Tanu Weds Manu Returns continued its astounding run at the North American box office for a second weekend. From May 29-31, 2015, it earned another $698,921 from 150 theaters ($4,659 average). Its business fell just 28% from its first weekend to its second, and it carried over in the same number of theaters in which it debuted. It’s already the highest grossing Hindi film in the US and Canada this year, with total earnings of $2,222,228.
Piku held up exceedingly well in its fourth weekend, adding another $96,710 from 58 theaters ($1,667 average) to bring its total to $2,154,635.
Welcome 2 Karachi landed in theaters with a thud, pulling in just $26,013 from 39 theaters ($667 average) in its opening weekend.
Bombay Velvet‘s fall has been precipitous. In its third weekend of release, it showed in just three theaters, earning a mere $797 ($266 average). Yikes. Its total North American earnings stand at $438,408. That’s good enough to rank it in sixth place for the year, but a movie that opened in 239 theaters — 89 more than the next widest release — should be at the top of the chart.
On new Hindi film opens in the Chicago area on May 29, 2015. The comedy Welcome to Karachi stars Arshad Warsi and Jackky Bhagnani alongside So You Think You Can Dance‘s Lauren Gottlieb, who plays a Pakistani spy. Movies in which Warsi is the marquee star don’t often release in North America, so this is a surprise.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns got off to an amazing start in the United States and Canada, posting the best opening weekend of 2015 so far. According to Bollywood Hungama, TWMR earned $957,976 from 150 theaters ($6,387 average) in North America. Box Office Mojo reports that TWMR took in another $265,275 on Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, putting the total from its first four days at $1,223,251.
Despite the intense competition, Piku added another $284,750 from 90 theaters ($3,164 average) to bring its three-week total to $1,933,247. That weekend total is astounding given that the year’s second best third-weekend total is Detective Byomkesh Bakshy‘s $50,038. The fact that Piku is still showing in 90 theaters after three weeks is amazing in itself.
In its second weekend, Bombay Velvet carried over in 107 theaters but earned just $36,090 ($337 average). That’s appalling. It’s North American total stands at $423,003.
My favorite thing about the box office figures over the last four weeks has been tracking the disparity in Gabbar is Back‘s popularity in the US and Canada. The movie’s fourth weekend earnings — $2,637 from three theaters ($879 average) — don’t tell the whole story. Of those three theaters still carrying Gabbar is Back, only one was in the US, and it earned just $10 during the whole weekend! So only one person in the US watched Gabbar is Back in the theater last weekend (okay, maybe two people, if they bought matinee priced tickets)! Gabbar is Back‘s total North American earnings stand at $570,556.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns — the sequel to 2011’s Tanu Weds Manu — hits Chicago area theaters on May 22, 2015. Kangana Ranaut and R. Madhavan are back as the title characters, with Ranuat taking on an additional role as Tanu’s doppelgänger, an athlete named Kusum.
Bombay Velvet — which opened in twelve Chicago area theaters last weekend — carries over for a second week at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18. The same five theaters also hold over Piku for a third week, while Gabbar is Back gets a fourth week at MovieMax.
Piku dominated the North American box office for a second weekend, overshadowing the new Bollywood release Bombay Velvet. After an unexpectedly strong performance in its opening weekend, Piku opened in an additional five theaters, bringing its total theater count to 124 during the weekend of May 15-17, 2015. It earned $595,308 to bring its North American total so far to $1,801,807. Its per-screen average of $4,801 is the second highest of the year, besting the opening weekend per-screen averages of every other Hindi film released here in 2015.
Bombay Velvet bombed in its opening weekend. Despite opening in 239 theaters — the first 2015 release to cross the 200-theater mark in North America — it only earned $297,437. Its disappointing per-screen average of $1,245 is well below this year’s median opening weekend average of $1,565.
For a third consecutive weekend, Akshay Kumar’s Gabbar is Back proved vastly more popular in Canada that the US. $13,215 of its third-weekend earnings came from just six Canadian theaters ($2,203 average), with 17 US theaters contributing $9,977 ($587 average) to a weekend total of $23,192. Its total earnings of $556,032 are the fourth highest for the year so far.
Bombay Velvet is a great-looking film held together by an unstable linchpin: its charismatic but problematic lead character, Johnny Balraj. Ranbir Kapoor is mesmerizing in the role, but Johnny can’t shoulder the story’s weight.
Johnny and his best friend, Chimman (Satyadeep Misra), grew up picking pockets on the streets of Bombay (now Mumbai) during the years after partition. As young men, Johnny puts his penchant for fighting to use, earning extra cash as a brawler. Imported Hollywood gangster movies show him a more glamorous, exciting life than the one he has. Johnny tells his friend, “I’m going to be a big shot, Chimman.”
The guys start out working as the muscle for a mobster named Khambatta (Karan Johar), who puts Johnny in charge of Bombay Velvet, a nightclub that provides cover for Khambatta’s illicit deals. Johnny falls for the club’s star jazz singer, Rosie (Anushka Sharma), a woman who’s been used by men all her life.
Khambatta’s illegal operations are set within Bombay’s evolution into a powerful global business center, but there isn’t enough historical context provided for international audiences to really get a handle on what’s going on. There are subplots about communists versus capitalists and union protests that aren’t fully explored.
I didn’t realize for about an hour that Khambatta ran a newspaper in addition to being a gangster, and that his chief rival, Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary) — who plants Rosie in the club as his mole — is another newspaper man. Did newspaper owners really have such powerful connections back in the day in Bombay? Is the story even realistic? It’s hard to tell from the context provided.
The nightclub itself is gorgeous, the kind of fancy supper club that now only exists in movies. The music is catchy and evocative. The gowns that Rosie performs in are works of art. Overall, this is a really beautiful film, never more so than during violent shootouts.
Sharma is great as a woman who is damaged but not broken. Kapoor is a coiled spring, his lithe frame suiting a character who has survived thanks to his scrappiness.
As exciting a character as Johnny is, he doesn’t quite work as a believable lead in this kind of film. He’s too impulsive to entrust with the power he’s given as the face of Bombay Velvet, a face sporting perpetual bruises at odds with the fancy clothes Johnny wears.
Much is made of the fact that Johnny isn’t book smart — the subtitled translation of Johnny’s slang into appropriate English colloquialisms is outstanding — but he’s not street smart either. He doesn’t understand the game the big shots are playing, so it’s impossible for him to work the situation to his advantage. When the elites don’t capitulate to his bullying, one wants to ask him, “Did you really think that would work?”
In other gangster movies, Johnny would be the dimwitted sidekick whose short temper gets him killed. It’s as if Joe Pesci’s Tommy in Goodfellas switched roles with Ray Liotta’s Henry.
The audience’s avatar in Bombay Velvet is Chimman, who looks at his friend with a combination of devotion, concern, and pity. (Misra’s restrained performance steals the show.) He knows how good they have it compared to their old life, and he knows where they are in the pecking order.
One suspects that, if Chimman were the alpha in the friendship, maybe he and Johnny could eventually become big shots. But he’s not, and they are both doomed by Johnny’s groundless ambition.
May 15 sees the biggest Bollywood release of 2015 so far, when Bombay Velvet opens on 218 screens in North America. It’s also Ranbir Kapoor’s biggest career release in the US and Canada, besting the opening of 2013’s Besharam by one theater.