Tag Archives: Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood Box Office: September 16-18, 2016

Pink got off to a terrific start at the North American box office. During the weekend of September 16-18, 2016, it earned $371,043 from 71 theaters ($5,226 average). That’s the seventh best opening weekend average of the year, from a film that ranked 24th out of 37 films in terms of opening weekend theater count.

Pink is star Amitabh Bachchan’s third release of the year, with each film opening in fewer theaters than the one before it. Wazir released into 127 theaters here in January, earning $575,908 in its opening weekend. In June, Te3n earned $250,677 from the 116 theaters it opened in. Releasing Pink in just 71 theaters seems like an overreaction to Te3n‘s slight underperformance. Bachchan is still enough of a draw here that his movies should open in at least 90 theaters.

Baar Baar Dekho held over reasonably well in its second weekend, losing about 77% of its opening weekend business (which isn’t as dramatic as it might seem). The time travel romance earned $141,833 from 123 theaters ($1,153 average), bringing its total earnings to $900,159.

Freaky Ali faced a more precipitous second-weekend drop, with business falling by about 84%. It took in $6,621 from fourteen theaters ($414 average) to bring its total to $64,254. As I noted last week, that’s a very respectable total for a movie that opened in just 42 theaters.

In its sixth weekend, Rustom earned $6,499 from seven theaters ($928 average), bringing its total to $1,909,782.

Naam Hai Akira closed out its third weekend with $2,732 from two theaters ($1,366 average). Its North American total earnings stand at $217,515.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

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Movie Review: Pink (2016)

pink3 Stars (out of 4)

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Pink is a clear, convincing skewering of the double standards women are held to regarding their sexuality, and an indictment of the way those standards enable violence against women.

Two vehicles speed toward Delhi late one night. One car carries three male friends, one of whom bleeds profusely from a head wound. A cab ferries three somber women, the only indicator that something is wrong being Minal’s (Taapsee Pannu) smudged lipstick.

We can guess what happened. The bleeding man, Rajveer (Angad Bedi), forced himself on Minal, who defended herself with a glass bottle. She and her roommates Andrea (Andrea Tariang) and Falak (Kirti Kulhari) hope that the guys — Rajveer, Dumpy (Raashul Tandon), and Minal’s schoolmate Vishwa (Tushar Pandey) — will leave things be.

The men seem willing to until another friend, Ankit (Vijay Verma), whips them into a frenzy of wounded male pride. They harass and torment the women, hoping to drive them out of town. When the women file a police report, the men use the political clout of Rajveer’s family to file a counter charge of attempted murder against Minal.

All of this occurs under the watchful eye of the women’s odd neighbor, Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan). He walks the neighborhood wearing a black mask and stares intimidatingly at the women’s apartment. Yet the former attorney reveals himself to be an ally, emerging from retirement to defend Minal in court.

One important note for international viewers is that the English subtitles leave much to be desired, and not just because of spoken English dialogue that doesn’t match the captioning. I understand enough Hindi to tell when translated subtitles don’t quite capture what is being said, sacrificing content for brevity, and that happens a lot in Pink.

Poor subtitling may explain why I found some parts of the story confusing. It’s unclear precisely what mental illness forced Sehgal to retire, or why he comes across as sinister early in the film. Bad translating may also be to blame for a perplexing scene late in the film featuring Falak on the witness stand.

Where director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and writer Ritesh Shah excel is in the film’s structure. They start with the aftermath of the instigating event and proceed from there, without flashbacks or man-on-the-street reactions (thank heavens). Cases of rape are almost always “he said, she said,” so the audience is limited to the same kind of evidence that a jury might have. Only during the closing credits do we actually see the events that led up to Minal braining Rajveer with the bottle.

Pannu, Kulhari, and Tariang give nuanced performances that portray the range of emotions the women experience in a realistic way. Minal is the “strong” one, but there are limits to what even she can endure. Falak’s instinct to agree to whatever terms will make their problems disappear most quickly is understandable.

