With an increased amount of traffic to my website in the last couple of weeks, I thought I should give a quick explainer of how Access Bollywood operates for anyone new to the site. First of all, welcome newcomers! I update my lists of Indian movies on Netflix and Indian movies on Amazon Prime every day with new additions to the catalogs and info on upcoming releases and expiration dates, when available. I used to take weekends off, but I’m switching to a 7-day-a-week schedule for the foreseeable future. We need something to keep our spirits up these days, and if I can help alert folks to new movies to watch, I’m gonna do it.
The “Newly Added” section at the top of my Netflix page has all of the Indian movies and series that have been added in the last month, plus international projects that feature prominent Indian actors, like Netflix’s April release Extraction, starring Randeep Hooda and Manoj Bajpayee. Because Amazon Prime adds so many more titles than Netflix every month (75 in the last week alone), all of the new additions from the last seven days are at the top of the “Newly Added” section of my Prime page. Below that are all the 2020 releases added in the last month.
In happy news, Eros Now is offering two free months of streaming if you sign up using the code STAYSAFE. I haven’t used Eros Now in a while, but their catalog is massive, with content across multiple languages as well as original films and series. The only sort option is “Most Popular” — though you can winnow results down by “Language” and “Decade” — so it can be hard to find what you’re looking for. Here are some of my favorite films in the Eros Now catalog (the title links to the movie’s Eros Now page, the star-ranking to my review). Stay safe! — Kathy
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.
With Bollywood heavyweights Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardaar dropping into theaters early next week, there are no new Hindi films opening in the Chicago area on Friday, November 9. This is likely your last chance to catch up on older releases before the two big boys wipe out all competitors.
English Vinglish and Student of the Year each earned upwards of $300,000 in their opening weekends and have continued to hold audiences. Chakravyuh opened with approximately the same tally as LSTCK the previous weekend (not including the approximately $15,000 it earned in the first two days of its mid-week opening), so LSTCK should perform similarly this weekend.
Last weekend’s other new release, Ata Pata Laapata, didn’t report its returns, which were surely worse than LSTCK‘s low figures. The fact that it departs theaters after one week seems to confirm that.
Hindi movies to catch while you can include Student of the Year at both the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30, and English Vinglish and OMG Oh My God at the South Barrington 30.
The other new comedy opening up this weekend is the directorial debut of character actor Rajpal Yadav: Ata Pata Laapata.
Ata Pata Laapata opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min. Both theaters are also holding over Chakravyuh for a second week. Update: The Cantera added Ata Pata Laapata to its lineup this weekend.
Chakravyuh is the latest offering in the Bollywood sub-genre of topic-driven films. The concept of building a film with a political or social issue as the foundation — then adding a story and characters around it — generates films that patronize as often as they entertain. Recent topics to grace the screen have included fairness in education (Taare Zameen Par and Aarakshan), honor killings (Aakrosh and Ishaqzaade), and farmer suicides (Summer 2007 and Peepli Live).
Chakravyuh exemplifies how to do an issue picture the right way. It starts with an on-screen note explaining that the film is based on actual events in the Indian government’s ongoing struggle against the Naxalites, a Communist separatist group. Writer-director Prakash Jha finds the common threads in these real-life events and weaves them together into a cohesive narrative that presents all sides of a complicated conflict.
The first five minutes of Chakravyuh are spent bringing those audience members unfamiliar with Communist separatism in India up to speed. Jha efficiently explains who the Naxalites are and what they want, without belaboring the point for those who already understand the conflict.
The story is told from both sides of the conflict: the police hired to enforce the law, and the separatists who seek self-rule. Adil (Arjun Rampal) volunteers for the position of chief of police of the town of Nandighat: a rural town on the edge of Naxalite-controlled territory. Adil, full of confidence acquired during his relatively easy journey through life, sees himself as the only man who can drive out the Naxalites and restore local confidence in the Indian government.
Adil is only in town for a few days when he is shot in the line of duty. His ne’er-do-well friend, Kabir (Abhay Deol) — who was kicked out of the police academy for hitting a superior officer — sneaks into the police station to see Adil. Kabir offers to infiltrate the Naxalites and act as Adil’s informer.
Because of Adil’s overconfidence and Kabir’s nonchalance, they don’t appreciate what a dangerous idea this is until Kabir is being beaten up and shot at by both the cops and the Naxalites. After spending some time with the separatists and witnessing the way the police treat the locals when Adil isn’t watching, Kabir begins to sympathize with the group he was meant to destroy.
Chakravyuh‘s sets and scenes are gripping. Nighttime police raids are dark, disorienting, and terrifying. Villages of homes built largely of sticks fly hammer-and-sickle flags in their yards, as armed insurgents walk through town calling each other “comrade.” The Naxalite camp is little more than tarps strung up between trees in the forest.
Adil and Kabir are terrific characters to guide the audience through the film. Both have enough power to influence some events in their lives, but not enough power to actually end the conflict. Kabir, while valuable, is too new in camp to make it into the Naxalite inner circle. It takes Adil a long time to realize he’s merely a big fish in a small pond; the real power lies with the federal heads of the police department, the politicians who appoint them, and the industrialists who finance the politicians’ campaigns.
Rampal and Deol are both superb in their roles. Each man is sympathetic, if not always right. The history of their friendship is illuminated by minor glimpses into the past but is apparent in the way events play out in the present.
Esha Gupta does a nice job as Adil’s wife and fellow police officer, Rhea. She ardently defends Kabir, but her loyalties lie unambiguously with her husband and her badge. Manoj Bajpai is gripping as the Naxalite leader, Rajan, as is Anjali Patil as Juhi, Rajan’s executioner. The story of how Juhi came to join the insurgents captures the sense of frustration and helplessness that could drive a person to rebellion.
At the heart of Jha’s story is compassion for the poor and the seeming futility of their struggle for a better life. The villages in Chakravyuh lack plumbing, electricity, and medical facilities. When Adil puts antibiotic cream on a villager’s wound, the man’s face beams, accompanied by a corny, patriotic musical swell.
The Naxalites intimidate the villagers into brandishing weapons against the police, but the rebels also provide the people with a sense of control, a way to fight back against a government that ignores them until valuable natural resources are discovered under their land. At one point in the film, an army of paid thugs with machine guns rolls into town on bulldozers, bellowing through bullhorns that the government’s forced demolition of the town is “for your benefit.”
Chakravyuh places blame equally on the government and the Naxalites, while acknowledging that both parties undoubtedly regret needless bloodshed. Yet, with neither group willing to be the first to renounce violence, the conflict rages on, and it’s the poor people caught in the middle who suffer.
As of the time of this writing, most theaters haven’t posted their schedules for the weekend beginning Friday, October 26. I’ll update this post when the new showtimes are published. For now, the schedules for the rest of the week remain largely the same as those posted in last week’s theater update.