I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with two exciting new additions to the catalog. The problematic 2017 romantic comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania is now available for streaming. If you’ve been waiting to see it before listening the episode of the Split Screen Podcast in which Shah Shahid and I compare Badrinath to Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, now’s your chance. Also new on Heera is actress Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death in the Gunj, which opened in Indian theaters just last month. Thanks to Gaurav Arora for alerting me to the new addition!
Half Girlfriend is a tiresome retread of a familiar Bollywood setup. The world within the film exists for the manipulation and satisfaction of the male lead character, regardless of the toll it takes on the woman he pursues.
Just as in another problematic movie from earlier in 2017 — Badrinath Ki Dulhania — Half Girlfriend tries to justify its outdated formula by having its main character hail from a state with a bad reputation regarding gender equality. Half Girlfriend‘s Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) is from Bihar, a state that borders Badrinath’s Uttar Pradesh. Neither movie is interested in actually addressing the causes or consequences of inequality in either state, just in appropriating a regressive mindset so that the female lead can be treated as a prop rather than a real person.
Lest we dismiss Madhav as some uneducated hick, the story — based on a book by Chetan Bhagat and adapted for the screen by Tushar Hiranandani and Ishita Moitra — emphasizes that he’s the son of a royal family. He lives in a mansion with his mother (played by Seema Biswas), who runs a school in their small town.
Yet, Madhav is so privileged and insulated that only after he graduates with a degree in sociology from St. Stephens College in Delhi does he ask his mother, “Why don’t any girls attend our school?” How did he not notice that earlier?!
As with so many Bollywood heroes before him, it’s Madhav’s job to bend the universe to his will. That primarily takes the form of him forcing everyone to engage with him in Hindi, even though instruction at St. Stephens is conducted exclusively in English. No matter how high the stakes, Madhav steadfastly refuses to apply himself enough to become proficient in English. The movie rewards him at every turn by having English speakers claim to have understood Madhav’s “heart,” if not his words.
Then there’s Riya (Shraddha Kapoor), with whom Madhav is smitten on first sight. “Such a beautiful girl plays basketball?” he wonders, insultingly. He’s apparently never heard of hoops legend/fashion model Lisa Leslie, which is surprising since Madhav’s a b-ball nut and a big fan of “Steven Curry.”
The basketball in Half Girlfriend is absolutely terrible, by the way. The camera only shoots the actors from the shoulders up since apparently neither of them learned how to dribble for their roles as college athletes. (Frankly, their entire performances in Half Girlfriend lack commitment.) Also, a scene in which Madhav wildly airballs dozens of attempted half-court shots is unbelievable. That’s a shot serious basketball players practice for fun from an early age.
Once Madhav decides that he wants beautiful, popular Riya for his own, he follows her everywhere, memorizing every detail she posts on Facebook. They strike up a friendship on the court, but she’s clearly not interested in him romantically. She pulls her hand away whenever he tries to touch it. Well, she tries to, but Madhav literally won’t let her go.
Madhav’s roommate Shailesh (Vikrant Massey) — who is otherwise the voice of reason in the film — says that the only way to know Riya’s feelings for sure is to “get her in the room.” In case that didn’t sound rapey enough, Madhav locks the door once Riya is inside. When Riya resists Madhav’s attempted seduction (the author writes euphemistically), he gets violent with her. Riya refuses to talk to him after that, triggering a sad musical montage of Madhav screwing up in a basketball game because he’s too upset to concentrate. Boo hoo.
Madhav’s violence toward Riya renders a romance between them unsatisfactory. However, because we know the beats of the male-entitlement Bollywood romance storyline, we know that Riya won’t be able to rid herself of Madhav that easily.
Half Girlfriend is monstrously unfair to Riya. Every man in her life is abusive to her in some way. While Madhav claims to love Riya, he refuses to accept a relationship with her on her terms; he wants to possess her. Rather than protecting Riya, the older women in her life insist that she tolerate the intolerable and put a man’s needs before her own. Riya is utterly alone. If told from her perspective, Half Girlfriend would be a horror movie.
- Half Girlfriend at Wikipedia
- Half Girlfriend at IMDb
- My review of Badrinath Ki Dulhania
- Split Screen Podcast, Episode 28: The “Dulhania” Franchise
Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor failed to make an impact at North American box office. From April 21-23, 2017, the comedy earned $49,595 from 69 theaters ($719 average; adjusted average of $840 from 59 theaters*). While we’ve seen more disastrous opening weekends this year, Noor‘s low per-theater average indicates that distributors expected a better turnout. This is the type of scenario I was thinking of when I wrote last week about why Begum Jaan‘s opening weekend earnings were good in relative terms.
Speaking of Begum Jaan, it took in $15,397 from seventeen theaters ($906 average) in its second weekend, bringing its North American total to $109,664.
In its seventh weekend of release, Badrinath Ki Dulhania finally squeaked past $2 million in the United States and Canada. It earned another $1,556 from three theaters ($519 average), bringing its total to $2,000,285.
Naam Shabana closed out its fourth weekend with $730 from four theaters ($183 average). Its total stands at $262,303.
*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.
Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama
The headline for Bollywood Hungama’s latest international box office report — “‘Begum Jaan’ fails to shine in the overseas” — is a bit misleading in regard to how the movie fared in North America during its opening weekend of April 14-16, 2017. From just 34 theaters*, Begum Jaan earned $65,812, for an average of $1,936. While that total may not look like much compared to those of Bollywood movies that open on 100+ screens here, it’s big relative to other films with a similar theatrical footprint.
Median opening weekend earnings for the six Hindi films that released in fewer than 60 North American theaters this year are about $12,000. The best performance prior to Begum Jaan was by Commando 2, which opened with earnings of $40,611 from 49 theaters (40 adjusted). Begum Jaan not only improved on Commando 2‘s total by about 60%, its per-theater average of $1,936 was also substantially greater than Commando 2‘s $829 average ($1,015 adjusted). For a movie that is the definition of a niche film — Vidya Balan plays a madam in a historical drama — Begum Jaan did pretty well in its first weekend. It will likely be the first Hindi film of 2017 to open in fewer than 60 theaters to ultimately earn more than $100,000 in North America.
The weekend’s big winner was the new Punjabi film Manje Bistre, which earned $241,971 from 39 American theaters ($6,204 average) and $385,147 from nineteen Canadian theaters ($20,271 average!).
Other Bollywood movies still showing in North America:
- Naam Shabana: Week 3; $4,756 from eleven theaters; $432 average; $260,191 total
- Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Week 6; $4,425 from four theaters; $1,106 average; $1,997,701 total
- Phillauri: Week 4; $3,988 from three theaters; $1,329 average; $471,522 total
* Unlike my standard weekly caveat about Bollywood Hungama counting Canadian theaters twice, it looks like they got it right for Begum Jaan! Of course, that messes up all of my data which relies upon theater numbers being wrong in a consistent way, but whatever.
Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama
At long last, Shah Shahid and I reunite for another episode of the Split Screen Podcast, this time comparing the films Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania. We were inspired to tackle the “Dulhania” franchise in Episode 28 because of how wildly the two films differ in their representations of gender equality in romantic relationships. In short, everything great about the main characters and their relationship in Humpty goes straight down the crapper in Badrinath. Shah and I also discuss what differentiates Bollywood franchises from true sequels.
You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 28 in your browser on this page at Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown. Every episode of the Split Screen Podcast can be found here, including Shah’s take on the recent Hollywood reboot of Power Rangers. I’m featured in the following episodes:
- Episode 0— an introduction to the podcast
- Episode 1 — Memento vs. Ghajini
- Episode 2 — Knight and Day vs. Bang Bang
- Episode 8 — Warrior vs. Brothers
- Episode 10 — Seven Days vs. Jazbaa
- Episode 11 — Stepmom vs. We Are Family
- Episode 12 — The Man From Nowhere vs. Rocky Handsome
- Episode 16 — Rahasya vs. Talvar
It was a slow weekend at the North American box office, and Bollywood films fared just as poorly as everything else. Here’s how the four Hindi titles left in theaters performed during the weekend of April 7-9, 2017:
- Naam Shabana: Week 2; $40,385 from 51 theaters; $792 average; $241,919 total
- Phillauri: Week 3; $18,814 from 16 theaters; $1,179 average; $459,213 total
- Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Week 5; $13,283 from 13 theaters; $1,022 average; $1,989,132 total
- MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 5; $1,536 from one theater; $6,243 total
One interesting note from the weekend is how differently the movies fared in the United States and Canada. Naam Shabana was the highest earner in the US, followed by Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Phillauri, in that order. Yet Phillauri earned the most in Canada, followed by Naam Shabana and Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Oh, and then that one random theater showing MSG Lion Heart 2.
Box Office Mojo described this as “a placeholder weekend” in North American, as moviegoers stayed home in anticipation of Friday’s release of The Fate of the Furious. Bollywood fans don’t have their own high-profile release to look forward to. There’s a chance that Friday’s new Hindi movie — Vidya Balan’s Begum Jaan — might not even open here. Even if it does, a historical drama about a brothel owner is a niche title with limited potential, regardless of how good it is. Plenty of businesses and the majority of schools across the US will be closed Friday ahead of Easter on Sunday, and not having a big commercial Hindi release in theaters is a missed opportunity.
No new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area on Friday, April 7, 2017, and there’s little left to choose from. Last weekend’s new release — Naam Shabana — gets a second week at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The only other Bollywood film showing locally is Badrinath Ki Dulhania at South Barrington 24, while the English-language film For Here or to Go? carries over at MovieMax.
Other Indian movies showing in Chicagoland this weekend include:
- Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil w/English subtitles) at MovieMax, Marcus Gurnee Mills Cinema in Gurnee, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge
- Guru (Telugu) and Cheliyaa (the Telugu-dubbed version of Kaatru Veliyidai, w/English subtitles) at MovieMax and Seven Bridges
- Katamarayudu (Telugu w/English subtitles), Take Off (Malayalam), Kavan (Tamil), Raajakumara (Kannada), and Oru Mexican Aparatha (Malayalam) at MovieMax