of taking sides, it depicts the suffering of the people who live there. Every character in Notebook is traumatized by violence and death, including the children. Kabir’s undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder points to the fact that soldiers in the region are vulnerable to psychological damage as well. The constant military presence and threat of militant action creates an unhealthy situation for everyone living there.

Director Nitin Kakkar is the right person to tell this touching love story set in a fraught region, giving the main narrative its due while providing thoughtful context on its surroundings. Kakkar showed his capabilities with the 2012 comedy Filmistaan, in which a kidnapped Indian man doesn’t realize he’s been brought to Pakistan because of the strong similarities between both countries and their citizens. Notebook is just as sensitive in the way it stresses its characters’ shared humanity.

Iqbal and Bahl acquit themselves well in their film debuts, giving Kabir and Firdaus enough warmth to sustain Notebook‘s romantic feel, even though their characters spend little time together on-screen. They help to create a movie that is sweet yet substantial, and gorgeous to look at.

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Bollywood Box Office: September 6-8, 2019

Chhichhore had a nice opening weekend in North America. From September 6-8, 2019, the comedy-drama earned $614,335 from 195 theaters ($3,150 average), according to Box Office Mojo. Such a wide opening-weekend release — the eighth highest theater count for the year so far — may have been a touch ambitious, given that it posted the sixteenth highest opening weekend average. Still, it should clear $1 million here, no problem.

Saaho fell off dramatically in its second weekend, pulling in less than 15% of what it made in its opening weekend. The action flick earned $216,800 from 225 theaters — an average of just $964 per theater, according to Bollywood Hungama. Its total stands at $3,090,643, slotting it in at fourth place for the year so far among Hindi films and multilingual releases.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Mission Mangal: Week 4; $111,158 from 94 theaters; $1,183 average; $3,570,506 total
  • Batla House: Week 4; $4,047 from six theaters; $675 average; $542,042 total

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

Opening September 6: Chhichhore

The decade-spanning Hindi drama Chhichhore opens in Chicago area theaters on September 6, 2019.

Chhichhore opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera in Warrenville, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 23 min. Chhichhore‘s streaming video partner is Hotstar.

Saaho carries over for a second week at the following theaters in two languages:

Telugu — MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Naperville 16, Century 12 Evanston in Evanston, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge

Hindi — River East 21, MovieMax, Niles 12, Cantera, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge

Mission Mangal gets a fourth week at the River East 21, MovieMax, Cantera, Naperville 16, Woodridge 18, Regal Round Lake Beach in Round Lake Beach, and South Barrington 24, which also holds over Balta House.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend (all films have English subtitles):

Bollywood Box Office: August 30-September 1, 2019

Prabhas’s multilingual action thriller Saaho earned a lot of money in its opening weekend in North America: $1,447,349 from 381 theaters ($3,799 average) across all language versions of the film, according to Box Office Mojo. Thursday preview showings accounted for another $923,677, and Monday’s Labor Day holiday earnings of $255,258 brought its five-day total to $2,626,284. 35% of its total earnings came from its Thursday showings, which didn’t start until the afternoon (4:30 p.m. here in Chicago).

Mission Mangal closed out its third weekend with $375,143 from 151 theaters ($2,484 average), bringing its total to $3,316,146.

Also in its third week, Batla House earned $29,882 from 22 theaters ($1,358 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. That brings its total to $523,112.

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

Bollywood Box Office: August 23-25, 2019

Mission Mangal had a good second weekend in North America, earning $655,056 from 263 theaters ($2,491 average), according to Box Office Mojo. It closed out the weekend with $2,713,267 in total earnings, good enough for fifth place among Hindi films in North America this year. Monday earnings from the United States alone pushed it past Kalank into fourth place. It needs another $181,000 to overtake Bharat for third place.

Batla House also held up very well, with $102,989 from 62 theaters ($1,661 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. It has total earnings of $446,385 so far.

Other Hindi movies still playing in US theaters:

  • Super 30: Week 7; $413 from one theater; $2,322,834 total
  • Jabariya Jodi: Week 3; $296 from one theater; $109,809 total

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Movie Review: Mission Mangal (2019)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Mission Mangal (“Mission Mars“) got worse the more I thought about it. While in the theater, I rolled my eyes at the film’s outdated takes on gender roles, but I found it generally enjoyable. Upon further reflection, the enormity of the opportunity missed to present an inspirational, empowering story feels too big to ignore.

In 2014, India became the fourth country to reach Mars, and the only one to do so on its first try. Photos of sari-clad women engineers in the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) gained global attention, forcing people around the world to challenge their preconceptions of what a scientist is supposed to look like.

A fictional story inspired by that real-life feat, Mission Mangal feels less revolutionary that the actual event. The contributions of women engineers are viewed through a patriarchal lens that insists on centering male characters. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the man playing the film’s main male protagonist — Akshay Kumar — is also one of the movie’s producers.

Kumar’s female co-lead is Vidya Balan, whose character Tara is introduced first. She bustles about the house on the morning of a rocket launch, praying for success, cooking breakfast, and trying to rouse her teenage children. Her husband Sunil (Sanjay Kapoor) asks her to bring him a cup of tea instead of getting up to get it himself, despite knowing how pressed she is for time.

