I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the premiere of the Netflix Original Marathi movie 15 August. A bunch of Hindi movies expire from the service March 30, so tonight is your last chance to watch these titles:
Shah Rukh Khan’s production company Red Chillies Entertainment has a streaming deal with Netflix that lasts through the end of this year, and I’ve wondered when Zero is going to wind up on Netflix. I checked on the other RCE titles produced since the deal was signed, and Dear Zindagi, Jab Harry Met Sejal, and Ittefaq all became available for streaming five months after their theatrical release. The only exception was Raees, which appeared on the service after four months. We can likely expect Zero to join Netflix at the end of May, maybe end of April. Badla is also an RCE production, so look for that in early July, possibly early June.
Housefull 3 couldn’t top the success of Housefull 2 in North America. During the weekend of June 3-5, 2016, Housefull 3 earned $674,890 from 137 theaters ($4,926 average). That’s the fourth best weekend for a Hindi film in North America in 2016, but it’s $170,000 less than what Housefull 2 earned in its opening weekend in 2012. In fact, Housefull 3 earned just $30,000 more than what the original Housefull earned when it debuted on 55 fewer screens back in 2010.
Like its predecessors, Housefull 3 is going to earn over a million bucks in the United States and Canada, probably in the $1,350,000 range. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it does clarify expectations for a potential fourth Housefull film.
The weekend’s highest grossing Indian film was the Telugu movie A..Aa, which opened in 126 American theaters on Thursday and earned $1,669,292 ($13,248 average over its first four days).
Other Hindi films still in US theaters:
Sarbjit: Week 3; $2,350 from seven theaters; $336 average; $242,790 total
Azhar: Week 4; $16 from one theater; $193,099 total
Baaghi: Week 6; $10 from one theater; $437,243 total
Hindi films languished at the North American box office over the weekend, overshadowed by big budget Hollywood releases. From May 27-29, 2016, the four Bollywood movies still showing here earned a combined total of just $32,643. Theaters can’t wait for Friday’s release of Housefull 3, which will undoubtedly follow in its predecessors’ footsteps and earn over a million bucks.
The lion’s share of the weekend’s earnings went to Sarbjit, which took in $31,594 from 37 theaters ($854 average) in its second weekend of release. It posted a 76% drop in business from its first weekend, which is still better than Azhar‘s 85% plunge. Sarbjit‘s total North American earnings stand at $230,613.
Other Hindi movies still playing in the United States:
Azhar: Week 3; $960 from four theaters; $280 average; $191,847 total
Baaghi: Week 5; $69 from one theater; $437,098 total
1920 London: Week 4; $20 from one theater; $24,854 total
No new Hindi films are releasing in the Chicago area on May 27, 2016, which is probably a good thing with theaters devoting as many screens as possible to the new Alice in Wonderland and X-Men sequels. MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington are carrying over Azhar and Sarbjit, which also gets a second weekend at the Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.
Other Indian movies showing in Chicagoland over Memorial Day weekend:
Last week, I wrote of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: “Even her lowest earning movies are average performers compared to the rest of the field.” That proved true once again with Sarbjit, which earned $130,199 from 83 theaters ($1,569 average) in North America during the weekend of May 20-22, 2016. It had the tenth best opening weekend of 2016 out of a field of 21 films.
While that opening weekend performance seems okay, by a number of metrics, it’s not. Sarbjit debuted a week after another biopic — the Emraan Hashmi-starrer Azhar — earned almost the exact same amount ($127,266) from 32 fewer theaters, with a per-screen average of $2,495. Sarbjit‘s 83 theaters represent the lowest number of opening weekend screens for one of Rai Bachchan’s movies since 2008’s Sarkar Raj opened in 70 North American theaters. More significantly, Sarbjit‘s opening weekend total is Rai Bachchan’s lowest since 2003’s Kuch Naa Kaho, and that film only released in 32 theaters.
