Tag Archives: Bollywood

Opening July 13: Soorma

The field hockey biopic Soorma — starring Diljit Dosanjh and Tapsee Pannu — hits Chicago area theaters on July 13, 2018. Soorma is the first film from actress Chitrangada Singh’s production house C.S. Films. Best of luck to the new producer!

Soorma opens Friday at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, which has two preview showings on Thursday night. It’s rated PG-13 and has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 11 min.

Sanju gets a third week at all three of the above theaters, plus the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Century 12 Evanston in Evanston, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and AMC Oakbrook Center 4 in Oak Brook.

Other Indian and Pakistani movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

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Bollywood Box Office: July 6-8, 2018

Sanju had another seven-figure weekend in North America. From July 6-8, 2018, the biopic earned $1,281,466 from 359 theaters in the United States and Canada ($3,570 average), according to Box Office Mojo — good enough for eleventh place in the overall box office. Sanju‘s total after ten days of release stands at $5,995,791, with North America’s contributions accounting for about 10% of the film’s global haul.

Not surprisingly, Sanju‘s massive total is good news for Sanjay Dutt himself. Bollywood Hungama reports that Dutt gets a portion of the box office returns as part of his compensation for letting his life be turned into a movie, in addition to an upfront payment just shy of $1.5 million.

Bollywood Hungama is still having issues with its box office reporting, from theater miscounts last week to fluctuating overall totals this week. (Canadian theater info for Veere Di Wedding remains MIA, sadly.) Here are the weekend theater earnings reported by Bollywood Hungama:

  • Race 3: Week 4; $9,250 from eleven theaters; $841 average
  • Veere Di Wedding: Week 6; $2,000 from two theaters; $1,000 average
  • Raazi: Week 9; $1,044 from three theaters; $348

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Movie Review: Race 3 (2018)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Director Remo D’Souza knows how to stage a big-screen spectacle, yet he seems overwhelmed by the baggage that comes with Race 3.

Most of that weight comes in the form of Salman Khan, whose stardom requires an outsized chunk of narrative space and screentime. Trying to give sufficient due to all of the other well-known cast members in the film — an admirable goal, for sure — expands the runtime beyond what the story can comfortably accommodate. Add to that the pressure of being bigger and bolder than the two previous movies in a series known for its outlandishness, and it’s simply too much.

Race 3 is a sequel in name only. Returning cast members Anil Kapoor and Jacqueline Fernandez play different characters than they did in Race 2, and the story takes place in a different narrative universe.

This time, Kapoor plays Shamsher Singh, an arms dealer living in exile in the Middle East after being falsely accused of illegal dealings back in India. He hopes to return home with the help of his stepson Sikander (Khan) and his twin children, Sanjana (Daisy Shah) and Suraj (Saqib Saleem). The family is assisted by Shamsher’s right-hand-man, Raghu (Sharat Saxena), and Sikander’s bodyguard and best friend, Yash (Bobby Deol).

Shamsher’s favoritism for Sikander has driven a wedge between the half-siblings over the course of decades, further inflamed when their mother’s will gives half of the family fortune to Sikander, forcing the twins to share the remaining half. When Yash’s new girlfriend Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez) is revealed to have once romanced Sikander, the crew combusts.

The characters and their relationships are established via long scenes of dialogue that fall flat. Then, the Race story formula — with characters tricking one another, but planning ahead because they know their targets know they’re being tricked, etc. — kicks into full effect, necessitating even more boring dialogue. No individual character is particularly interesting, though the scheming twins had potential had D’Souza and franchise screenwriter Shiraz Ahmed pushed things in an edgier direction.

So much downtime allows one to imagine the Race 3 characters in other, potentially better movies. Shah and Saleem as creepy twins in a horror flick or sinister thriller. An action comedy starring Kapoor and Saxena, with Rajesh Sharma — who appears in Race 3 as Shamsher’s hometown friend — as their beleaguered younger sidekick. Fernandez starring in, well, anything else that utilizes her bubbly personality.

Fernandez and Shah feature in Race 3‘s most entertaining fight scene, flying through the air in a nightclub tussle. Shah has another fun bit when her long designer gown hampers her ability to kick her opponents — until she cuts a slit down the side with a dramatic flourish.

With an ace choreographer like D’Souza behind the camera, one expects mind-blowing dance numbers, yet Race 3‘s numbers are mostly forgettable (in part because of the need to accommodate Khan’s limited range of motion). The exception is “Selfish”, which stands out for the wrong reasons. Shah trained in aerial dance just for the number, yet the camera hardly captures her face, giving the impression that she used a body double, when I don’t think she did. There is also a group of backup dancers positioned so far behind the lead couple that they are often out of focus, which all but encourages the audience to ignore the lead couple in the foreground and instead strain to make out what’s happening behind them.