The launch goes awry, due to Tara’s misjudgement in her role as Project Manager. Her boss Rakesh (Kumar) takes the blame and is reassigned to a project considered doomed from the start: getting an Indian satellite into orbit around Mars. Rakesh tells the head of ISRO (played by Vikram Gokhale) that he suspects it’s his superior’s way of telling him to finally retire, marry, and start a family, but Rakesh loves India and science too damned much to do that. The conversation is a message to the audience that Rakesh will undergo zero character development during the course of the film.

Eager to make up for her mistake, Tara joins Rakesh’s Mars team. Their first problem is how to get the satellite out of Earth’s gravitational pull using a minimal amount of fuel. Tara cracks it by equating it to cooking: oil stays hot enough to fry food even after the gas is turned off, meaning their rocket need only burn fuel in intervals, not continuously. The ISRO board approves, and suddenly the project doesn’t seem doomed after all.

Rakesh and Tara round out their team with various specialists, including four women who each fill a spot on the film’s limited spectrum of possible female life options. Eka (Sonakshi Sinha) is single and eager to move to the United States. Kritika (Taapsee Pannu) is married to a soldier. Varsha (Nithya Menen) is married and pregnant. Neha (Kirti Kulhari) is initially described by Rakesh as attractive — gross, he’s her boss — but she is de-sexualized as soon as her colleagues learn that she is Muslim and divorced. She becomes a surrogate daughter to one of the two men on the team, Ananth (H. G. Dattatreya), whose own adult son lives abroad. There’s also Parmeshwar (Sharman Joshi), a superstitious virgin who gets too much screentime.

As the team’s timeline and budget shrink, they must innovate ways to get their satellite to Mars cheaper, lighter, and faster than any space organization has done before. We see how their careers and personal lives intersect — except for Rakesh, who only exists when in the presence of his colleagues.

Tara’s work-life balance subplot is the most developed and the most frustrating. Tara is responsible for managing her household by herself. Her husband Sunil is emotionally disconnected from his children. He refuses to do tasks he considers beneath him, such as waiting in line to pay an electricity bill. The film doesn’t challenge his behavior, instead presenting it as just another problem for Tara to work around. His position as head of the family is unquestioned, despite his unfitness for the role and his disinterest in it.

Sunil’s behavior fits with an overall viewpoint on gender parity that — despite its progressive veneer — makes Mission Mangal feel as though it was written by a Tim Allen sitcom character. Sunil doesn’t pay the electric bill and the family loses power, and it’s treated as a joke, instead of either a failing that jeopardizes the family’s quality of life or a deliberate act of negligence to get him out of having to do it in the future. He’s gotta be a good guy at heart since he lets his wife work, right?

This attitude infects the workplace as well. Rakesh views Tara’s ingenuity as cute, making her demonstrate their propulsion idea by frying bread in the boardroom. When she suggests using parts from an abandoned ISRO project as a way to save money, Rakesh grins to his boss and says, “Women, sir. They don’t waste anything.” There’s a needless fight sequence in which the women engineers hit some goons with their purses that is not as funny as the filmmakers think it is.

Kritika’s and Varsha’s husbands are supportive of their wives’ careers, but they appear only in cameos (by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Purab Kohli, respectively). They aren’t in the movie long enough to balance out the more regressive characters — which includes Parmeshwar, who spends the whole time hitting on his colleague, Eka.

Maybe things would’ve felt more balanced if there had been more than one woman (Nidhi Singh Dharma) on the writing or directing staff. The story moves along at a decent clip, and the characters are well-acted. The space travel elements are explained in novel ways for a general audience, and Mission Mangal‘s computer-generated effects are decent. Still, the source material is too good to result in a film this mediocre.

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In Theaters: August 23, 2019

After a terrific opening weekend, the drama Mission Mangal carries over at the following Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning Friday, August 23, 2019: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Round Lake Beach in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera in Warrenville, AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. Mission Mangal is slated to join the streaming service Hotstar in October.

Balta House also gets a second week at the River East 21, MovieMax, and South Barrington 24. It makes its streaming debut on Amazon Prime in October.

Other Indian and Pakistani movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend (all films have English subtitles):

Bollywood Box Office: August 16-18, 2019

Mission Mangal had the second best opening weekend for a Bollywood movie in North America this year. From August 16-18, 2019, the space drama earned $1,365,006 from 263 theaters ($5,190 average), according to Box Office Mojo. Adding in the film’s Thursday earnings brings Mission Mangal‘s 4-day total to $1,522,399.

Batla House fared pretty well in its opening weekend as well, especially considering the strength of its competition. The John Abraham thriller earned $208,671 from 80 theaters ($2,608 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Batla House‘s Thursday earnings bring its 4-day total to $223,018.

The two new films crushed every other Hindi movie playing in the United States over the weekend. Jabariya Jodi‘s business cratered in its second weekend, falling by 95%. The romantic comedy earned just $3,919 from 13 theaters ($301 average), bringing its total to $107,645.

Other Hindi movies still in US theaters:

  • Super 30: Week 6; $1,211 from three theaters; $404 average; $2,322,115 total
  • Judgementall Hai Kya: Week 4; $105 from two theaters; $53 average; $529,689 total

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