I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a ton of new additions to the catalog. Netflix kicked off 2016 by adding seventeen (!) Hindi movies to the streaming catalog, along with a number of movies in other Indian languages, most notably director Mani Ratnam’s 2015 Tamil hit OK Kanmani. I added a category for films in other Indian languages at the bottom of my Netflix page. (January 2 update: Dum Laga Ke Haisha is also now on Netflix!)
Here’s a list of all the Bollywood films added to Netflix today:
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! and Piku are two of my favorite movies of 2015, and I can’t wait to check out Randeep Hooda in Main Aur Charles, which didn’t open in US theaters. A number of these films — like Katiyabaaz and Kshay — were hits on the festival circuit, and this is the first opportunity for a wide audience to see them. Same for the Gujarati film The Good Road, India’s official submission to the 86th Oscars, which was also added today.
This is the sixth “worst movies of the year” post I’ve written, and every year the worst movies share the same problems: bad plot construction, unintentionally unlikable protagonists, and the reprehensible treatment of female characters. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Most of this year’s crop of bad movies have the standard problems, but I give credit to Zila Ghaziabad for making it onto the list for a whole new reason: failure to appreciate the strength of the Censor Board’s opposition to smoking.
While all Indian filmmakers know that scenes in which a character smokes are likely to be tagged with an onscreen warning that reads, “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health,” director Anand Kumar refused to capitulate in Zila Ghaziabad. As a result, the warning appears onscreen for nearly half of the movie. It’s so distracting that I’m almost convinced it was deliberate and that the whole movie is Kumar’s dig at the Censor Board.
Among movies that stunk in more conventional fashion, Bajatey Raho, Bullett Raja, and Fukrey were full of plot holes that never should’ve made it out of a first draft, let alone into a finished project. Fukrey wins bonus points for a racist scene in which a character refers to a group of black bodyguards as the “Chicago Bulls.”
I, Me aur Main and Ramaiya Vastavaiya were hampered by really, really unlikeable lead characters. Not to be outdone, Grand Masti featured not one, but three total jerks in leading roles. I’m awarding bonus points to Grand Masti for racism, sexism, and making a joke about gang rape.
Grand Masti wasn’t the only movie to try to make light of rape or treat it as a plot device. The threat of rape was used to provoke the male leads in R… Rajkumar and Himmatwala. Both movies try to make that case that a woman’s only defense against rape is a strong male family member or boyfriend.
As patronizing as that idea is, it’s still not as abhorrent as the violently sexist message of my worst film of 2013: 3G. This poorly written horror movie cites pornography as the primary reason romantic relationships fail, but never suggests that the problem lies with those who view porn. Instead, it explicitly blames the women who perform in porn (and implicitly blames any woman with a sex drive). Want to get rid of porn? Kill all the porn stars!
At the same time that the movie blames sexually active women for provoking the violence committed against them, directors Shantanu & Sheershak go out of their way to portray actress Sonal Chauhan as a sex object. The camera ogles her breasts and buttocks while she writhes around on the beach and on a kitchen island (something I’m guessing she doesn’t do for fun when she’s at home alone).
Shantanu & Sheershak fail to recognize their own hypocrisy. Who’s more responsible for Chauhan’s depiction as a sex object: Chauhan — a paid performer — or the men who told her what to do and how to pose, filmed her, paid her, and then counted on others to pay to watch what they filmed?
The high-concept comedy OMG Oh My God is now available for streaming on Netflix. This surprisingly funny movie from 2012 stars Paresh Rawal as a man who takes God to court. I recommend it.
On Friday, August 23, Bajatey Raho becomes available for streaming on Eros Now. While I wasn’t crazy about the movie, this is the kind of smaller, less star-driven fare I’d like to see more of on Eros Now. Also, I appreciate the speed with which they made the movie available for streaming. It released in theaters on July 26.
Dramatic tension is a necessary element of any film, even comedies. A hero has a goal, he must overcome obstacles to achieve it, and the consequences of failure must be dire. In Bajatey Raho (“Play On”, according to the subtitles of the title track), the heroes achieve their goal with minimal effort and little at stake. Why bother watching?
