Tag Archives: Baar Baar Dekho

Book Review: Bollywood Kitchen (2017)

Author, screenwriter, and producer Sri Rao just released a new book called Bollywood Kitchen: Home-Cooked Indian Meals Paired with Unforgettable Bollywood Films. Trust me: you want this book.

Bollywood Kitchen is organized as a dinner-and-a-movie entertainment guide. Rao chooses one of his favorite recent Hindi films and pairs it with entrées and sides designed to complement one another–and the movie. For example, Kaahani‘s entry features recipes for kati rolls, which originated in Calcutta, where the movie is set. The meal for the family film Chillar Party consists of Rao’s take on fish sticks and healthy vegetables with a kid-friendly twist.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bollywood Kitchen is how extraordinarily colorful it is. Rao’s publishers secured the rights to use images from all of the films he mentions, so the book is full of amazing posters and stills. On top of that, the food is beautifully photographed.

One of the many gorgeous movie stills featured in Bollywood Kitchen.

The second thing you’ll notice is the effort Rao put into making his ideas for dinner-and-a-movie night doable. The films he selected are generally available on streaming services or for rent or purchase from places like iTunes. My public library has nineteen of the twenty-two films featured available on DVD or Blu-ray. For each entry in the book, Rao suggests three similar movies also worth checking out.

Rao’s recipes are easy to execute, as well. It’s clear that his goal is to get his readers cooking, while leaving them with enough time and energy left to actually enjoy the movies. Chickpea dishes use canned beans, not dry beans that need to be soaked for hours. Rao suggests time-savers like using pre-cut squash from the grocery store.

The very first recipe in Bollywood Kitchen requires zero cooking skills. Rao’s “Bollywood Popcorn” puts a spicy twist on a movie-night staple, and all that’s required is mixing together some common pantry spices to make a topping for do-it-yourself microwave popcorn in a paper lunch bag. The novelty of the lunch bag alone was worth it to me (not to mention it tasted great).

Using ingredients found in most American homes plays an important role in the story of Bollywood Kitchen. As he mentions in the book’s introduction, Rao was born and raised in small-town Pennsylvania to Indian parents who moved to the United States in the late 1950s. Decades before the internet made accessing products from around the globe a snap, Indian-American home cooks had to get creative, adapting their family recipes to use ingredients easily found in major grocery stores. This often meant using spices common in Mexican food — such as cayenne in place of Indian red chilli powder — or substituting ground beef for hard-to-find mutton.

These aren’t necessarily dishes that would be served in a restaurant, so the only way to taste them is with an invitation to someone’s home. Now that Indian ingredients are more accessible, I wonder if Indian-American home cooks have adjusted their recipes or if they’ve stuck with the recipes they used in the decades before the internet? Whatever the case, Rao’s description of his upbringing gave me greater insight into the lives of my high school classmates and the compromises their parents made to fit into an America that was not nearly as interested in diversity as it is today.

Confession time: I am not a good cook. I’m a good baker, but the idea of being responsible for dinner stresses me out. My wonderful husband, Greg, has handled most of the cooking in our household for the last dozen years, for which he has my eternal gratitude. Nevertheless, I actually made a couple of the dishes from Bollywood Kitchen, and they turned out great!

I chose two recipes crafted to accompany the gripping thriller NH10 — Northern Indian fare that one might find in the region where the movie is set. I started with something in my wheelhouse: kheer. Rao warns that Indian desserts can be quite sweet, so I only used about two-thirds of the recommended amount of sweetened condensed milk. The resulting dish was perfectly sweet (to my taste) and had a wonderful creamy texture, slightly thinner than American-style rice pudding.

One word of caution is that most of Rao’s recipes are designed to feed from four to six people, and with generous portions at that. I wound up eating more kheer in a week than one human should reasonably consume, not that I’m complaining.

The other dish I made was Rao’s chana masala, and it was amazing. The spicy chickpeas make for a hearty vegetarian entrée, especially when accompanied by naan. Greg and I have vowed to make it one of our go-to dishes; it’s that tasty. If someone with as limited a skillset in the kitchen as I have can make something as delicious as this chana masala, the recipe has to be good.

The cherry on top is that Rao has wonderful taste in movies. Almost all of the films featured in Bollywood Kitchen — big hits like Kapoor & Sons and gems like Haider — wound up on my “Best Of” lists for their respective release years. As the producer of New York and Badmaash Company and the writer of Baar Baar Dekho, Rao has enough experience in the film industry to know a good flick when he sees one.

Bollywood Kitchen is a must-have book for hardcore Hindi-film fans, but the movies featured offer a great introduction for any Bollywood newbies. The recipes themselves suit those new to cooking Indian dishes at home, although even those who prepare Indian food regularly will appreciate the meal-planning that Rao’s done. This really is a terrific book. Get it here.

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Bollywood Box Office: October 7-9, 2016

If you’re squeamish, you may not want to look at the gruesome opening weekend numbers for Mirzya in North America. From October 7-9, 2016, Mirzya earned $54,717 from 111 theaters ($493 average). The modern adaptation of a Punjabi folktale fared significantly better in Canada, which contributed 28% of the gross earnings ($15,111) from 14% of the total theaters (16). The per-theater average in Canada was $944, versus $417 in the United States. [Update: Sumit Chadha of Reliance Entertainment told me via Twitter that the total number of theaters was 95 — 79 in the US and 16 in Canada. That would make the US per-theater average $501 and the combined average $575. Even with the revised numbers, Canada’s contribution was still outsized.]