Likewise, the actors playing the perpetrators portray their characters as generally normal guys who bring out the worst in each other. Vishwa is reasonable and even a little sympathetic when he’s not with his friends, though he’s clearly not strong enough to stand up to them. Rajveer isn’t a cartoon villain, but rather an entitled bully. He’s gets what he wants because no one stops him.

The morality tale exacted by the younger characters is distilled into tidy lessons by Bachchan’s character during the courtroom scenes. I’m not sure if lawyers in real Indian courtrooms are allowed to monologue as long as Sehgal does, but his words are impactful.

The movie proceeds at a cautious pace to make sure that the audience has time to absorb the moral message being doled out. For those already versed in feminism and issues of violence against women, the pacing feels slow. But Pink is a movie made to change minds, and hiring a legend like Amitabh Bachchan to deliver the message is a smart way to ensure that people listen.

[Update: Thanks to @karansingh9008 and @Djimitunchained for letting me know via Twitter that Sehgal’s illness wasn’t explained in the Hindi dialogue either.]

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Bollywood Box Office: June 10-12, 2016

Te3n‘s North American debut fell a little short of expectations. During the weekend of June 10-12, 2016, the Amitabh Bachchan thriller earned $250,677 from 116 theaters ($2,161 average). It released into the seventh largest number of theaters for the year, but its opening weekend total was only ninth best, and its opening weekend average just eleventh best. Distributor Reliance Films was probably hoping for numbers closer to what Bachchan earned in January with another thriller, Wazir, which opened with $575,908 from 127 theaters ($4,535 average).

Housefull 3 held over well in its second weekend of release. Its business fell by about two-thirds, which is actually good for this year. A movie only has to retain 20% of its opening weekend business to place in the top half of Bollywood films released in North America in 2016. The comedy added another $224,510 from 112 theaters ($2,005 average) to bring its total to $1,139,998. Thus far, Housefull 3 is performing on par with its predecessors.

I’ve written before about how — though the United States and Canada are considered one North American territory for box office reporting purposes — the countries have different taste in Bollywood films, and this weekend provided the best evidence of that yet. Canadians ignored the new release Te3n and turned out for two-week-old Housefull 3 at a margin of nearly two-to-one. Here’s the subset of Canadian data broken out from the totals above:

  • Housefull 3: $51,837 from fourteen theaters ($3,703 average)
  • Te3n: $22,088 from twelve theaters ($1,841 average)

Damn, Canadians love their broad comedies almost as much as they love their action movies! In contrast, Te3n averaged $2,198 per screen in the US, and Housefull 3 averaged $1,762.

Sarbjit played for a fourth weekend in one theater, earning $386 to bring its total to $244,274.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Te3n (2016)

Te3n3 Stars (out of 4)

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When eight-year-old Angela (Aarnaa Sharma) was kidnapped and killed eight years ago, time stopped for her grandfather, John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan). Not in a literal sense, of course, as evidenced by his increasingly stooped posture and shuffling gait. John’s wife, Nancy (Padmavathi Rao), uses a wheelchair that she didn’t need back when little Angela lived with them.

Figuratively, though, nothing has changed for John. Every day, he stops by the police station to ask if they have new leads in the case. Every day, the new police chief Sarita (Vidya Balan) tells him, “No,” with a mixture of patience and pity.

The kidnapping that turns John’s life into a daily nightmare pushes another life in a totally different direction. Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) was the police officer in charge when Angela’s case went haywire. Unable to cope with his failure, Martin became a priest. But John won’t let Martin run from the past.

By happenstance, John finds a clue about Angela’s kidnapping. Shortly thereafter, a little boy goes missing under the same circumstances as Angela. Against Martin’s will, he’s forced to act as an investigator again — examining both John’s clues from the past and Sarita’s clues from the present — to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Te3n is tense and chilling without being gory. The atmosphere is enhanced by a tremendous score by composer Clinton Cerejo. Bachchan himself sings one version of the sad song “Kyun Re,” making his character’s pain feel all the more heartbreaking.

The movie belongs to Bachchan, but his fellow actors are just as strong. Sarita is the story’s straight woman, and Balan plays her matter-of-factly. It’s not a flashy performance, nor should it be.

Same for Siddiqui’s low-key turn as the priest. Martin’s past arrogance led to catastrophic mistakes that he’s obviously learned from. In his new role, he observes more than he speaks. Yet, as Sarita correctly points out, Martin’s plan to leave things “to God” conveniently excuses the former cop’s inaction.

Bachchan’s performance is tragic and moving. Never has the superstar seemed so old, which is crucial, since that’s what Te3n is about even more than the crime — it’s about the horrors that time and age inflict upon us. It’s about getting old.

Remove the dead granddaughter from the equation, and John’s life is a pretty accurate depiction of the lives of many people in their later years. He’s not as nimble of body or mind as he once was. His world has shrunk so much that he fixates. His days are a routine of mundane chores, and he’s starting to forget to do some of them. He’s depressed.

It’s no wonder that no one takes John seriously when he keeps pressing forward with his own investigation. Even Nancy thinks that he’s lost perspective, and his refusal to cope with reality makes him a worse husband.

Director Ribhu Dasgupta uses “Stranger Danger” imagery to emphasize another age-related theme in the film: namely young parents’ concerns about their own parents’ fitness to care for their grandchildren. Both children are abducted by a hooded stranger in a black van while under the care of their grandfathers. Te3n‘s scenario is the extreme version of fears many parents have when, say, Grandpa wants to drive the kids to get ice cream or Grandma insists on babysitting even though she just had back surgery.

Te3n fails to wrap up the central mystery in a believable way, yet the volume of good elements early in the film offset its subpar ending. The movie is at its most thought-provoking when Bachchan is on screen, his posture and mannerisms emphasizing the extent to which his character has been broken by time and sadness. Enjoy Te3n for the thrills, but don’t overlook what the story is really about.

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Movie Review: Wazir (2016)

Wazir2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Wazir (“Queen,” as in the chess piece) opens with a bang but fails to earn its too-tidy ending.

The setup of Wazir is not to be missed. A montage of happy moments introduces anti-terrorism officer Daanish (Farhan Akhtar), loving husband of Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and doting father of little Noorie. While running errands with his family in Delhi, Daanish spots a high-profile terrorist who was thought to be out of the country. Daanish pursues him, with catastrophic results. The sequence is fast, intense, and jaw-dropping.

Suspended from the force and guilt-stricken, Daanish befriends Noorie’s chess teacher, Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan). From his motorized wheelchair, Panditji teaches chess to children, all of whom outclass Daanish. Panditji informs his new student that the point of studying chess isn’t necessarily to win but to learn how to learn.

Panditji has an ulterior motive in befriending Daanish. One year earlier, Panditji’s adult daughter, Nina, died under mysterious circumstances in the home of the nation’s Welfare Minister, Izaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Qureshi says that Nina accidentally fell down a flight of stairs, but Panditji claims that he could tell from the look in Qureshi’s eyes that Nina was murdered.

A look in the eye is not much to go on. While the movie presents reasons to be suspicious of Qureshi, Panditji and Daanish don’t have access to the same evidence that the audience does. All the characters have to go on is Panditji’s gut feeling.

It’s hard to believe that Daanish would risk his life and career on the hunch of a man he only recently met. Even harder to accept is the participation of Daanish’s ranking officer (played in a cameo by John Abraham) in a crazy scheme that should result in his and Daanish’s court-martial at best, their deaths at worst.

The only reason that Daanish can take such risks based on so little information is that the story refuses to impose consequences on him. After brilliantly setting up Daanish as a man struggling with the consequences of a rash action, by movie’s end, he’s free to do whatever he wants in the name of what he considers justice. Never mind that he and John Abraham maim and possibly kill innocent people in the process.

