Tag Archives: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

Movie Review: AK vs AK (2020)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch AK vs AK on Netflix

AK vs AK is the most novel Hindi film to release in 2020, but novelty is just part of its appeal. Director Vikramaditya Motwane’s meta take on the Indian film industry — and two members of it in particular — is smart, insightful, and a lot of fun.

The AKs of the title are Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap, who play outlandish versions of themselves, as do other members of the Kapoor family. The story is fictional but trades on the participants’ real-life reputations and circumstances. AK vs AK‘s Anurag is a temperamental and self-important arthouse director who feels he deserves more acclaim, while Anil is an aging star who’s slow to accept that his biggest films are behind him.

Anil’s character seems further removed from the real person (no offense to Anurag), but he serves to highlight both the importance of the Bollywood star system and the refusal of many of the men within it to acknowledge the passage of time, insisting on playing college students into their fifties. The fact that Kapoor chose to play the character as he does in AK vs AK shows why he’s the model for aging gracefully in Bollywood.

The story opens with Anurag and Anil onstage for a question and answer session with film students. They trade barbs, bringing to the surface a simmering resentment from when Anurag was a young filmmaker and Anil turned down a role in one of his movies. Anil accidentally spills water on Anurag’s expensive shoes, and Anurag retaliates by throwing water in Anil’s face.

All of this is captured by a video camera operated by Yogita (Yogita Bihani), a filmmaker shadowing Anurag for a documentary project. Yogita helps Anurag concoct an audacious revenge plan to kidnap Anil’s daughter Sonam (playing herself) and film Anil’s search for her. Anurag believes this will cement his directorial genius by capturing Anil’s most realistic performance ever.

What follows is a nighttime chase, as Anil tries to find Sonam before sunrise, at which time the kidnappers who’ve nabbed Sonam have promised to kill her. A video of a tearful Sonam bound and gagged convinces Anil that Anurag is not joking. The two cruise around in Anil’s SUV along with Yogita, who documents the search.

The chase involves a stop at Anil’s house to put in a cursory appearance at his own birthday party to placate his suspicious family, who don’t know about the kidnapping. Anil and Anurag get in a fistfight and destroy a Christmas tree, but it’s somehow not even the funniest part of the sequence at the house. That honor goes to Anil’s son Harsh (playing himself), who is desperate to work with a director of Anurag’s caliber. Harsh acts out his pitch to play an action figure while Anil tries to get him to leave, ending with Harsh screaming about AK vs AK director Vikramaditya Motwane ruining his career when their movie Bhavesh Joshi Superhero flopped. It’s insidery, but hilarious.

Those familiar with the Hindi film industry will get more out of AK vs AK than those who aren’t. I’m sure I missed some references to films from earlier in Kapoor’s career. That said, the overall story is totally comprehensible for those who aren’t Bollywood fans. The way it’s shot — with long takes and clever camera angles that keep Yogita out of frame except for when she’s part of the story — is reason enough to watch it.

There’s also a great examination of the price of stardom. In his most vulnerable moments, Anil can’t get anyone to help him without first taking a selfie with them. Years of entertaining people onscreen isn’t enough for a cop or taxi driver to give Anil information without demanding an additional toll. Not only does he not get special treatment in his hour of need, he doesn’t even get the same courtesy one would afford a complete stranger.

Motwane walks a fine line, making sure the audience always knows how to react to a given scene. AK vs AK is funny when it’s supposed to funny and sad when it’s supposed to be sad. Even the uncomfortable moments where the audience is forced to consider whether something is funny or not clearly feel intentional. Motwane always makes great movies, and AK vs AK is no exception.

Links

Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

In 2018, it feels like most of the Hindi films I reviewed fell into the “okay” category — not horrible but not necessarily outstanding either. Only five movies merited a star-rating of 3.5 or higher, and just five earned a star-rating of 1.5 or lower. (Obligatory critic’s disclaimer that star-ratings are convenient shorthand lacking context, so please read the reviews!) As a result, I’m only doing a Top 5 and Bottom 5 for 2018.

That said, I think the movies at the top of the list are fantastic for different reasons, and I’d love to revisit all of them someday. Let’s see what made the list!

[Note: I didn’t get to review Tumbbad until after I’d written this post. I’d rank it in second place for the year.]

One of the year’s most delightful surprises was the horror comedy Stree. I wasn’t even sure it was going to open in the United States, given that movies starring Stree‘s lead pair — Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor — aren’t locks for international release. Thank goodness it did, because Stree was a ton of fun, weaving hilarious moments with a progressive message discouraging male objectification of women.

While Stree was about how men view women, Veere Di Wedding was as woman-centric as can be. The female buddy comedy gave wider latitude to its characters than most women are allowed onscreen in Bollywood, and it did so while being positive and uplifting. I have a soft spot for movies about nice people behaving nicely, and Veere Di Wedding was just that.

