Nineteen Punjabi movies expire from Netflix on October 1. That’s half of Netflix’s current Punjabi-language catalog. For the full list of all of the Indian titles expiring in October, check out the “Expiring Soon” section near the top of my Netflix page.
Today, Amazon announced its festive season lineup of big Indian (and English) titles releasing over the next couple of months. Sardar Udham (Hindi) and Udan Pirappe (Tamil) are set to debut in October, with Jai Bhim (Tamil) coming in November. Release dates for the rest of the titles — including the Malayalam movie Bhramam, Season 2 of One Mic Stand, and Dybbuk, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film Ezra — have yet to be announced.[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]
Finally, I finished adding all of the Hotstar content currently available on Hulu in all languages to my new list of Bollywood movies on Hulu. For now, the only sizable movie catalogs are in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, with the Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, and Marathi catalogs consisting almost entirely of “Hotstar Specials” releases. It’s worth noting that dozens of the movies listed as currently streaming in the United States on this list from Hotstar aren’t actually available. We’ll see if they’re added over time.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s additions of the 2021 Telugu movie Thimmarusu and the first season of the Hindi series Kota Factory (a series Netflix acquired in order to produce a second season). Other new additions include a bunch of returning titles from Balaji Motion Pictures, which had expired from Netflix on November 15, 2020:
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian titles added in the last week — mostly Tamil films released from 2016-2020. Prime also debuted a new Tamil comedy competition series LOL: Enga Siri Paappom, in which comics are challenged not to laugh at each other’s ridiculous antics.
Today, Hotstar launched the new 8-episode historical series The Empire, starring Kunal Kapoor:
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Before writing, directing, and producing Bhuj: The Pride of India, Abhishek Dudhaiya directed over 1,000 TV episodes. Perhaps that’s why Bhuj‘s story feels like it would have been better served as a miniseries. Dudhaiya focuses so narrowly on action sequences and requisite patriotic war drama plot points that the film lacks emotional resonance.
Dudhaiya’s screenplay is based on real-life events from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, when Pakistani bombers destroyed the airstrip at Bhuj Air Force Base. Commanding Officer Vijay Karnik enlisted the help of 300 villagers to rebuild the strip and make it operational again. Other important characters are based on real people as well.
After a brief recap of the events leading up to the war, the story begins with Pakistani leaders devising a plan to distract India’s attention from the fighting in East Pakistan by attacking India’s western border. On December 8, 1971, warplanes from West Pakistan bombard the airstrip at Bhuj. Amidst smoke and explosions, Commanding Officer Vijay Karnik (Ajay Devgn) himself mans anti-aircraft guns to repel the attack, as many of his subordinate soldiers lie wounded around him.
Leading with such a visually dramatic scene isn’t an uncommon screenwriting choice, but it puts Dudhaiya in a bind. By December 8, Pakistan’s bombing of Western military sites had already been underway for several days, forcing the screenplay to flash back to earlier attacks in order to introduce other characters and locations important to the story. There are flashbacks within flashbacks to give characters backstory that further confuse the sequence of events.
Vijay’s storyline has a scene from December 3 — the day Pakistan first started its bombing campaign — that makes a more sensible opener. Vijay and his wife Usha (Pranitha Subhash) celebrate their wedding anniversary at a party with all the base’s officers and their families. Everyone dances, unaware that Pakistani jets are speeding toward them. As the romantic song “Hanjugam” ends, bombs fall on the adjacent airfield, sending civilians scrambling for cover and soldiers running to their posts. The scene establishes the camaraderie among the soldiers at the base and shows us who Vijay is trying to protect.
Sadly, sense of place and character motivation are low on Dudhaiya’s priority list. Other major characters like fighter pilot Vikram Singh Baj (Ammy Virk), Army scout Ranchordas Pagi (Sanjay Dutt), and Army officer Nair (Sharad Kelkar) — tasked to hold a strategic base with too few soldiers — get about 30 seconds of backstory each. At least Sonakshi Sinha’s village leader Sunderben kills a CGI leopard, while spy Heena Rehman (Nora Fatehi) gets a full training montage.
These are all characters that would have benefited from a longer series format, rather than a two-hour movie. Heena’s story is particularly ripe for exploration. She became a mole for India in order to avenge the death of her spy brother at the hands of Pakistani military intelligence head Mohammad Hussain Omani (Pawan Shankar). Heena’s assignment requires her to act as Omani’s girlfriend. How does she feel about having to sleep with the man who murdered her brother? Bhuj doesn’t ask. The only emotion characters are allowed to feel is patriotism.
The film’s priorities are action focused. Besides the bombings and air battles, there are a lot of hand-to-hand fight scenes. Pagi single-handedly kills about 100 men. The emphasis on individual physical prowess makes Bhuj blend in with other hero-centric Hindi films, like those where one honest man cleans up corruption by himself.