In the course of the unsatisfying climax, the truth about Nina’s death is revealed in a way that feels too convenient. It doesn’t feel earned.

That said, the performances in the film are generally good, especially by Bachchan, who looks physically broken and world-weary. Akhtar is solid, but his character’s emotional range is limited by the plot (same for Hydari’s character). Abraham is good in his cameo, as is Anjum Sharma, who plays Daanish’s reliable friend and coworker, Sartaj.

Another selling point is Wazir‘s efficient runtime of just over one hundred minutes. The movie is exactly as long as it should be to sustain tension.

While imperfect as a whole, Wazir‘s thrilling opening action sequence is almost good enough to merit a trip to the theater. Almost.

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Movie Review: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)

KabhiKhushiKabhiGham3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (“Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness“) may not be the best movie ever, but it certainly is the most movie ever. Those able to embrace the film’s excesses are rewarded with non-stop entertainment.

From the outset, K3G (the film’s popular nickname) establishes familial love as its theme. The movie opens with a wealthy man, Yash Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan), talking about the particular affection a father feels for his child. Yash’s wife, Nandini (Jaya Bachchan), stresses the unconditional nature of motherly love. They smile as they talk about their pride and joy: their son, Rahul (Shahrukh Khan). Cut to a portrait of the happy family.

Wait, who’s that other kid in the picture? The one they didn’t bother to mention? It’s their younger son, Rohan, who is a complete afterthought in his parents’ eyes.

Yash and Nandini adopted Rahul as a baby, after having trouble conceiving. When Nandini unexpectedly became pregnant with Rohan nine years later, they continued to focus all of their parental affection on Rahul, leaving young Rohan to make due with hugs from the Raichand family maid, Daijan (Farida Jalal).

Yet when Rahul is disowned for falling for a working-class gal named Anjali (Kajol), it falls on poor Rohan to try to reunite his family. He does so willingly, despite being the acknowledged second-favorite of his parents’ two kids.

Fortunately, the years spent carrying that chip on his shoulder have molded adult Rohan into an Adonis, played by Hrithik Roshan. He takes his prep school education and sleeveless shirts and heads to England to find his estranged brother.

Rohan’s quest is aided by his former childhood nemesis: Anjali’s younger sister, Pooja (Kareena Kapoor). The minute grown up Pooja is introduced, everyone else in K3G ceases to matter, because Kapoor’s fabulousness outshines them all.

Adult Pooja is the queen bee of her college, sneering at the girls and smugly brushing off the boys she deems too lowly for her to date. She’s so damned popular that she can go by the nickname “Poo” without people laughing in her face. Her wardrobe is made up exclusively of hotpants, fur shrugs, and tops that are basically a cocktail napkin held in place by a shoelace.

It cannot be overstated how amazing Poo is. Everything she does is over the top. No character has every been as bratty yet lovable. Kapoor commits to Poo’s outrageousness, and the results are hilarious.

London is where the character relationships in K3G are at their best. Shahrukh and Kajol are even more charming as a married couple then they are in the early stages of Rahul and Anjali’s relationship. Rahul and Poo banter sweetly as he acts as her protective older brother. Poo’s romantic advances toward Rohan are as funny as his rebuffs.

There are a couple of negative aspects to K3G. First is the incessant fat-shaming of young Rohan (Kavish Majmudar). Young Rahul (played by Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan) calls his little brother “fat” in every conversation he has with Rohan as a boy. Other members of the household join in, too, as do young Pooja and her pint-sized cronies. When adult Rahul realizes that the hunky guy who’s been living with him under false pretenses is his long-lost brother, the first thing he asks Rohan is how he lost so much weight.

Then there’s the creepy relationship between patriarch Yash and Naina (Rani Mukerji), the woman he’s chosen for Rahul to marry. Naina is all kinds of fabulous, in her sparkly backless dresses and midriff-baring tops. Yash is way too touchy-feely with Naina, and she only makes it worse by singing a sultry, Marilyn Monroe-style rendition of “Happy Birthday” to her would-be father-in-law.

