Tag Archives: Aarakshan

Streaming Video News: October 30, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime because Akshay Kumar’s 2018 Independence Day release Gold is now available for streaming. It would’ve been more interesting with less Akshay. Prime also added a bunch of older Tamil and Telugu releases in the last few days, as well as my new obsession: the first season of Raja Aur Rancho, a 1996 Hindi TV show about a detective and his monkey sidekick. I’m three episodes in, and the show has already ripped off Mr. Big’s power ballad “To Be With You” for incidental music, and Raja just taught Rancho how to shoot a gun. I’m in heaven.

Prime Video India announced some 2018 releases poised to join the streaming service in the near future, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get them in the United States, too (but I can’t guarantee it). I’m keeping an eye out for the Kannada films Sankashta Kara Ganapathi and Katheyondu Shuruvagide on November 1, the Tamil thrillers Imaikkaa Nodigal on November 3 and NOTA on November 4, and the Amazon original series Mirzapur on November 16.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the 2018 Telugu film W/O Ram. The overly broad 2011 higher education drama Aarakshan expires on November 1.

Eros Now recently released Smoke, an original series starring Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Mandira Bedi, and Gulshan Devaiah, among a host of other Bollywood regulars. All eleven episodes are available when you subscribe to Eros Now directly, but I can’t seem to find it on Eros Now’s Amazon channel. If you’re considering the Amazon option, it might be worth trying it for free for seven days first.

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Streaming Video News: April 7, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with eight new additions to the streaming catalog. (Well, seven if you discount Yamla Pagla Deewana, which was added to the site prematurely last week and pulled down after a day or two. But now it’s back!) The new additions include Aarakshan, Horror Story, Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai, Krrish, Krrish 3, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, and Rangrezz. I found Aarakshan disorganized, and Krrish 3 was just okay.

With more than thirty Indian titles added in the last month — including a bunch of mainstream Bollywood films like those added today — it sure looks like Netflix is feeling the heat from Amazon’s new Heera channel, which just added the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack to its subscription service.

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2011

In 2011, Bollywood produced a number of movies that advanced the role of women in film and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling style. This post is not about those movies. This post is about the worst films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Video services like YouTube and Netflix have allowed smaller studios to bypass the theater distribution system and reach an international audience via the Internet. While the development is a welcome one, it doesn’t mean that every film available online merits viewing. Inept, low-budget stinkers like Cycle Kick, Love Express and Impatient Vivek aren’t worth it, even for free.

Neither is a showing on the big screen a guarantee of quality. Indie film I Am Singh made it into Chicago area theaters but left after just one week. Aarakshan, Thank You, Dum Maaro Dum and Mausam all had large budgets and star casts but failed to impress.

While a number of this year’s movies featured empowered female characters, Turning 30 did its best to undermine feminism. The movie — written and directed by a woman — features a lead character who spends most of the movie wallowing in self-pity after she’s dumped. Turning 30 ends with the appalling suggestion that self-respect and a happy marriage shouldn’t be as important to women as having babies.

This year’s worst Bollywood movie manages to combine all of the above offenses into one unwatchable mess. It’s sloppily made, despite having a budget large enough to pay an A-list cast. It’s sexist. As a bonus, it’s also full of racist stereotypes.

The Worst Bollywood Movie of 2011 is Rascals.

Director David Dhawan is a repeat offender, being the man responsible for my worst movie of 2009, Do Knot Disturb. Rascals — a farce about two crooks fighting for one woman’s affections — seems tailor-made for comic action set pieces. Dhawan even cast action stars Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn as the leads, but gave them little to do besides talk.

The movie’s female lead, played by Kangana Ranaut, spends the bulk of her screentime strutting around in a bikini while whining in a shrill voice: not exactly the postergirl for women’s lib.

Dhawan set Rascals in Thailand, then cast scores of blonde women to serve as gyrating backup dancers and dark-skinned African actors to play armed criminals. Were there no local Thai actors to fill those roles? Why make those casting decisions except to appeal to racist stereotypes?

All those problems aside, Dhawan’s biggest sin in Rascals is laziness. There are numerous continuity errors and bloopers that would’ve been easy to rectify, but Dhawan didn’t bother. Perhaps he thinks his target audience members — misogynists who find two men slapping each other hilarious — don’t care about stuff like a plot that makes sense. Maybe he thinks they’ll pay their money to see heroes like Dutt and Devgn on screen no matter how stupid the story.

I’d like to believe that we moviegoers are smarter than that.

Previous Worst Movies Lists

In Theaters August 26, 2011

New theatrical releases are on hold for another week in anticipation of the Salman Khan/Kareena Kapoor-starrer Bodyguard next Friday. Until then, the selection of Bollywood films in Chicago area theaters is limited to Aarakshan at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara at the Golf Glen 5 only. ZNMD‘s U.S. earnings have surpassed $3 million.