All of the action takes place without a sense of geography. Vijay needs to repair Bhuj’s airstrip so that Vikram can land a plane full of reinforcements from Jamnagar who will drive to Vighakot, the base that Nair and Pagi are trying to defend. There’s no sense of how far the bases are from each other, or how close Bhuj is to Sunderben’s village. Characters just show up wherever they need to be whenever they need to be there. Vikram miraculously crash lands within walking distance of his base after a dogfight with a Pakistani fighter plane.
Inscrutable geography is important, because Vijay has less than 24 hours to repair the airstrip. Though onscreen titles consistently show the location name and date when the scene changes, they don’t show the time. There is a ticking clock, but the audience can’t see it.
In real-life, repairs to the airstrip took three days. Adding that to the fact that Pakistani’s bombing campaign lasted over a week reinforces that Bhuj would have made a better series — especially in the hands of a director with no feature film experience but solid TV chops.
Akshay Kumar’s period drama BellBottom released into theaters in India and abroad on August 19, 2021, heralding what could be the resumption of regular Hindi theatrical releases (fingers crossed). While cinema restrictions still in place in India limited the film’s earnings potential there, BellBottom‘s North American collections provide some insight into conditions here as well.
According to Bollywood Hungama, BellBottom earned a total of $274,753 from 100 theaters ($2,748 average) in North America in its opening four days. Here’s how those numbers break down by country:
USA – $148,074 from 74 screens = $2,001 average per screen
Canada – $126,679 from 26 screens = $4,872 average per screen
What immediately jumps out is Canada’s contribution of 46% of the total earnings. That’s a really high percentage. But what should we expect from a typical Akshay Kumar movie in North America?
Looking back at Kumar’s four 2019 releases — Kesari, Mission Mangal, Housefull 4, and Good Newwz — here’s what an average opening weekend looked like:
240 theaters — 30 theaters in Canada and 210 in the US
$1.1 million total earnings
24% of the earnings from Canada
The amazing thing to me is that the number of theaters showing BellBottom in Canada is about what you’d expect it to be in non-COVID times. (Mission Mangal also opened in 26 theaters.) Compare that to BellBottom opening in about 1/3 of the theaters it would have in the United States, and you can see two very different theatrical landscapes at present.
So what does this mean for other Bollywood movies on the release calendar? Temper your expectations for what you can earn in North America. While earnings in Canada are well below what one would expect under pre-COVID conditions, the country’s theater landscape is downright robust compared to the anemic earnings and small footprint available to Hindi films in the US. BellBottom‘s $2,748 per-screen average is respectable compared to Hollywood theatrical releases right now, but that’s for a highly anticipated film from a marquee star. A smaller movie like Chehre will earn much, much less. I suspect it’s going to be a while before the US is again a big contributor to a Hindi film’s box office haul.
The appeal of many murder mysteries is the final revelation of how the crime was committed (especially if the killer gets away with it). Though Haseen Dillruba (“Beautiful Beloved“) has a fiery payoff, the question of why the deed was done is far more interesting.
The film opens with an explosion in a residential neighborhood in the small city of Jwalapur, north of Delhi. Rani (Taapsee Pannu) is outside her home when a gas cylinder in her kitchen ignites. She identifies her husband’s body by his wrist bearing a tattoo of her name — the only part of him that hasn’t been incinerated.
Police Inspector Rawat (Aditya Srivastava) is convinced that Rani murdered her husband Rishu (Vikrant Massey), though she protests her innocence. Rawat’s interrogation triggers flashbacks to various points in the couple’s relationship, which Rani describes as, “sometimes good, sometimes not so good.”
Rani and Rishu get together via an arranged marriage. Both of them seem to have gotten through life doing the bare minimum to make themselves desirable marriage candidates, but not doing much to make themselves complete people. Shy Rishu has a stable engineering job, and Rani is pretty and a capable cosmetologist. Neither has any experience in communicating with a romantic partner nor any instinct for nurturing intimacy. Living with Rishu’s parents only adds to the pressure on the new couple.
All of Rani’s ideas about romance come from books by her favorite author Dinesh Pandit, who writes pulp novels about small-town murder mysteries. Rani quotes Pandit so often that the fictitious author is almost a character in his own right.
When Rani blabs about her and Rishu’s non-existent sex life to her family, Rishu gives her the silent treatment. This leaves Rani lonely and vulnerable when Rishu’s beefcake cousin Neel (Harshvardhan Rane) comes to stay with the family. Neel is as exciting as Rishu is mild, and he’s more than happy to give Rani the attention that Rishu withholds from her.
It takes Rani’s affair with Neel for both Rani and Rishu to become interesting people. It strains credulity a bit that both members of the married couple are so bland beforehand, but the wild trajectories their personalities take from that point is what makes the movie really intriguing. Rishu develops a violent streak and Rani a corresponding capacity to endure punishment. It’s nuts, but it works.
It’s worth considering how problematic Rishi’s violence toward Rani is within the context of the film. For some, a blanket condemnation of all violence perpetrated by men against women will make Rishu’s actions untenable. Within the world created by director Vinil Mathew and screenwriter Kanika Dhillon, the sequence where Rishu repeatedly tries to injure Rani is less about his actions and more about Rani’s willingness (or desire, even) to endure any punishment to atone for her transgression.
The sequence also highlights how screwed up Rani and Rishu actually are when forced to reckon with intense emotions. It’s something that is hinted at early in the film via Amar Mangrulkar’s unusual score, which ping-pongs between somber and melodramatic to sitcom-esque wacky, depending on the scene. The musical choices are slightly off-putting but effective at establishing that this is not a movie about an ordinary couple.
All three leads are effective in their roles, with Rane embracing his eye-candy avatar. Pannu is competent as always. Massey stands out as an ordinary man with a dark edge he didn’t realize he possessed. Haseen Dillruba isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly entertaining.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the early addition of Kriti Sanon’s film Mimi, which was supposed to make its global debut tomorrow. When a copy of the movie leaked online earlier this week, Netflix made it available for streaming immediately. According to Bollywood Hungama, the snafu has made Netflix reevaluate their deal with Mimi‘s producers, Maddock Films and Jio Studios.
Netflix also dropped the trailer for their new Indian Original sketch comedy competition Comedy Premium League, episodes of which debut on August 20. The show format sounds a lot like South Korea’s Comedy Big League, which also features teams of comedians competing for audience votes. One recurring segment on CBL is “Psychorus,” in which a pair of ridiculously dressed comics say nonsensical things to try and mess up a singers while they perform. Here’s Psychorus screwing with Taemin from Shinee as he sings his hit “Move“:
Hotstar also dropped a video this week announcing its slate of upcoming movies and shows, headlined by Ajay Devgn’s war drama Bhuj: The Pride of India (debuting August 13) and Saif Ali Khan’s supernatural comedy Bhoot Police (coming September 17). Variety has descriptions of all of the titles in the lineup, which includes a few returning series. Here’s Hotstar’s promo video:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s additions of the Tamil comedy Sarbath and the Hindi/English coming-of-age film Skater Girl. The skatepark that was constructed in Rajasthan for the filming of Skater Girl was left up and is free for public use.
This month’s paucity of new Indian releases got me wondering about the fate of the titles from Netflix’s big March 3 announcement of their slate of upcoming projects. The announcement included 13 feature films, 15 new and returning series, and 13 unscripted movies, series, and comedy specials.
Even though fiction series made up the bulk of the titles announced, only two have gotten release dates. I’m not sure if this was always the plan or if this is a result of pandemic-related production delays. It could be the former — a series starring Mike Myers just started filming, two years after it was announced — but recent COVID-19 shutdowns had to affect at least some of the shows (not to mention the five stand-up comedy specials that were announced).
Despite a whole lineup of series and shows, could this month’s anemic offerings be the start of an Indian content drought at Netflix? The answer is… maybe? Most of 2021’s few theatrical releases — like Roohi and Madam Chief Minister — are already on Netflix or another streaming service. But maybe the titles from the March 3 announcement are further along in production than I assume. Still, I won’t be surprised if Netflix starts throwing cash at distributors to acquire some of the titles that have been waiting for a theatrical release since last spring. The theatrical release calendar is awfully crowded, and several movies have been postponed more than once. Might be time for distributors to cash in and help bulk up Netflix’s catalog.
Hotstar has today’s other new Hindi feature release: the road trip musical Shaadisthan.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a handful of Indian titles that have been added in the last week. I’m undertaking a massive weeding effort on the Amazon page, pulling entries that are no longer available free with a Prime membership. By the time I’m done, the page will be less than half the length of its peak several months ago.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s debut of the new Hindi comedy Hello Charlie, starring Jackie Shroff and a gorilla. The Kannada film Yuvarathnaa landed on Prime yesterday, even though it’s still playing in theaters in the United States and India. Another film that recently ended its theatrical run — Jathi Ratnalu — joins Prime on April 11, followed by the Malayalam movie The Priest on April 14.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with yesterday’s surprise addition of the horror comedy Roohi, starring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. Earlier this week, Netflix added a second collection of episodes of the wedding reality series The Big Day and the 2021 Tamil film Mandela. New Indian titles coming to Netflix next week include a bunch of cartoons for kids on April 12, the Telugu movie Uppena on April 13, and the premiere of the Netflix Original Hindi film Ajeeb Daastaans on April 16.
Last but not least, yesterday Hotstar debuted Abhishek Bachchan’s semi-biographical stock market drama The Big Bull. With Hindi theatrical releases on hold for the time being, it’s nice to have a weekend with multiple new Bollywood movies to choose from!
[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]
Roohi opens on Thursday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville. (Streaming partner: Netflix) It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min. All three theaters offer Roohi as a Private Rental option, priced at $249 at the River East 21 and South Barrington 24 and $199 at the Naperville 16.
I am avoiding movie theaters until I get the COVID-19 vaccine, which likely won’t be until this summer. I look forward to reviewing Roohi and other upcoming Hindi theatrical releases when they become available for streaming in the US.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend: