I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s debut of the new Hindi comedy Hello Charlie, starring Jackie Shroff and a gorilla. The Kannada film Yuvarathnaa landed on Prime yesterday, even though it’s still playing in theaters in the United States and India. Another film that recently ended its theatrical run — Jathi Ratnalu — joins Prime on April 11, followed by the Malayalam movie The Priest on April 14.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with yesterday’s surprise addition of the horror comedy Roohi, starring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. Earlier this week, Netflix added a second collection of episodes of the wedding reality series The Big Day and the 2021 Tamil film Mandela. New Indian titles coming to Netflix next week include a bunch of cartoons for kids on April 12, the Telugu movie Uppena on April 13, and the premiere of the Netflix Original Hindi film Ajeeb Daastaans on April 16.
Last but not least, yesterday Hotstar debuted Abhishek Bachchan’s semi-biographical stock market drama The Big Bull. With Hindi theatrical releases on hold for the time being, it’s nice to have a weekend with multiple new Bollywood movies to choose from!
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When compiling my list of the Best Bollywood Movies of 2020, I was surprised to find that all five were Netflix Original productions or titles acquired by Netflix. Turns out the titles from my Worst Bollywood Movies of 2020 list have some commonalities, too. The two lowest ranked films on the list are both streaming on Hotstar, and the other three are on Amazon Prime. Let’s see which turkeys are my Worst Bollywood Movies of 2020.
Street Dancer 3D is one of two films on this list that I actually got to watch in a theater in 2020. I loved Street Dancer‘s progenitor ABCD and found ABCD 2 entertaining enough, but Street Dancer is just silly. The dancing in any Remo D’Souza-directed movie is as good as you’d expect it to be, but the plot is tiresome.
Durgamati: The Myth is one of the three straight-to-digital releases to make the list. The supernatural thriller is full of twists that could only work if characters behave in very specific ways that the protagonists couldn’t have predicted. Pass.
Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No. 1 reboot had high expectations placed upon it even before it became Amazon Prime’s big Christmas Day release. Still, it turned out to be an unfunny slog that felt dated and out-of-touch.
Baaghi 3 was the other film on this list that I got to watch in the theater. You’d think a big-budget action spectacle like Baaghi 3 would be improved by watching it on a huge cinema screen, but you’d be wrong. The whole movie is dumb and shouty, and even the action sequences are poorly choreographed. I hope I never have to hear Riteish Deshmukh yell “Ronnie!” ever again.
My Worst Bollywood Movie of 2020 — Laxmii — earned its spot for several reasons. The supernatural comedy in which Akshay Kumar plays a man possessed by the ghost of a transgender woman is just as problematic as one would expect it to be given that setup. The casting is bizarre, with one actor nine months older than the actor playing his father. The story is tedious. Finally, Laxmii commits the greatest sin a comedy film can commit: it’s not funny. That’s why Laxmii deserves its place as my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2020.
Happy New Year! After a holiday break, I’ve finished updating my lists of Bollywood movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. The 1999 action romance Hello Brother was added to Netflix the other day. Prime continues to add Indian titles on a daily basis, but what’s notable is what’s been removed recently. More than 60 Pakistani TV series and 17 movies disappeared, leaving just 23 Urdu films on Amazon Prime.
Here’s a look at new Indian titles debuting on streaming video this month:
Bollywood fans have two brand new movies to choose from today — both starring Rajkummar Rao. On Netflix, Rao features in the dark comedy Ludo as part of an ensemble that includes Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, and Pankaj Tripathi. On Amazon Prime, Rao and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub play rival gym teachers in director Hansal Mehta’s comedy Chhalaang (also available in 4K UHD).
Lots of other Indian titles have been added to Amazon Prime in the last few days, so head over to my Prime list to see what’s new. And don’t forget to check my Netflix list to see what’s new and what titles are expiring soon. Have a wonderful Diwali!
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A week of new releases to celebrate Diwali kicked off with today’s premiere of the Akshay Kumar horror comedy Laxmii on Hotstar. Thursday, November 12 sees the debut of the ensemble dark comedy Ludo on Netflix and the Tamil film Soorari Pottru on Amazon Prime. Finally, the social comedy Chhalaang premieres on Amazon Prime on Friday, November 13.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the new release Gatham, which is available in Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu. There’s been a ton of upheaval on Prime in the last week, with hundreds of titles disappearing — some for several days — only for most of them to reappear on the service. The listings at my page are now up-to-date, but it did mean hours of ultimately pointless work for me. 🙁 I wish Amazon handled its contract renewals and expirations as seamlessly as Netflix does.
Speaking of which, 21 Indian shows and movies are set to expire from Netflix on November 15. The full list is available on my Netflix page under the “Expiring Soon” section near the top of the page. Of the expiring films, these are the ones that I’ve reviewed:
Khuda Haafiz (“May God Be Your Protector“) is the next step in action star Vidyut Jammwal’s shift away from characters who are ready-made killing machines and toward roles that require him to give a more complicated emotional performance. Sure, he still breaks arms and lands plenty of punches, but carnage isn’t the main goal.
Instead of playing a commando, a cop, or a villain, this time Jammwal plays Sameer Chaudhary — the world’s buffest software engineer. The film opens in March, 2008, with a battered Sameer begging the Indian ambassador to the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Noman (which I constantly misread as “Boman,” as in “Boman Irani”) for help finding his missing wife. The ambassador says, “I need every detail. Start from the beginning.” Boy, does Sameer comply.
Flashback to the beginnings of Sameer’s romance with his wife Nargis (Shivaleeka Oberoi), which started a year earlier in India. The two were set up by their parents and fell deeply in love. After a few blissful months, the global recession hit, shuttering Sameer’s small business and putting Nargis out of a job at her call center.
With no work on the horizon, the two apply for jobs in Noman through a broker named Nadeem (Vipin Sharma). The film establishes the grim local economic situation and why moving to a foreign country for temporary employment seems worth the risk. Nargis’s work permit and travel documents arrive first. Nadeem assures Sameer that his documents will arrive in a few days and encourages Nargis to fly to Noman with a group of other women.
The following day, Sameer gets a panicked call from Nargis that she’s been kidnapped. The job she’d applied for had been a ruse, with Nadeem serving as the front for an international sex trafficking ring. Armed with only Nadeem’s dubious information, Sameer flies to Noman to rescue his wife.
It’s refreshing to see Jammwal mix things up and play a character who does not have a set of skills suited to this exact situation. His programming background gives him insight into how to get some information from a cell phone carrier, but that’s really the only advantage he has. He doesn’t even speak the local language — which winds up not being an issue because all the important people in Noman conveniently speak Hindi.
Most important of the people Sameer meets is a cab driver named Usman (Annu Kapoor). He sees Sameer’s distress and feels obligated to help as a matter of faith. Usman helps Sameer connect enough of the dots that the two actually find Nargis. A subsequent sequence in which Sameer has to let go of Nargis’ hand in order to save her is beautifully filmed to make it look as though she’s swallowed up by a sea of goons. Kudos to cinematographer Jitan Harmeet Singh for that wonderful shot.
During Sameer’s attempted rescue attempt, Jammwal does an excellent job performing Sameer as a guy who is not a professional stuntman. Sameer hesitates before jumping from dangerous heights, only doing so when he has no choice. He fights like it’s a matter of self-preservation, not like a guy who knows from the start that he’ll win. Nevertheless, the action scenes are entertaining as always.
Jammwal’s acting isn’t exactly subtle. Though, to be fair, Sameer is frequently panicked or angry. And when Khuda Haafiz is sad, it’s really sad. Jammwal’s performance is appropriately restrained in the film’s love song montages. Oberoi is competent in the few scenes she’s in. Kapoor is quite good, as are Shiv Panditt and Aahana Kumra, who play a pair of Nomani security agents who help Sameer find Nargis.
Overall, Khuda Haafiz is well-executed and accessible to a wide audience. It appeals to Jammwal’s core action fanbase while expanding its reach to include viewers who may want more plot than butt-kicking.
I also updated my Upcoming Bollywood Release Dates page (where I keep track of Hotstar news) with a newly announced November 9 release date for Akshay Kumar’s Laxxmi Bomb. The announcement follows a Bollywood Hungama report yesterday that Hotstar planned to hold the release of its three remaining “Multiplex” titles — Laxxmi Bomb, Bhuj, and The Big Bull — until after the conclusion of the Indian Premier League cricket season in early November. While it’s common practice for major movies to avoid releasing theatrically during cricket tournaments, I suspect the fact that all three movies are still finishing filming and post-production influenced the decision as well.
So what does that mean for streaming releases in the near term? Netflix seems content to debut one or two new films or series per month. Amazon Prime quietly launched a few new Indian series in recent weeks but hasn’t made any major movie announcements. I suspect Laxxmi Bomb‘s release date indicates that things will be relatively quiet until around Diwali in mid-November. Last month, Bollywood Hungama scooped a potential Diwali release for Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No. 1 on Amazon Prime, so we’ll see if that comes true.
On a related note, even if theaters in India reopen next month, don’t expect any major flicks to be first out of the gate (especially after the tepid response to Tenet). Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani purportedly wants to be first in theaters.
Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb was rumored to debut on Hotstar on September 9, but it’s undergoing re-shoots, so no release is imminent. Instead, Hotstar will launch a second season of its original series Hostages on September 9.
In other news, Yash Raj Films plans to launch its own streaming service. This could potentially lead to YRF titles being removed from Amazon Prime, which currently holds the streaming rights to the studio’s catalog. The news report is light on details, so we’ll have to wait and see how YRF justifies asking consumers to subscribe to yet another streaming service.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s debut of the semi-autobiographical Original series Masaba Masaba, starring Masaba Gupta and her mother, Neena. A new season of the docuseries The Creative Indians was also added this week, featuring episodes about actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, and Boman Irani; directors Dibakar Banerjee and Imtiaz Ali; and movie location scout Nataranjan Ramji. The 2020 Malayalam film Maniyarayile Ashokan debuts August 30.