This downtime is a good chance to catch up on movies from earlier this year that you may have missed. Netflix recently added Thank You to its streaming catalog, and Yamla Pagla Deewana and Chalo Dilli are now available through the rental service on DVD. YouTube has an impressive selection of free Hindi movies, including a smaller release I reviewed earlier this month: Cycle Kick.

Other Indian flicks showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Telugu films Dhada, Kandireega and Money Money More Money and the Tamil movie Rowthiram.

Movie Review: Aarakshan (2011)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

As a general rule, a movie should only have one main idea or theme; anything more complex than that, and the messages can get muddled. Filmmaker Prakash Jha overreaches with Aarakshan (“Reservation”), his meditation on the failings of the Indian education system.

The title refers to the Indian government’s version of affirmative action, by which a percentage of government jobs and spots at public universities are held for members of the lowest caste. The policy aims to level the playing field for people denied such opportunities in the past, to the chagrin of some in the middle and upper classes who feel the policy denies them opportunities in the present.

In Aarakshan, the policy pits two college friends against one another: Sushant (Prateik), who opposes it, and Deepak (Saif Ali Khan), himself a member of the lowest caste. Caught in the middle is Deepak’s girlfriend, Poorbi (Deepika Padukone), whose father, Professor Anand (Amitabh Bachchan), runs the college they attend.

When Anand expresses his belief that the policy of reservation could have some merit, it gives his opponents on the school board a chance to oust him. He’s replaced by his slimy vice principal, Mithilesh (Manoj Bajpayee), who’s gotten rich by running a chain of tutoring centers on the side. Mithilesh doesn’t show up to teach his college courses, which forces kids to pay to go to his tutoring centers if they want any hope of passing the class. Evil genius.

Despite the title’s nod to the more emotionally charged social issue, Aarakshan is primarily about education’s change from a right to a marketable commodity. Reservation is hardly brought up during the second half of the film, as Anand wages a personal battle against those who would turn his college into a diploma factory.

This is where Jha gets in to trouble. Aarakshan tries to be too many things. It’s a drama about a friendship riven by a controversial policy. It’s a warning against the diminishing quality of education. It’s a story of one man struggling against a corrupt system.

There’s no way to successfully shoehorn so many themes into one movie. Characters are reduced to giving long-winded speeches defending their positions, accompanied by dramatic music. (Wayne Sharpe’s background score is one of the film’s few highlights.) It’s an artless way of making a point, and it inflates the movie’s runtime to a boring 2 hours and 45 minutes.

What’s more unforgivable is that, during all that time, only one character undergoes any development. Sushant realizes that belittling Deepak’s heritage has cost him his two best friends, so he relents his opposition to reservation. Had the movie focused on the three friends, the development would be significant.

But, because of the sweeping societal criticism Jha invokes, it’s notable that none of the movie’s bureaucrats or officials have a change of heart by film’s end. All remain steadfast in their opposition to reservation and their support of for-profit education.

During the climactic showdown, Anand emerges victorious simply because his supporters outnumber those of his opponents on that particular day (and thanks to a little help from a deus ex machina). He gains no converts, and all of the bureaucrats with their bulldozers and eviction notices live to fight another day. The system doesn’t change, nobody has learned anything, and there are no consequences for being on the right or wrong side of the issue.

With significant editing, Jha might have been able to make a statement with Aarakshan. But the movie is too dense and ponderous to provoke any meaningful consideration of educational policies. If the characters within the movie aren’t prompted to change their minds, why should the audience?

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In Theaters August 19, 2011

No new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area the weekend beginning Friday, August 19, but two Bollywood hits remain in theaters. After earning $342,801 during its opening weekend in U.S. theaters, Aarakshan gets a second week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

With its total U.S. earnings closing in on $3 million, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara gets a sixth week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Dhada (Telugu), Jihne Mera Dil Luteya (Punjabi), Kandireega (Telugu) and Rowthiram (Tamil).

Opening August 12: Aarakshan

Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone star in Aarakshan, a socio-political drama opening in Chicago area theaters on August 12, 2011.

Aarakshan debuts on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, which lists the movie under its English title, “Reservation.” Theater chains list the film’s runtime as either 2 hrs. 15 min. or 2 hrs. 45 min.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara continues to draw crowds, earning $2,855,673 during its four weeks in U.S. theaters. It hangs around for another week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. Singham carries over at the Golf Glen 5.

The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying Dhada (Telugu), Kandireega (Telugu) and Rowthiram (Tamil) this weekend.