There could be multiple contributing factors at play, such as audience fatigue from consecutive biopics, or the fact that Rai Bachchan became the face of promotions for a movie in which she doesn’t even play the title character, but there’s something more going on here. Rai Bachchan’s presence in a movie no longer guarantees a $1 million haul, the way it did during her heyday. Surely she’ll have better luck with her next project: director Karan Johar’s multi-starrer Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
In its second weekend, Azhar‘s business fell 85% from its opening weekend. Azhar earned $19,130 from 35 theaters ($547 average), bringing its total to $185,695.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Baaghi: Week 4; $3,329 from six theaters; $555 average; $435,687 total
Another Bollywood biopic comes to Chicago area theaters on May 20, 2016. In Sarbjit, Randeep Hooda plays an Indian farmer imprisoned for accidentally crossing the border into Pakistan. The story is told from the perspective of the main character’s sister, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
The biopic Azhar opened very well in North America, especially given the modest expectations governing its release here. During the weekend of May 13-15, 2016, Azhar earned $127,266 from 51 theaters ($2,495 average). While those may not seem like blockbuster numbers, consider this: 13 Hindi movies have released in more theaters than Azhar this year, but Azhar‘s opening weekend total ranks tenth for 2016, and its opening weekend average ranks seventh. No other Hindi movie to open in fewer than 80 theaters has averaged more than $2,000 per screen in its opening weekend. Of the ten other films released into fewer than 80 theaters this year, the second best opening weekend average is just $1,157 (Rocky Handsome, which opened in 74 theaters). Distributors were cautious given that Emraan Hashmi isn’t a huge draw here, but Azhar turned out to be a modest hit.
Other Hindi movies still showing in the United States and Canada:
Baaghi: Week 3; $19,342 from 27 theaters; $716 average; $423,418 total
Fan: Week 5; $5,018 from six theaters; $836 average; $2,301,200 total
1920 London: Week 2; $984 from five theaters; $197 average; $24,084 total
A film about the scandal-plagued life of a former Indian cricket captain deserves a grand scale, but Azhar feels like a made-for-TV movie.
I can’t testify to the accuracy of Azhar‘s story, as I know nothing about Mohammad Azharuddin. I never saw him play a minute of cricket, which puts me in the same boat as almost every Indian under the age of twenty.
That said, Azhar requires no foreknowledge, since all the dialogue is on the nose. Here’s how the cricket chairman drops the bombshell on Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) the night before the captain’s hundredth appearance for the national team: “Azhar, I have some bad news for you. You have been accused of match fixing.”
In case the dialogue isn’t direct enough, the actors go out of their way to make things extra clear. When Azhar decides to fight the cricket association’s lifetime ban in court, the prosecutor, Meera (Lara Dutta), tries to question M.K. Sharma (Rajesh Sharma), the bookie accused of bribery. She tells Sharma that she wants dirt on Azhar, causing Sharma to make an exaggerated gulping noise, leap out of his chair, and whip his head over each shoulder to see if anyone is behind him.
During the course of the eight-year-long court case, we get flashbacks to Azhar’s earlier life, including his relationship with his grandfather, his marriage to Naureen (Prachi Desai), and his affair with Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri). The romantic plotlines make Azhar seem like a jerk, in which case he’d better be a helluva cricket player.
This brings me to the movie’s single biggest failing: it makes cricket look totally boring. According to Azhar, cricket is just a sequence of slow-rolling ground balls, with a few balls occasionally bopped into the stands. There’s no tension or excitement whatsoever.
Director Tony D’Souza uses so many tight shots during the cricket scenes that it’s impossible to tell what a match actually looks like. The entire frame is filled by a ball skittering past an outstretched hand or a ball plucked out of mid-air by another hand. Did the fielder have to run to catch it? How high did he jump? Where were the other fielders in relation to the play? D’Souza’s direction offers no clues.
The director applies this same framing to Azhar, so we never get a sense of how good a player he is. Hashmi spends most of his time on the field standing with his hands on his hips. Never has an actor playing a star athlete seemed so non-athletic.
Another problem with the main character is that he looks exactly the same throughout, whether Azhar is supposed to be twenty or almost fifty. It’s impossible to tell by looking at Hashmi when any given scene is taking place.
This is not one of Hashmi’s best performances, but it seems as though he’s doing what’s asked of him. D’Souza’s style doesn’t allow for subtlety. Periodic reverb on the dialogue recording further distracts from the film’s performances.
Neither Desai nor Fakhri have much to do, though Desai proves herself the better of the two at crying. Kunaal Roy Kapur is proficient in the thankless role of Azhar’s lawyer. Dutta’s no-nonsense performance is the best in the film.
There are a lot of people in the world who never witnessed Mohammad Azharuddin at his peak. We don’t know him. Azhar doesn’t give us a compelling reason to care.