Yet all can be forgiven thanks to the movie’s endearing absurdity, including a song that features Shahrukh dancing in front of the pyramids while sporting see-though shirts, and then pawing at Kajol while wearing various all-leather outfits. When characters aren’t celebrating, they are crying. There is so much celebrating, so much crying, and you just have to roll with the whole experience. Keep that mindset throughout Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… and you are guaranteed a great time.

Links

  • Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… at Wikipedia
  • Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… at IMDb

Movie Review: Piku (2015)

Piku3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Rather than the broad, scatological comedy hinted at by the movie’s trailers, Piku is a thoughtful, funny movie about the fraught relationship between an adult children and their ailing, aging parents.

Director Shoojit Sircar and screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi are proving to be Bollywood’s most interesting off-screen partnership. Following their surprise hit debut Vicky Donor and the somber war film Madras Cafe (for which Chaturvedi wrote the dialogue), Piku is the duo’s most refined work yet.

Deepika Padukone plays Piku, a 30-year-old Delhi architect who doubles as caretaker for her ailing 70-year-old father, Bhaskor (Amitabh Bachchan). Piku’s mother is dead, and the only help she has in caring for cranky Bhaskor is the patient servant Budhan (Balendra Singh).

Piku is a carbon copy of her dad. Both are intelligent and confident, but also stubborn, opinionated, critical, and unable to admit mistakes. Bhaskor’s blindness to his own failings is particularly troublesome. On principle, he refuses to let Piku marry, lest she waste her intellect as a stay-at-home wife. However, he sees no hypocrisy in calling her home from the office every time he imagines a rise in his blood pressure or temperature.

Their relationship is the focus of the entire film, and there isn’t a lot of action, even when father, daughter, and servant hit the road to visit the family home in Kolkata. The owner of a taxi service, Rana (Irrfan Khan), gets to observe and comment on the family dynamic when pressed into driving them on their 1,500 km journey.

Where Piku differs from many other films about family relationships is that it eschews broad themes. There are no speeches or generalizing statements about love, the importance of family, or the challenges of aging. Piku and Bhaskor don’t learn from each other or Rana; they don’t evolve.

The characters in the film are who they are, and they all know it. Bhaskor and Piku argue without creating permanent rifts. Detailed discussions of medical conditions devolve into laughter. This is a movie about accepting life as it is, making it work, and finding humor in odd places.

It’s a joy to watch the actors portray fully developed characters with such honesty, and Sircar allows the performances to shine. Instead of cutting between closeups of individual actor’s faces as one delivers a line and another reacts, Sircar shoots most of the film’s conversations so that all the actors’ faces are within the frame, simultaneously. When Bhaskor says something ridiculous, we see Piku and Rana look at each other and stifle giggles in real time, all while Budhan naps in the background.

The superb performances are further confirmation of the cast members’ immense talents. Bachchan highlights the absurdities inherent in Bhaskor without making him into a joke. Khan brings warmth and perspective into the story through Rana.

Piku teeters on the brink of unlikability without falling off, thanks to Padukone. The character is a woman whose reserve of patience has been exhausted by her father, and she doesn’t suffer anyone who makes her life harder than it already is. The qualities that make her difficult are the same that make her endearing. She wins over Rana with her wisdom and sharp humor.

Rana and Piku don’t have a typical, dramatic Bollywood love story, but it’s romantic nonetheless. For two hard-headed single people with demanding families and jobs, more drama is the last thing they want. An allegiance based on understanding and compassion is much sweeter and more satisfying.

While the film’s trailer is full of references to bowel movements, they don’t dominate the movie. There’s one visual gag — in which a sink clogged by tea leaves is meant to evoke images of something more disgusting — that should’ve been left out. The movie is too clever for such a cheap joke.

Sircar and Chaturvedi show a real understanding of the emotional complexities of the parent-child relationship as it shifts over time, and the cast is the perfect group of actors to bring the story to life. Piku is really something special.

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