Befikre had a truly terrible opening weekend in North America, performing worse than some of the most notorious flops of the year. From December 9-11, 2016, it earned $488,341 from 308 theaters ($1,586 average), tying it with Fan for the third widest release of the year. Even Mohenjo Daro managed to earn more than $700,000 in its first weekend, and from 69 fewer theaters. Fitoor‘s lousy opening weekend average of $2,082 bested Befikre‘s per-theater average by quite a bit. This is, like, really bad.
[Update: Sumit Chadha told me on Twitter that Rentrak’s real theater count for both the United States and Canada is 284, and not 308 as reported by Bollywood Hungama. That puts Befikre‘s per-theater average at $1,720, which is still bad. Less than $2,000 for an opening weekend is disappointing.]
Kahaani 2 held over well in its second weekend in theaters, retaining nearly a third of its opening weekend business. It earned $86,142 from 66 theaters ($1,305 average), bringing its total to $433,790.
During its third weekend of release, Dear Zindagi took in another $132,332 from 107 theaters ($1,237 average). Its $2,326,837 total ranks it in fourth place for the year, just ahead of co-star Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan.
In its seventh weekend, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil earned $202 from two American theaters, bringing its total to $4,215,728.
Force 2 got off to a powerful start at the North American box office, especially considering its small theatrical footprint. From November 18-20, 2016, Force 2 earned $115,762 from 46 theaters ($2,517 average). Its theater count ranks 35th out of 46 Hindi films released here this year — tied with Mastizaade — yet it performed well enough to rank 27th in terms of opening weekend gross and 17th in opening weekend average. Here’s how star John Abraham’s other 2016 releases fared in their opening weekends in North America:
Dishoom: $435,497 from 111 theaters ($3,923 average)
The sequel to the super-fun action flick Force hits Chicago area theaters on November 18, 2016. John Abraham returns for Force 2, this time teaming up with Sonakshi Sinha against a villain played by Mardaani‘s Tahir Raj Bhasin.
Rock On 2, the sequel nobody wanted. During the weekend of November 11-13, 2016, Rock On 2 earned $80,139 from 95 North American theaters ($844 average). It’s one of only two Hindi films to release in more than 75 theaters here to earn less than $100,000 it is opening weekend (the other being the year’s biggest flop, Mirzya). Considering that, over the same weekend, theaters made more showing Finding Dory — which has been out for almost six months — expect Rock On 2 to lose the majority of its theaters on Friday.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil held up well for a third weekend, earning another $261,378 from 185 theaters ($1,413 average). Its North American total stands at $4,018,980.
Also in its third weekend of release, Shivaay added another $33,284 from 27 theaters ($1,233 average), bringing its total to $681,382. That’s well behind Dishoom‘s $803,195 total, meaning Shivaay will finish its run in 17th place for the year so far.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil dominated the North American box office for a second consecutive weekend. From November 4-6, 2016, ADHM earned $772,956 from 325 theaters ($2,378 average), bringing its total earnings after ten days to $3,516,129.
After opening to disappointing numbers, Shivaay held over reasonably well in its second weekend, retaining 42% of its first-weekend business. It earned $140,347 from 87 theaters ($1,613 average), bringing its ten-day total to $599,932.
Even with three big Hollywood films releasing on November 4, 2016 — Doctor Strange, Trolls, and Hacksaw Ridge — Ae Dil Hai Mushkil carries over in all eleven of the Chicago theaters in which it opened last weekend.
Last weekend’s other new release — Shivaay — didn’t fare as well as ADHM at the box office, thus it carries over in just three of its original five theaters: MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.
Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters:
Two big Diwali releases met very different fates at the North American box office during the weekend of October 28-30, 2016. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was a resounding success, taking in $2,091,290 from 331 theaters ($6,318 average). That’s already good enough for fourth place in North America for the year. Though Sultan‘s chart-topping $6 million total is out of reach, lifetime earnings in excess of $5 million are possible for ADHM if interest remains high. Even if business drops off quickly, $4 million is doable.
Moviegoers gave the cold shoulder to Ajay Devgn’s mountaineering thriller Shivaay, the weekend’s other new film. Opening in fewer than half as many theaters as ADHM — 143, to be exact — Shivaay earned just $332,423 ($2,325 average). That’s only the year’s 18th best opening weekend gross, despite Shivaay releasing into the ninth highest number of theaters (the same number of theaters as Baar Baar Dekho, which earned more than $600,000 its first weekend).