The story concerns the members of a family on the verge of losing their home. Flashbacks show the recently deceased patriarch, Mr. Baweja — a bank manager — unknowingly caught up in a scheme devised by the villainous Mr. Sabbarwahl (Ravi Kishan). Sabbarwahl stole the money from the neighborhood bank run by Mr. Baweja and pinned the crime on the manager, causing him to die from shame on his way to jail.
Faced with the prospect of having their house seized to cover the debts owed to their defrauded neighbors, the remaining members of the Baweja family set out to steal the money back from Sabbarwahl.
The composition of the Baweja family is confusing. Besides Mr. Baweja’s widow, Mummyji (Dolly Ahluwalia), and their son, Sukhi (Tusshar Kapoor), there’s an orphaned kid named Kabootar (Hussan Saad); Mintoo (Vinay Pathak), who’s either a nephew or a son-in-law; and Ballu (Ranvir Shorey), whom Mummyji refers to as Sukhi’s “brother,” but who probably isn’t, biologically speaking.
The large Baweja clan is an example of the film’s tendency toward character sprawl. There are so many people affiliated with Sabbarwahl — servants, gurus, underlings, future in-laws, sexy Russian yoga instructors — that it’s impossible to keep track of them or give them meaningful roles in the story.
The police give the Bawejas a couple of weeks to return their neighbors’ money or face eviction. This perfectly coincides with the timing of the wedding of Sabbarwahl’s daughter to a soap actor. The family devises a plan to steal the money during the wedding.
“Devises a plan” isn’t exactly accurate. Stuff happens, then after the fact, the audience is told it was part of a plan we never see discussed. In fact, the circumstances by which Sukhi’s new girlfriend, Manpreet (Vishakha Singh, whose performance is the only good thing about Bajatey Raho), agrees to participate in the theft are never disclosed. One minute she’s eating ice cream and dancing with Sukhi outside of a movie theater, the next she’s acting as a mole inside Sabbarwahl’s house while posing as a dance instructor.
Why would she agree to get involved in this criminal activity so soon after meeting him? Isn’t she afraid of jail? How does she know that Sukhi’s telling the truth?
All of the moral conundrums are glossed over. No one questions whether it’s right to steal from a thief, or whether Mr. Baweja’s name can truly be cleared if done through devious methods . The characters are divided into childishly simple categories. Sabbarwahl is the bad guy and the Bawejas are the good guys, so whatever they do is okay.
As far as bad guys go, Sabbarwahl is a wimp. He only once brandishes a gun, and he doesn’t have any menacing bodyguards. He’s rich enough to buy people off, obviously, but the Bawejas don’t ever seem to be in any mortal danger from him.
Absent threat to life or limb, surely there are lots of obstacles to the plan succeeding, right? Wrong. Everything works out exactly as expected. There’s never any threat that the family will have their covers blown (Sukhi and Ballu pretend to be caterers, Mummyji and Mintoo a rich lady and her bodyguard, respectively), nor does Sabbarwahl suspect that anyone is conning him.
So the Bawejas steal the stolen money back, and then lecture Sabbarwahl on the evils of mistreating the less fortunate. No chase scene, no shootout, no case of mistaken identities. The heroes get what they want without any trouble. The end. What a waste of time.
Given that local theaters have been running the trailer for Issaq, I’m a little surprised that the retelling of Romeo & Juliet isn’t opening in Chicago. Then again, my regular theater — the Cantera — is still showing the trailer for Gippi, which released in May, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.
Only one of last weekend’s new releases sticks around for a second week. The slick thriller D-Day carries over for just one showing per day at both the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. Auf Wiedersehen, Ramaiya Vastavaiya.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also carries over for another week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. The timing of its release was unfortunate since it seems to be getting crowded out of theaters by an abundance of newly-released Hollywood fare. It looks like the gripping biopic won’t even get as long a run in the Chicago area as Raanjhanaa, even though Bhaag Milkha Bhaag beat the romance’s opening weekend tally by over $200,000 in its opening weekend in the U.S.