It is really, really hard to launch new Bollywood stars in North America. Heck, even films starring well known supporting actors in lead roles struggle to make money here (looking at you, Banjo). Thus, it made absolutely zero sense to release Mirzya — which stars newbies Harshvardhan Kapoor and Saiyami Kher — into 111 theaters. The ceiling is simply too low. Even if Mirzya had earned the exact same amount from half as many theaters, that would have only boosted its per-theater average to about $1,000, which is still way below average.

Every other Hindi film to open in more than 100 theaters here this year earned at least $250,000 in its first weekend, with per-theater averages greater than $2,000. As enjoyable as Mirzya is, it was never going to hit those benchmarks. Better to have started with a smaller footprint and added theaters based on demand. With no such demand, this opening weekend just looks awful.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story held up okay in its second weekend. It earned another $277,863 from 259 theaters ($1,073 average). Its total earnings of $1,611,755 rank it in seventh place for the year so far in North America. Its second-weekend business fell about 75% from its opening weekend, a sharper drop than the six films ranked above it on this year’s list, including Fan, which saw its second-weekend business drop by 74%. M.S. Dhoni also earned $76,000 less than Fan did in its second weekend, despite showing in ten more theaters.

Pink continued to put up a fight in its fourth weekend in North America. It earned another $31,019 from 22 theaters ($1,410 average), bringing its total earnings to $1,210,483. It needs less than $25,000 to overtake Udta Punjab for tenth place for the year, and less than $30,000 to bump Mohenjo Daro out of ninth place.

Baar Baar Dekho stuck around for a fifth weekend in one theater, earning $340 and bringing its total to $981,226.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: September 30-October 2, 2016

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story got off to a cracking start in North American theaters. From September 30-October 2, 2016, the sports biopic earned $1,096,026 from 282 theaters ($3,887 average). It’s only the third movie of the year to earn more than $1 million in its opening weekend here, behind Sultan and Fan. M.S. Dhoni‘s opening weekend per-theater average ranks thirteenth for the year, indicating a slightly extravagant theatrical footprint.

In its third weekend, Pink took in another $126,301 from 60 theaters ($2,105 average), bringing its total to $1,146,431, good for tenth place in North America for the year. Also notable is that Pink is the only 2016 film to triple its opening weekend earnings over the course of its theatrical run — and it only took seventeen days to do it.

Last weekend’s new release, Banjo, tanked hard in its second weekend. Business fell by 98%, and Banjo earned just $287 from two theaters ($144 average). Its total stands at $25,511.

Other Hindi films still in North American theaters:

  • Baar Baar Dekho: Week 4; $1,990 from five theaters; $398 average; $980,343 total
  • Freaky Ali: Week 4; $38 from one theater; $65,615 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening September 30: M.S. Dhoni — The Untold Story

The sports biopic M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story is the only new Hindi film opening in the Chicago area on September 30, 2016. Sushant Singh Rajput plays the legendary Indian cricket captain.

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story opens Friday in the following local theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Century 12 Evanston/Cinearts 6 in Evanston, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 3 hrs. 4 min.

Banjo carries over for a second week at the South Barrington 30. Pink gets a third week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and MovieMax, which also holds over Baar Baar Dekho.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: September 23-25, 2016

Pink just did something really unusual. In its second weekend of release in the United States and Canada, it earned 98.9% of what it earned in its first weekend. From September 23-25, 2016, it earned $366,826 from 78 theaters ($4,703 average), bringing its total to $919,852. To put Pink‘s holdover rate in context, consider that the median holdover percentage from Weekend 1 to Weekend 2 this year is 23%. Of the hundreds of Hindi films released in North America in the last ten years, only 22 have managed to carry over even 60% of their opening weekend business (I’m excluding international co-productions The Lunchbox and Bhopal because of their limited or atypical release strategies). Just four have held on to more than 90%: 3 Idiots, Kahaani, Queen, and now Pink. This shows just how powerful positive reviews and good word-of-mouth can be.

As for the weekend’s new release, Banjo performed to expectations. It opened in just 29 theaters — third lowest for the year — and earned $18,173 ($627 average). My rule of thumb is: if you don’t think your film can carry at least thirty theaters in North America, don’t release it here. It won’t make any money and will look worse for failing to do so.

Baar Baar Dekho‘s business slowed way down in its third weekend. It earned $30,002 from 38 theaters ($790 average), bringing its total to $973,008. As of now, Baar Baar Dekho‘s total stands at approximately 1.6x its first-weekend total. Ideally, Bollywood movies want to double their first-weekend earnings over the course of their theatrical run, but a multiplier of 1.7 will still land a film in the top half of releases for this year. With business slowing as much as it has, Baar Baar Dekho will struggle to hit that 1.7x benchmark — further proof of the power of buzz, good and bad.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North America:

  • Rustom: Week 7; $2,705 from four theaters; $676 average; $1,914,302 total
  • Naam Hai Akira: Week 4; $301 from two theaters; $151 average; $220,608 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening September 23: Banjo

One new Hindi film gets a very limited release in the Chicago area on September 23, 2016. The musical romance Banjo stars Riteish Deshmukh and Nagris Fakhri.

Banjo opens on Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 21 min.

Baar Baar Dekho gets a third week at the South Barrington 30, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Pink carries over at MovieMax, Cantera 17, and South Barrington 30, which also holds over Rustom for a seventh week. MovieMax gives another week to Naam Hai Akira.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

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