Action scenes throughout the film overuse slow-motion and are treated with a distracting effect that desaturates the image for a few seconds at a time. If randomly changing the image from color to black & white and back is the only way to hold an audience’s attention during a car chase, you’ve got big problems.

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Split Screen Podcast, Episode 44: The Salman Khan Remake of ‘Little Boy’

Shah Shahid and I are kind of obsessed with Tubelight, the Bollywood remake of Little Boy. It’s probably because writer-director Kabir Khan cast Salman Khan in a role originally played by an 8-year-old. First Shah and I compared the trailers of both movies, and now we review the films themselves in Episode 44 of the Split Screen Podcast. Here’s a teaser: we sorta like Tubelight. Also, I call a child an “asshole” in the episode.

You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 44 in your browser on this page at Audioboom. Find links to other podcast episodes and Shah’s reviews at his website, Blank Page Beatdown. I’m a guest on the following episodes of the Split Screen Podcast:

Bollywood Box Office: June 29-July 1, 2018

June saw three Bollywood movies earn more than $1 million in their opening weekends in North America, with Sanju saving the best for last. From June 29-July 1, 2018, Sanju earned an astonishing $2,723,349 from 356 theaters ($7,650 average) — good enough for eighth place in the overall weekend box office, according to Box Office Mojo. That theater count sets a new record high for a Hindi film in North America.

Race 3 slowed to a crawl, taking in $41,566 from 56 theaters, reports Bollywood Hungama (although that theater count may be too low, since Hungama appears to have under-counted Canadian theaters for the last few weeks). That per-theater average of just $742 is shockingly small total for a Salman Khan film in its third weekend of release. Its total stands at $2,278,352, temporarily slotting it in fourth place for the year so far.

The film ahead of Race 3 on the total earnings list — Veere Di Wedding — made $18,698 from 12 theaters ($1,582 average), bringing its total to $2,712,314. The movie ahead of Veere Di Wedding on list — Raazi — earned $6,267 from seven theaters ($895 average) to bring its total to $3,013,530.

One US theater earned $902 from Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran in its sixth weekend of release. Its total earnings stand at $448,256 — 15th best for the year, if you’re curious.

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Movie Review: Pari (2018)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch on Amazon Prime

Despite its sometimes disorganized story structure, the horror film Pari: Not a Fairytale (“Fairy: Not a Fairytale“) views maternity and childbirth through a compelling sinister lens.

Debutant director Prosit Roy’s movie opens with a boring scene of two single people — Arnab (Parambrata Chatterjee) and Piyali (Ritabari Chakraborty) — chitchatting on a rooftop after being set up by their parents. They aren’t very interesting, and any information about them that may eventually prove relevant could have been introduced later.

The movie should have started with the next sequence. Arnab’s parents drive him home from the meeting on a rainy back road. Their discussion of a possible marriage proposal intensifies, and a distracted Dad accidentally hits an old woman, killing her.

As the police investigate the deceased’s identity, they find a frightened young woman named Rukhsana (Anushka Sharma) chained inside a ramshackle barn. Rukhsana has had no contact with the outside world, hidden by her mother — the dead woman — from a nameless man who wants to kill her.

Early on, Pari is largely a collection of horror movie must-haves, like sudden loud noises and people appearing abruptly in frame. There’s no finesse in how the jump scares are applied. There’s also a surprising amount of gore, which seems to exist only to prepare the audience for more blood to come — although that later gruesomeness reinforces the movie’s themes, while the early stuff doesn’t.

The story hits its stride when Arnab becomes Rukhsana’s reluctant caretaker. She’s been so sheltered that she eats out of the garbage bin, not knowing that there is food in the refrigerator, because she doesn’t know what a refrigerator is. Arnab isn’t sure if Rukhsana’s mystery man is real, but he accepts that her fear of him is.

Of course the man is real, and he’s hunting Rukhsana. Professor Quasim Ali (Rajat Kapoor) is obsessed with stopping a doomsday cult from disseminating the bloodline of the djinn Ifrit. The professor takes more than a little pleasure in destroying those he suspects are connected to the djinn.

In Pari, Ifrit’s influence is tied to the female reproductive cycle, the sanguine nature of which drives director Roy’s visual style. Roy and his co-writer Abhishek Banerjee use Ifrit’s influence as a mechanism to explore the unique physical connection between mothers and their offspring. The gore associated with this aspect of the story — in the form of injuries visited upon the female characters — makes sense, evoking the bloody nature of childbirth.

