I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with 35 Indian movies that were just added to the streaming catalog. Three Tamil films, two Malayalam movies, and the 2018 Punjabi drama Asees are now available, along with a trove of Hindi films released theatrically from 2006-2015. Most of the titles are new to Netflix. Here are links those I’ve previously reviewed:
With no new Hindi movies opening in the U.S. or Canada on Friday, May 2, 2014, old favorites continued to pull in crowds at the North American box office. The Lunchbox — now in its tenth week — earned $255,736 from 141 screens ($1,814 average), bringing its total earnings to $2,968,497 so far.
2 States also held up well in its third week. It earned $167,377 from ninety-one screens ($1,839 average) to bring its total North American earnings to $1,978,594.
With The Lunchbox set to pass $3 million in North American earnings this week and 2 States about to the clear the $2 million mark, it’s worth noting the significance of these achievements. Both movies are romantic dramas, as opposed to action-packed spectacles. Neither film features A-list superstars (industry and audience respect for Irrfan Khan notwithstanding).
A look at the last five years of box office receipts reveals similarities among the sixteen Hindi films that managed to earn more than $2 million in North America during that period (five in 2013, five in 2012, two in 2011, one in 2010, and two in 2009). Four films are action sequels: Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Dabangg 2, and Don 2. A small list of actors show up in multiple movies on the list:
Hrithik Roshan: Krrish 3 and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
[Somebody in Bollywood needs to cash in by bringing back Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan for Ra.Two, featuring Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as the villains.]
The Lunchbox continues to earn big, thanks to its partnership with a Hollywood distributor — Sony Pictures Classics — which has dramatically expanded its potential audience compared to a typical Hindi film. Though movie adaptations of popular books are far rarer in India than in Hollywood, the success of 2 States should start to change that.
The only other Hindi movie showing in the U.S. the weekend of May 2-4 was Queen. Now in its ninth week, it earned $190 from one theater, bringing its total earnings to $1,417,405.
2012 was a good year for Hindi movies. Of the fifty 2012 releases that I reviewed this year, thirty-one earned positive reviews of 2.5-stars or higher. The ten films below were the best of the best. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
English Vinglish — a personal drama about a mother’s quest to regain her self-worth — proved to be one of the years most delightful surprises, thanks to a triumphant return to the big screen by Sridevi.
I awarded a perfect four-stars to three movies this year — movies that could not be more different from one another. Supermen of Malegaon is one of the most fun and fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. While it never released theatrically in the U.S., the whole movie is available for free with English subtitles on YouTube.
Evaluated in a vacuum, Barfi! is a wonderful and heart-wrenching movie. But given director Anurag Basu’s apparent lifting of whole scenes from other films, I have trouble recommending it with a clear conscience. Therefore, I instead recommend the (unfortunately-titled) Jism 2, a movie so bad, it’s good. There’s no movie I had more fun watching in 2012.
The best film of the year was a meticulously crafted thriller with character development to spare and a magnificent, evocative setting. My best Bollywood movie of 2012 is Kahaani.
This is a movie I could watch over and over again. Vidya Balan reaffirms that she’s the most talented actress working in Hindi films at the moment. Her co-star, Parambrata Chatterjee, holds his own alongside her, playing a police officer with a crush that’s doomed to go nowhere.
One aspect of Kahaani I particularly appreciate is its positive take on marriage. Balan plays Vidya, a pregnant woman from London searching for her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing in Kolkata. Everyone tries to tell her that he has probably just run out on her, but she refuses to believe them. She knows in her heart that not only would he never leave their unborn baby, but he wouldn’t leave her, either.
So often, we’re confronted with cultural tropes that portray marriage negatively. Husbands are depicted as either incorrigible philanderers or hapless morons barely tolerated by wives who only need them for baby-making and yardwork.
Isn’t it more satisfying to see an onscreen marriage in which both partners really know and value each other? That’s what makes Vidya’s search so frustrating and engrossing: there’s real love at stake.
Looks like my fears of a prolonged Bollywood drought were unfounded. Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on October 19, 2012. Getting the wider release of the two is director Karan Johar’s Student of the Year.
Also making its debut is the animated film Delhi Safari. Note that the version releasing this weekend is in Hindi, voiced by Indian actors like Akshaye Khanna and Boman Irani. Fandango‘s capsule description of the movie includes the information for the English-language version of the film releasing on December 7, featuring the voices of Jane Lynch and Cary Elwes.
Delhi Safari opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. It has a runtime of 1 hr. 50 min. If you need added incentive to see the film, take a picture of your Delhi Safari ticket stub and you can win a $50 Toys R’ Us gift card.
The charming English Vinglish continues to perform well at the box office, having earned $1,405,758 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters. It carries over for a third week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.
The South Barrington 30 also holds over OMG Oh My God for a fourth week and Barfi! for a sixth, with is total U.S. earnings standing at $2,779,172.
Update: The Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles finally posted its weekend schedule, and the theater will carry the new Hindi films Aiyyaa and Bhoot Returns. (Note: I don’t live anywhere near this theater, so I won’t be reviewing either of these movies, unfortunately.) The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying English Vinglish and OMG, as well as the Malayalam movies Molly Aunty Rocks! and Puthiya Theerangal, Maattrraan (Tamil) and its Telugu version, Brothers.
The steady stream of Bollywood movies flowing into Chicagoland has finally dried up. There are no new Hindi movies opening in Chicago area theaters on Friday, October 12, 2012. I’m especially disappointed that I won’t get to see Rani Mukerji’s Aiyyaa, but Ram Gopal Varma’s Bhoot Returns, Chittagong, and Makkhi seemed like potential candidates for screenspace as well.