A buddy film of a different sort, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero follows a trio of vigilantes and what happens when two of them abandon their revolutionary ideals in exchange for middle-class comfort. It’s a timely story of the importance of organized resistance and a rejection of complacency among financially secure citizens, in India and abroad.

In the runner-up spot for 2018 is the top-notch spy thriller Raazi, about a young woman forced to leave her homeland in order to save it. Raazi was another win for women in Hindi cinema–not just because of Alia Bhatt’s riveting performance in the lead role, but because of the two talented women behind the camera: screenwriter Bhavani Iyer and writer-director Meghna Gulzar.

Another thriller was my favorite Bollywood movie of 2018, and the only one to which I awarded 4 stars: director Sriram Raghavan’s fiendishly clever Andhadhun. Ayushmann Khurrana’s first $1 million movie of the year featured him as a blind pianist drawn into danger by a calculating trophy wife, played by a devilish Tabu. Radhika Apte plays Khurrana’s love interest, adding to the talent level of a cast directed by a filmmaker who’s cemented his position as Bollywood’s neo-noir master. Andhadhun is currently on Netflix in the United States, which is great for first-time watchers and those of us who can’t wait to watch it again.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

  1. Andhadhun — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  2. Raazi — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes/stream on Prime
  3. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  4. Veere Di Wedding
  5. Stree

Previous Best Movies Lists

Bollywood Box Office: June 8-10, 2018

Rajinikanth’s multilingual release Kaala dominated the North American box office in its opening weekend. (Well, just the US box office, really, since it only opened in one theater in Canada.) From June 8-10, 2018, it earned $802,041 from 286 theaters ($2,804 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. That’s in addition to the $1,031,649 it earned on Wednesday and Thursday. 143 Cinema’s daily breakdown shows the film’s earnings heavily weighted toward opening day, due to a combination of peak interested and inflated ticket prices. We don’t know exactly how much of Kaala’s earnings are attributable to each version, but the bulk is from fans watching in Tamil. Not only is that version showing in the most theaters — assuming that the Chicago region reflects the rest of the nation — but it commands higher ticket prices than either the Telugu or Hindi version (which didn’t even release until Thursday).

Veere Di Wedding continued its strong showing for a second weekend, taking in another $507,919 from 120 theaters ($4,233 average). Its first-to-second weekend holdover wasn’t as good as some of the year’s other blockbusters — just 44%, versus 62% for Raazi and 52% for Padmaavat. We’ll see how it holds up this coming weekend against Race 3 and Incredibles 2. Veere Di Wedding‘s impressive total stands at $2,183,412.

Raazi is inching its way toward $3 million, though the above mentioned new releases will make that goal more challenging as the spy thriller heads toward its sixth weekend in theaters. In its fifth weekend of release, Raazi earned $77,931 from 44 theaters ($1,771 average). It has total earnings so far of $2,898,173.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Parmanu — The Story of Pokhran: Week 3; $37,908 from 20 theaters; $1,895 average; $411,740 total
  • Bhavesh Joshi Superhero: Week 2; $3,934 from eight theaters; $492 average; $61,310 total
  • 102 Not Out: Week 6; $820 from three theaters; $273 average; $1,336,114 total

Sources: 143 Cinema and Bollywood Hungama

Opening June 6: Kaala

Rajinikanth storms into Chicago area theaters on June 6, 2018, with Kaala.

Kaala is releasing in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi — all with English subtitles — on a staggered schedule, with the Tamil and Telugu versions releasing on Wednesday and the Hindi version on Thursday. The multiple releases are throwing Fandango for a loop, as they have separate title listings for each version, plus a fourth title option that aggregates all versions showing at some theaters. It’s whack. Here’s where to find Kaala in the Chicago area, and in which format:

Tamil and Telugu (opening Wednesday): Studio Movie Grill Chatham in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison in Addison, Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge

Tamil only: AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Oak Brook Center 12 in Oak Brook, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, and Century 12 Evanston in Evanston (Wednesday and Thursday only)

Hindi (opening Thursday): SMG Chatham, MovieMax, Rosemont 18, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Stratford Square, Tinseltown USA, Cantera 17, and Seven Bridges

Veere Di Wedding gets a second week at the South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Cantera 17, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is out after just one week, unfortunately.

The South Barrington 24 also carries over Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran and Raazi, which holds on at the Woodridge 18 as well.

Stratford Square has the Punjabi film (with English subtitles) Carry on Jatta 2.

Starting Friday, the AMC Loews Streets of Woodfield 20 in Schaumburg is showing the independent English-language drama The Valley, from writer-director Saila Kariat and starring Dil Chahta Hai‘s Suchitra Pillai and Northern Exposure‘s Barry Corbin (in a casting mashup I’d never have expected to happen). It’s rated R and has a runtime of 1 hr. 35 min.