Karan Johar romantic dramas are as sure a bet in the United States and Canada as you’ll find. North America contributed almost 20% of ADHM‘s $11+ million worldwide total. In contrast, the US and Canada accounted for about 5% of Shivaay‘s $6 million global total. Knowing how much attention ADHM was going to get here, would it have been advisable to employ Hollywood’s international release strategy to Shivaay, preponing or postponing its North American release by a week? Heck, even opening it on Wednesday might have earned another $100,000. I don’t know if such a strategy would be feasible — though I reject piracy as a reason, since those people wouldn’t pay to go to the theater anyway — but it would certainly have allowed Shivaay to save face, if nothing else.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
M.S. Dhoni: Week 5; $3,153 from six theaters; $526 average; $1,823,682 total
Pink: Week 7; $702 from one theater; $1,248,883 total
31st October: Week 2; $261 from two theaters; $131 average; $8,490 total
WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS MAJOR THIRD-ACT SPOILERS. It’s tough to talk in-depth about my feelings for this film without also revealing how the plot resolves itself. If you’re spoiler-averse, bail out after the first few paragraphs. (There’s another warning below, just before the big spoilers begin.)
Approximately two hours into Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“This Heart is Complicated“), during the performance of the emotionally charged title track, one feels the first pangs of concern. How is writer-director Karan Johar going to craft a satisfying ending to his tale of unrequited love, which to this point has been compelling and unexpected? As the song ends, Johar’s film uses narrative crutches to limp along to an ending made all the more disappointing because of the story’s squandered potential.
What Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“ADHM,” henceforth) has going for it, at least early on, is a cast of interesting characters. Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) lives in London, dutifully pursuing an MBA at his dad’s request at the expense of a singing career. Ayan is absurdly wealthy, as is every other character in the film, allowing for impromptu jaunts to scenic European locales.
Ayan meets Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) at a party, and they find in each other kindred spirits fond of quoting film dialogue. A knowledge of older Bollywood movies will enhance the experience of watching ADHM, but it is not necessary. Terrific subtitle translation substitutes Western equivalents for specifically Indian references. For example, Bollywood bombshell “Sunny Leone” becomes “JLo” for the sake of international audience members. (Unfortunately, song lyrics are not subtitled in English.)
Although both are already in relationships — Alizeh with boring Faisal (Imran Abbas) and Ayan with tacky Lisa (Lisa Haydon, who is utterly hilarious in the film) — Ayan and Alizeh prefer each other’s company. Ayan begins to fall for beautiful Alizeh, but she makes it clear that she’s not interested. She’s still heartbroken over another man, Ali (Fawad Khan), and only wants Ayan’s friendship.
Ayan spends the rest of the film struggling with his unrequited feelings, distracting himself by having an affair with Saba (an incredibly sexy Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Adding Saba’s lovelorn poetry to his heartbroken music jump-starts Ayan’s singing career, propelling him out of his extended adolescence and into self-possessed adulthood.
This is where those nagging feelings begin. Ayan somehow needs to resolve his feelings for Alizeh. It would be too convenient to have Alizeh change her mind and fall for Ayan, especially since she maintains throughout that she’s not attracted to him. Finding a way to put Ayan’s feelings in narrative context presents a considerable challenge.
LAST WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE’S FINAL ACT ARE BELOW.
Unfortunately, Johar chooses the second easiest possible option: he gives Alizeh cancer. Removing Alizeh from the mortal world absolves Ayan from having to learn how to live in a world where they’re both alive yet apart. It also provides yet another frustrating example of a male writer using the death of a female character to advance the development of his male protagonist.
There are further sexist overtones to the way Ayan treats Alizeh while she is sick. He repeatedly exerts physical control over her body at the exact moment when she’s lost control of her body to cancer. Without Alizeh’s consent, Ayan removes her hat in public to reveal her hairless head. He makes her dance when she doesn’t want to. Ayan tries to kiss Alizeh, and he screams at her for rejecting his advances. He’s enraged that she won’t have sex with him, even though she doesn’t have long to live and he’s taking care of her.
That raises another point about the stupidity of the cancer subplot. Alizeh refuses to tell Ali or her family about her diagnosis, choosing to endure it alone. That’s not how cancer works. It’s an exhausting, all-hands-on-deck endurance test. Certain doctors require you to bring a guardian to help you get home from your appointment safely; they won’t let you take a cab. No one faces cancer alone willingly.
So much of ADHM is about Ayan growing out of his immaturity into the complicated realities of adult relationships, but there’s no wisdom to be found here. In the end, Johar chose the path of least resistance. He has more insight to offer than this. I’m sure of it.
The Diwali releases are here to save what has been a lackluster October at the North American box office. Director Karan Johar’s romance, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“This Heart is Complicated“) — starring Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Fawad Khan — gets the wider release of the two new Bollywood films opening in the Chicago area on October 28, 2016.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — which has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 38 min. — opens on Friday in eleven local theaters (two more theaters than Fan or Sultan):