Another theme related to that mother-child connection is its corollary: the lack of a physical connection between father and child, and how that frees men to abandon their unborn progeny at will. Professor Ali personifies society’s desire to punish women for out-of-wedlock pregnancy (consensual or not).

Kapoor’s performance as the professor is the spookiest element of Pari. He coolly partakes in murder and torture as an ordinary part of doing business. The dull opening scene featuring Chatterjee and Chakraborty is a blip, with both of them getting better and better as the story progresses. Sharma commands the screen, as always, though it would’ve been fun to spend more time with her character as Rukhsana discovers the modern world.

For all of its flaws, Pari is a film with a lot of interesting ideas. Just don’t expect too many scares.

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Movie Review: Veere Di Wedding (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

Veere Di Wedding (“Friend’s Wedding“) released to higher expectations than usually precede Bollywood buddy comedies, yet its four female leads rose to the challenge, turning out a warm, relatable, and very funny movie.

Well, relatable if you overlook how obscenely rich the characters are, driving around in cars that cost as much as a house (at least here in the Midwest). The only speaking character who isn’t wealthy is a maid who appears in one scene, crying after being beaten by her abusive husband. Her wounds are addressed in a couple of lines before she’s forced to participate in the excitement of one of the rich friends’ upcoming nuptials. It’s one of the film’s few off moments.

The friend getting married is Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan), one of a quartet of lifelong buds that includes stuffy lawyer Avni (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), stay-at-home mom Meera (Shikha Talsania), and drunkard Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar). Reuniting in Delhi for the wedding gives the women a chance to cut loose, but also resurfaces buried conflicts, primarily between the adult children and their parents.

There isn’t really a villain in Veere Di Wedding. The conflict is driven by complicated family dynamics, a boundless well that keeps the plot moving and gives everyone in the audience something to identify with. Kalindi became estranged from her father (Anjum Rajabali) following her mother’s death. Avni’s mom (Neena Gupta) is desperate for her daughter to wed. Meera married a white man named John (Edward Sonnenblick) against her dad’s wishes. There’s tension in Sakshi’s household over demise of her short-lived marriage.

The family of Kalindi’s fiance, Rishabh Malhotra (Sumeet Vyas), is the most colorful source of drama, often literally so. Eager to fill the void left by Kalindi’s mother, Rishabh’s dad (Manoj Pahwa), mom (Ayesha Raza), and aunt (Alka Kaushal) take over the wedding planning, their tacky, kaleidoscopic taste in decor and attire sending Kalindi into a daze. Kapoor Khan’s glazed expressions as they parade garish garment choices in front of her are hilarious.

Yet Veere Di Wedding is careful not to make too much fun of the Malhotra family. Kalindi herself says that she knows how important the pomp and circumstance are to Rishabh’s family, rejecting Rishabh’s offer to tell his family to back off.

That’s what’s amazing about this movie: the characters are so nice. The four friends will do anything for one another. Rishabh and Meera’s husband John are loyal and supportive partners, as are Kalindi’s uncle Cookie (Vivek Mushran) and his boyfriend Keshav (Sukesh Arora). Conflict is borne from hurt feelings and stubborn grudges, not from any inherent malice. The resolution to a subplot involving Kalindi’s well-intentioned stepmother Paromita (Ekavali Khanna) is especially touching.

That good nature makes Veere Di Wedding a joy to watch. Hype over the film’s bawdy language and (tame) masturbation scene is overblown. It’s important that female movie characters be given as wide a range to inhabit as male characters, and Veere Di Wedding does so in an uplifting, unthreatening way. It’s a welcome change to see topics such as sexual compatibility and the changes that happen to a woman’s body following childbirth discussed from a female perspective in a mainstream Bollywood film. Farah Khan’s choreography of the song “Tareefan” — in which white men are treated as eye candy instead of white women — is noteworthy, too.

What gives Veere Di Wedding lasting appeal beyond its present cultural significance is that it really is charming, thanks to the performances by the lead quartet. Kalindi’s bewilderment in the face of her in-laws stands in contrast to Avni’s stuffiness, which is at odds with Sakshi’s constant insobriety. Even maternal Meera goes wild on the dance floor. Kapoor Khan, Kapoor Ahuja, Bhaskar, and Talsania each bring something different to the table, and their efforts combine to make a movie that’s a real treat.

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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

Movie Review: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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.

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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