The new Bollywood film opening in Chicago area theaters on October 5, 2012 — English Vinglish — marks the return of superstar actress Sridevi after a fourteen-year absence from the big screen. The film also has the worst theatrical trailer I’ve ever seen:
This alternate trailer — which never aired at my local cinema — is more substantive:
Of last weekend’s two new Hindi releases, OMG Oh My God carries over at all three of the above theaters, while Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal is deservedly booted from all local theaters except the South Barrington 30. The South Barrington 30 is also the only theater holding over Heroine, which has earned $560,285 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters.
Barfi!, meanwhile, continues to perform phenomenally well at the box office, having earned $2,462,008 in three weeks in the U.S. It gets a fourth week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, and Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie.
Perhaps this speaks to the relative weakness of Hollywood fare currently on offer, but two new Hindi comedies open in Chicago area theaters on September 28, 2012. Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal, directed by Priyadarshan, gets the wider release of the two new films.
September 21, 2012, marks the opening of Heroine in four Chicago area theaters. Kareena Kapoor plays a superstar actress whose career is in decline. (Hopefully, she won’t resort to black magic, as Bipasha Basu did recently in Raaz 3.)
All four of the above theaters are carrying over last weekend’s new release, Barfi!, as is the AMC River East 21 in Chicago. The film earned a very impressive $1,061,713 in its first weekend in U.S. theaters.
The South Barrington 30 also carries over Ek Tha Tiger for a sixth week.
Plenty of other Indian and South Asian films can be found at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, which runs now through Sunday, September 23. The event closes with the world premiere of Shobhna’s Seven Nights. The film’s star, Raveena Tandon, will be on hand for a Q & A session following the film’s premiere.
Like its namesake confection, Barfi! is certainly sweet. Not a frothy sweetness but a complex one with real depth and substance. Barfi! is not to be missed.
The film defies convention yet feels familiar. Flashbacks within flashbacks within flashforwards play with typical narrative format in a way that works better than it should.
The bulk of the action alternates between two times and places — 1972 and 1978, Darjeeling and Kolkata — framed by scenes set in the present day. The film’s narrator, Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz), recalls how her life changed in 1972 when her family moved from Kolkata to Darjeeling and she met Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor).
“Barfi” is how the deaf young man pronounces his given name, Murphy, so everyone calls him by his nickname. Unemployed Barfi spends his days making mischief around town, to the consternation of police inspector Dutta (Saurabh Shukla). Though he has a crush on Shruti, Barfi settles for friendship with her, because she is engaged. The two spend their days racing bicycles and bumming rides on train cars, falling in love in the process.
In the hands of a writer-director less skilled than Anurag Basu, Barfi’s penchant for mischief could be a cheap way to substitute quirkiness for character development. That’s not the case here. Barfi acts like an overgrown child because no one expects anything from him. He’s the town’s beloved mascot, cared for by his doting father, but that’s it.
Barfi’s outsider status makes a romantic match with Shruti impossible, even if she didn’t have a perfect-on-paper fiance waiting for her back in Kolkata. There’s no way her parents would accept a deaf son-in-law, even if the reason they give is their desire to spare her from the harsh judgements of society.
Shruti herself fails Barfi’s loyalty test. She lets go of his hand and leaps from his side as a light pole falls toward them. Having doctored the light pole himself, Barfi knows they were never in any danger. Like others before her, Shruti abandoned Barfi at the first sign of danger.
The one person to pass the loyalty test is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the autistic granddaughter of a wealthy local man. Having spent most of her childhood at a sanitarium — so as not to embarrass her snooty parents — she’s summoned to the side of her ailing grandfather. Barfi’s father is the grandfather’s driver, and Barfi and Jhilmil were childhood friends.
Jhilmil’s parents are no less embarrassed by their now-adult daughter when she returns. Jhilmil shuns almost all physical contact, screams and panics when she gets mud on her shoes, and loudly sings along with the band at a society party. The only person in Darjeeling who warms to Jhilmil is Barfi. Caring for her gives him purpose, and he provides her with a sense of security.
These themes — security and purpose — are universal, and those are the main challenges for Barfi and Jhilmil, not their special needs. Basu writes the characters as real people, not as a collection of physical and mental issues to be triumphed over. Shruti — the “normal” character among the three — is actually the most flawed, in that she lacks courage.
D’Cruz, an actress who has predominantly worked in Telugu films thus far, is a fine avatar for the audience. She nicely portrays the conflict inside Shruti, who would like to follow her heart but lacks the will to do it.
Ranbir Kapoor is the only actor who could have played Barfi. He has great physicality, both in scenes where he runs from Inspector Dutta (Saurabh Shukla is also great in the film) and where he bares his soul to Shruti using only gestures, no words. Kapoor makes Barfi more than just a lovable rascal.
But the standout performance in the film is by Priyanka Chopra. I’ve long appreciated the risks she takes in the roles she chooses, even if they don’t always work out. Playing an autistic woman could have gone poorly, but Chopra is perfect.
Like Kapoor, Chopra has very little dialog in the film. Jhilmil spends most of the time staring at the ground or observing the action around her, yet Chopra makes it easy to read Jhilmil’s emotions. Chopra’s depiction of autistic characteristics is accurate and respectful. Despite having a condition that makes forming emotional connections with other people difficult, there’s a lot to love about Jhilmil.
Other things to love about Barfi! include the beautiful scenery and music. Transitions between scenes are frequently accomplished by a pan over the silhouettes of three musicians — a guitarist, a violinist, and an accordion player — who seem to follow the characters everywhere.
Barfi! is a really special film. I laughed out loud, I cried, and I would happily watch it again tomorrow.