Even more intriguing than what was added is what’s on its way to Netflix. The Hindi version of Saaho arrives on December 8, followed by The Sky Is Pink on December 11. It also turns out that Netflix is the new home for the Excel Entertainment back catalog, which left Amazon Prime last week. (More recent releases like Gully Boy will stay on Prime for the foreseeable future.) Netflix was Excel’s original streaming partner about 4 or 5 years ago. We’ve got new web addresses and a confirmed debut date of December 15 for all of the Excel films that haven’t been on Netflix before, including Bangistan, Dil Dhadakne Do, Game, and Karthik Calling Karthik.
While I can’t confirm that the rest of the catalog will definitely return on December 15, here are the addresses for all of the Excel films that were previously on Netflix so that you can add them to your List, just in case:
Brothers got off to a good — but not great — start in North America. From August 14-16, 2015, Brothers earned $348,036 from 181 theaters ($1,923 average). Almost a quarter of its earnings came from the 17 Canadian theaters that carried the film.
The per-screen average is the key to appreciating how well Brothers fared compared to star Akshay Kumar’s two previous releases in 2015. January’s Baby remains Kumar’s best performer this year: $4,393 average in 99 theaters. Even May’s Gabbar Is Back fared better in that metric than Brothers: $2,251 average in 120 theaters. It’s as though distributors attributed Baby‘s success entirely to Kumar, prompting them to open his subsequent films in more and more theaters. More likely, Baby over-performed thanks to its patriotic theme and its release during winter’s cinematic dead zone. Kumar’s opening weekend sweet spot in North America is right around 100 theaters.
In its fifth weekend, Bajrangi Bhaijaan took in another $130,081 from 65 theaters ($2,001 average), bringing its North American total to $7,871,909. For some perspective, the year’s next best fifth weekend performance — belonging to Dil Dhadakne Do — is $48,788 from 27 theaters. Demand for Bajrangi Bhaijaan is still awfully high here.
Poor old Bangistan hung around for a second weekend in just two American theaters, whence it earned $164. Its total stands at $44,177, fifth worst for the year in the US and Canada.
One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on August 14, 2015. Brothers: Blood Against Blood — starring Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra — is the official remake of the 2011 Hollywood film Warrior, which stars Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. I really, really liked Warrior, and this remake fills me with trepidation.
Bangistan fizzled in its first weekend in North American theaters. From August 7-9, 2015, the terrorism comedy earned just $33,131 from 49 theaters in the US and Canada. Its per-screen average of $676 is barely above that of Welcome 2 Karachi ($667 average), whereas the median per-screen average for Hindi films 2015 is $1,573. Bangistan‘s comparatively limited theatrical release indicates that Excel Entertainment didn’t have high hopes from the North American market anyway, but they surely didn’t expect an opening this bad.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan was the highest earning Hindi film in North America for a fourth weekend in a row. It earned $298,766 from 277 theaters ($1,079 average) to bring its total to $7,592,273.
Drishyam held up well in its second weekend, adding another $135,028 from 57 theaters ($2,369 average) to bring its North American total to $554,345.
The Hindi-dubbed version of Baahubali carried over on 20 screens, earning another $56,861 ($2,843 average). The total North American earnings for the Hindi version alone stand at $496,014.
Another South Indian film got off to a flying start in the US this past weekend. The Telugu movie Srimanthudu opened in 157 theaters and earned $2,062,768 ($13,139 average). Wow!
Bangistan’s simplistic take on religious tolerance and racial profiling is shallow and boring, and the movie is unwilling to commit to an identity. Is it a comedy? A satire? A serious commentary on social issues? Even the lead actors seem to be performing in two different films.
Satire would seem to be the obvious choice given Bangistan‘s plot, but it’s not presented with enough cleverness to count as such. With an international forum on religious tolerance on the horizon, radical Hindu and Muslim sects who profit from the enmity between the religions are in panic mode. Separately, each sect chooses a devotee to pose as the member of the rival religion and set off a suicide bomb at the conference, derailing peace plans.
The Muslim man chosen to pose as a Hindu is Hafeez (Riteish Deshmukh), a disgruntled call center employee who’s sick of the people he calls assuming he’s a terrorist as soon as they hear his name. His unknowing Hindu counterpart is Praveen (Pulkit Samrat), a struggling actor and true believer in his guru’s cause.
Both men train to impersonate someone of the other religion. Hafeez learns yoga, and vegetarian Praveen eats chicken. They both note passages urging non-violence in the religious texts they study, but it doesn’t make them question their assignments.
Hafeez and Praveen end up renting rooms in the same boarding house in Poland, where the conference is to be held. They become friends, there are misunderstandings, blah, blah, blah. The story is stale, and it unfolds at a tedious pace.
It’s hard to develop affection for the bumbling duo because it Deshmukh and Samrat seem like they are acting in different films. Deshmukh — by far the superior actor — plays Hafeez as cerebral and conflicted. Samrat’s Praveen is alternatively glib and fervent. He’s either completely unaware of his impending death, or martyrdom is the only the he wants in the whole world. Regardless, Samrat does everything at full volume.
International audiences may not get a whole lot out of the mistakes Hafeez and Praveen make in their impersonations. A bit in which Hafeez nearly ruins a funeral by suggesting a widow immolate herself along with her deceased husband only works if you’re aware of the ancient tradition (and the bit isn’t as funny as it could have been anyway).
The reductive approach the film takes to racial profiling is disappointing. In his disguise as the Muslim, Allahrakha Khan, Praveen is regularly asked if he’s a terrorist or if he has a bomb. Most bigotry is rarely so overt.
Writer-director Karan Anshuman botches instances of more subtle profiling, too. When the customs official at the airport in Poland flags every Muslim in line for extra inspection, she recognizes Hafeez’s fake name — Ishwarchand Sharma — as Hindu and lets him through. I can’t speak for Poland, but I doubt that most Americans would be able to make such a distinction. To most Americans, “Khan” is a bad guy from Star Trek, not a terrorist moniker.
At times, Bangistan is downright stupid. At one point, Hafeez and Praveen are caught in an explosion, and the movie cuts to various international news broadcasts reporting that two men died. This is supposed to prime the audience for an emotional reaction when Hafeez and Praveen stand up amidst the rubble, very much alive.
How did the news channels get their information before people at the scene? Did no one bother to check if the men were actually dead? Why would they report a story they didn’t verify? It’s stupid, cheap, and lazy, just like the rest of Bangistan.