Movie Review: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Hindi cinema loves a vigilante, that one good man who fights against a corrupt system. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero takes that template in a fresh, contemporary direction, addressing problems that are uniquely Indian but tie in with struggles being fought around the world.

After the government crushes their political opposition group, young activists Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyali) and Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor) take their fight for justice to YouTube. Wearing paper bags over their heads, they confront lawbreakers for infractions like public urination and traffic violations, while their videographer buddy Rajat (Ashish Verma) records the encounters.

Years of small-scale victories but no systemic change take their toll on the trio, emotionally and also physically when the occasional video subject decides to fight back. Siku and Rajat are ready to move on, accepting a broken social contract as an annoying inconvenience in their otherwise comfortable middle class lives. Unemployed Bhavesh resents his friends for quitting before the fight is won.

Things come to a head when Bhavesh uncovers evidence of a scam to divert water from the municipal supply. He doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle, but he’s willing to take risks to find them. Siku’s too preoccupied with a potential job transfer to Atlanta and how that will affect his relationship with his girlfriend Sneha (Shreiyah Sabharwal) to care.

India’s water infrastructure problems are uniquely complicated, and basing the story’s big crime around it roots the film in a specific place. Yet the characters’ frustrations are relatable to anyone who isn’t rich.

It’s an especially interesting choice by writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane — whose impressive resume includes Udaan, Lootera, and Trapped — and his co-writers Abhay Koranne  and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap to set up a class conflict within the main trio. Siku is an engineer and Rajat a journalist, so they have options that Bhavesh does not. Bhavesh sympathizes with the underclass because he’s a member of it. Champions of workers rights across the globe face the same challenge: how to motivate members of the middle class for whom matters like access to water or healthcare are merely academic, not an urgent need.

Much of the press leading up to the film’s release focused on Harshvardhan Kapoor, the son of a prominent acting family, in his second movie after a disastrous debut (at least from a box office perspective). He’s perfectly fine in this, as are Verma and Sabharwal. The movie’s villains are likewise well acted, although I found their relationships a little complicated due to my unfamiliarity with job titles within the Indian bureaucracy.

The real surprise is Priyanshu Painyuli as Bhavesh. He pivots easily from Bhavesh’s exuberance during happy times to his simmering rage when things start to fall apart. Bhavesh is frequently lit in red to emphasize his righteous anger and revolutionary spirit, and Amit Trivedi’s dynamic score sets the perfect tone.

Even though Bhavesh Joshi Superhero draws from Bollywood’s vigilante legacy, it makes the case that social movements aren’t a solo effort. They require a group of people working together. One person may sacrifice more than the others, but you can’t change the world alone.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: June 1-3, 2018

What an astounding debut for Veere Di Wedding in North America! From June 1-3, 2018, Veere Di Wedding earned $1,161,504 from 114 theaters ($10,189 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Gitesh Pandya reports earnings of more than $1.2 million from 118 theaters for the buddy comedy.

So far in 2018, the highest opening weekend per-theater averages belong to Padmaavat, Veere Di Wedding, Raazi, and Pad Man. North American Bollywood fans want to see women-driven content, and theaters are reaping the benefits.

The weekend’s other new release fared poorly against such monstrous competition. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero made just $39,635 from 44 theaters ($901 average). Veere Di Wedding‘s success isn’t entirely responsible for Bhavesh Joshi Superhero‘s shortcomings, but the matchup didn’t help. It’s too bad, since Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a really good movie. It’s also too bad for star Harsh Kapoor because his sophomore film’s total earnings are even lower than the disappointing returns of his debut movie, Mirzya, back in 2016. It might be time for a career reassessment since this solo hero thing isn’t working out for Harsh.

Raazi is still going strong, adding another $163,460 from 70 theaters ($2,335 average) to bring its total to an impressive $2,752,321.

Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran had a good second weekend, earning $68,378 from 31 theaters ($2,206 average). It has total earnings of $342,346.

102 Not Out stuck around in 15 theaters, earning $9,726 ($648 average) and bringing its total to $1,330,555.

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Gitesh Pandya

Opening June 1: Veere Di Wedding and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

The Kapoor siblings face off in Chicago area theaters on June 1, 2018. Big sister Sonam’s movie gets the wider release of the two with her buddy comedy Veere Di Wedding, co-starring Kareen Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhaskar, and Shikha Talsania.

Veere Di Wedding opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 2 min.

Little brother Harshvardhan’s sophomore film Bhavesh Joshi Superhero also opens locally on Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 34 min.

Last weekend’s new release Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran carries over at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. All three theaters also hold over Raazi for a fourth week, as do the River East 21 and Woodridge 18. 102 Not Out gets a fifth week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend: