I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, a new biopic starring Janhvi Kapoor as the first woman to fly in combat for the Indian Air Force. An uplifting film to catch while you can is 2015’s Dhanak, which expires from Netflix on August 20. Two siblings trek across Rajasthan on foot hoping to find Shah Rukh Khan, who they believe can cure the little boy’s blindness. It’s really, really good.
Netflix also released the trailer for the new Original series Masaba Masaba, a fictionalized version of the life of fashion designer Masaba Gupta (daughter of actress Neena Gupta). Both Gupta women star in the series, and the trailer highlights a few celebrity guest cameos.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian films added in the last week, including a bunch of Hindi titles from Reliance Entertainment and Shemaroo Entertainment. Here are the ones I’ve reviewed:
If you watch any of these movies, make it Love Story 2050. The vision for the future laid out in this sci-fi flick Priyanka Chopra wishes we’d all forget is hilarious in the worst possible ways. I’d have to re-watch it to be sure, but it might qualify as “so bad, it’s good.”
Vidyut Jammwal’s new action flick Khuda Haafiz debuted on Hotstar today. The streamer also unveiled the trailer for Sanjay Dutt’s Sadak 2, which premieres on August 28.
Dishoom performed well in its opening weekend in North American theaters. From July 29-31, 2016, the action flick earned $435,497 from 111 theaters ($3,923 average). That was enough to finish in twentieth place overall in North America.
The shocking news from the weekend was how dramatically business for the Tamil/Telugu film Kabali fell in its second weekend of release. After earning nearly $4 million in its opening weekend, Kabali earned just $239,352 from 141 theaters ($1,698 average) in its second. That’s a drop of nearly 95%. Tickets for Indian films in languages other than Hindi cost more during their first week in North American theaters, but the price drop in the second week isn’t steep enough to explain such low returns. For example, in Chicago area theaters, opening weekend adult tickets were priced at $20 and up. As of today — Kabali‘s fourteenth day in theaters — two local theaters are still pricing adult tickets at $18, two at $10, and one at $4.50 (the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, for you bargain hunters out there). Kabali‘s total earnings in the United States and Canada stand at $4,436,528.
Back to Hindi films, Sultan is finally running out of steam. In its fourth weekend, it earned $83,785 from 41 theaters ($2,044 average), bringing its North American total to $6,107,827.
Other Bollywood movies still in theaters:
Madaari: Week 2; $18,328 from nineteen theaters; $965 average; $153,114 total
Dhanak: Week 7; $40 from one theater; $12,939 total
With no new competitors entering the fray, Sultan dominated the Bollywood box office in North America for a second weekend in a row. From July 15-17, 2016, it added another $956,949 from 298 theaters ($3,211 average) to bring its total to $5,321,818. The movie continues to receive outsized support from Canada, where the weekend’s per-theater average was $7,349, versus an average of $2,849 in theaters in the United States.
Last week, I looked at the performances of past blockbusters to gauge how Sultan might fare going forward, so let’s continue that exercise this week. Sultan‘s second weekend earnings were about 41% of what it earned in its first weekend in theaters. That’s better than the 31% Dhoom 3 carried over, but worse than both PK (47%) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan (60%). Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s business grew at a significantly slower pace than that of PK or Dhoom 3, which concentrated their earnings early in their theatrical runs. By the end of their second weekend in theaters, here’s what each of those three films had earned, as well as what percentage of the films’ total earnings those figures represent:
Bajrangi Bhaijaan: $5,558,910 after second weekend; 69% of total earnings
PK: $7,785,486 after second weekend; 74% of total earnings
Dhoom 3: $6,817,835 after second weekend; 84% of total earnings
Applying those percentages to Sultan‘s second weekend haul yields total earnings of $7.7 million, $7.1 million, and $6.3 million, respectively. Sultan‘s week-to-week retention rate hints at it performing more like PK or Dhoom 3 than slow-growing Bajrangi Bhaijaan, so a final total right around $7 million seems most likely.
Other Hindi films still in theaters:
Udta Punjab: Week 5; $5,694 from four theaters; $1,424 average; $1,234,838 total
Dhanak: Week 5; $170 from one stalwart theater; $12,624 total
Salman Khan’s Sultan made a ton of money in North America — so much so that it finished in tenth place overall on the domestic charts. During its opening weekend of July 8-10, 2016, it earned $2,327,779 from 309 theaters ($7,533 average). Add to that the $1,012,086 it earned from Wednesday and Thursday (Sultan released on July 6), and Sultan‘s five-day total stands at $3,339,865 in the United States and Canada. That puts its five-day average at $10,809 per theater.
Salman’s movies always do exceptionally well in Canada, and Sultan continued that trend. Even though Canadian theaters accounted for only 8% of the total number of theaters (26 of 309), they contributed 18% to the total gross ($617,134 over five days). That puts the five-day per-screen average for those Canadian theaters at $23,736, versus a $9,621 five-day average in US theaters.
So, does Sultan stand a chance of becoming the highest grossing Hindi film of all time in North America? Probably not. First of all, its five-day total was less than what PK and Dhoom 3 earned in their first three days ($3,508,980 and $3,422,590, respectively). Second, its IMDb rating (currently 7.4) falls well short of PK‘s (8.3) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s (8.1) — though admittedly it could increase — hinting that perhaps Sultan isn’t as beloved as some other blockbusters. Both PK and Bajrangi Bhaijaan went on to triple their first-weekend earnings. I confess that I’m not exactly sure how multipliers work for Wednesday releases, but lets assume that Sultan follows suit. A tripling of its first weekend numbers would put its total at $6,983,337. Even adding in its Wednesday and Thursday earnings only puts its total at $7,995,423 — placing it behind PK ($10,550,569), Bajrangi Bhaijaan ($8,114,714), and Dhoom 3 ($8,090,250). Sultan‘s second weekend returns will give a clearer picture of its box office longevity. But c’mon. Almost $8 million would still be a freaking lot of money!
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Udta Punjab: Week 4; $12,005 from ten theaters; $1,201 average; $1,226,557 total
Housefull 3: Week 6; $83 from one theater; $1,322,753 total
Following a lovely vacation in Florida, I’m back with my weekly box office report. No new Hindi films opened in the United States or Canada on Friday, so let’s see how the films still in theaters held up during the weekend of July 1-3, 2016.
In its third weekend of release, Udta Punjab continued to lead the field. It added another $74,883 from 44 theaters ($1,702 average) to bring its North American total to $1,184,917. I find it interesting that three of the seven Hindi films to earn more than $1 million in the US and Canada this year opened in fewer than 110 theaters: Udta Punjab (107), Airlift (98), and Neerja (88). Both Airlift and Neerja added theaters in their second week of release, but their initial opening was conservative, as was Udta Punjab‘s. After years of increasing theater counts, maybe studios and distributors are realizing they can earn just as much with a smaller footprint.
Raman Raghav 2.0 ended its second weekend with $7,070 from thirteen theaters ($544 average), bringing its total to $75,515. That amount is probably in line with expectations, but I’d hoped for more given how good the movie is.
Housefull 3 earned another $4,816 from six theaters ($803 average) to bring its five-week total to $1,320,871. In its fourth week, Te3n took in $1,040 from four theaters ($260 average), bringing its total to $436,408.
Dhanak closed out its third weekend in just one theater, earning $390 and bringing its total to $12,164. This is another movie that I wish had made a bigger splash. Perhaps with better (or any) marketing campaign that used its English title, Rainbow, it could have. Dhanak is such a sweet, broadly appealing movie that I hope someday finds an audience on Netflix or another streaming service.
2015 offered up a satisfying mix of sweet, intimate stories and dark thrills and chills. Here are my picks for the best Bollywood movies of 2015. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
The year ended on a triumphant note with the release of the historical epic romance Bajirao Mastani. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s colorful, lavish style demands to be seen on the big screen.
Two smaller Hindi films that played at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival prove that big budgets aren’t necessary to make a great movie. Haraamkhor and Dhanak depict the struggles of childhood in very different ways, with Dhanak being easily the sweetest film of the year.
Early 2015 saw the release of two great revenge thrillers: Badlapur and NH10. While Badlapur explores the toll that a lingering desire for vengeance takes on a grieving husband (Varun Dhawan), NH10 is a race against the clock for a woman (Anushka Sharma) trying to defeat the men out to kill her.
In contrast to such dark fare, Piku lovingly and humorously explores the tense relationship between an adult daughter (Deepika Padukone) who hits the road with her ailing father (Amitabh Bachchan).
A pair of top-notch crime thrillers also made the list. Talvar‘s unique story structure sets apart this real-life murder mystery. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! put a modern, stylish twist on a classic Indian literary detective.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha is as charming as can be, telling the tale of a loser (Ayushmann Khurrana) rebelling against his marriage to an accomplished woman (Bhumi Pednekar) who fails to fit his beauty standards. So much care went into the story that it is impossible not to fall in love with these young adults trying to grow under enormous family pressure.
My favorite movie of 2015 is a big budget, multi-starrer that nevertheless tells a smart, contemporary family story. Too often, Bollywood spectacle films are “check your brain at the door” affairs, full of bombast but devoid of substance. Director Zoya Akhtar brings together an A-list cast — including Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, Farhan Akhtar, and Anil Kapoor — for a film that is fun and romantic, but also contains insightful critiques of the respect (or lack thereof) accorded women in modern Indian society. Director Akhtar takes the opportunity this big-budget blockbuster affords her and uses the platform to inform as well as entertain. For that reason, my favorite Hindi film of 2015 is Dil Dhadakne Do.
(Update: I watched Masaan after posting this list. Were I to re-do my rankings, I’d place Masaan in 9th place, between Dhanak and Haraamkhor.)
Dhanak (“Rainbow“) is as charming as can be, a sweet fairy tale about a blind boy and his devoted sister. The deserts of Rajasthan provide the perfect setting for writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor’s story of faith, family, and the general goodness of mankind.
8-year-old Chotu (Krrish Chhabria) and his 10-year-old sister Pari (Hetal Gada) are orphans, living in a tiny village with their aunt and uncle. Aunty (Gulfam Khan) is a classic “wicked stepmother,” stingy and resentful of having to raise children who aren’t her own. Uncle Durgaram (Vipin Sharma) loves Pari and Chotu, but he’s a stoner who won’t stand up to his domineering wife.
Chotu and Pari are movie buffs who spin tales about their celluloid heroes: Chotu’s idol, Salman Khan, and Pari’s imaginary boyfriend, Shahrukh Khan. Outside of the town movie hall, Pari spies Shahrukh on a poster for a vision charity. The Shahrukh of her stories is noble and generous, so Pari believes he’s the man who can restore Chotu’s sight.
The village buzzes with news that Shahrukh is filming in nearby Jaisalmer (nearby being relative, since Jaisalmer is 300 kilometers away). When Uncle Durgaram won’t take them to ask Shahrukh for his help, Pari and Chotu put on their flip-flops and begin the long walk to Jaisalmer alone.
The relationship between brother and sister is adorable. Love underlies their argumentative banter, all the funnier thanks to their quick-wittedness. When Chotu leaves behind their water bottle, he scolds Pari, “How can you trust an 8-year-old? A blind 8-year-old at that?!” Pari looks heavenward and prays, “God, give me the strength not to kill my brother.”
They receive a considerable amount of help on their journey, getting lifts from friendly truck drivers and guests heading to a wedding. The kids are so guileless that most adults are eager to help, without trying to dissuade them from their mission.
Dhanak‘s rural setting — with smalls town separated by miles of sand dunes — is the perfect venue for telling the kind of story that no longer seems possible in the West. Given the omnipresence of technology that allows parents to be in constant contact with their children at all times, it’s refreshing to see a movie where the kids are the decision makers. They receive adult assistance, not interference.
That’s not to say that the world Pari and Chotu live in is perfectly safe. They encounter dangers, often from unlikely suspects. Then again, how safe were they at home, with their cruel aunt and spineless uncle? Since Dhanak is for kids as much as it is about them, the dangers Pari and Chotu face aren’t depicted in detail. The film is totally family friendly, and realistic without being scary.
Just as the kids are occasionally betrayed by figures of authority, they are encouraged to choose their allies based on more than first impressions. One of the sweetest relationships in the film is between the kids and Badrinath (Suresh Menon), a former truck driver mad with grief over the deaths of his own children. Their need allows him to regain some of what he’s lost, even for a short time.
A kindly grandmother tells Pari and Chotu that there is magic in the world, and they just have to reach out and grab it. Whether or not magic exists as an independent force in the film is debatable. Yet the kids’ journey teaches them that there is kindness and friendship to be found in the world, and that those forces are sometimes enough to make dreams come true.
The Chicago South Asian Film Festival kicks off its sixth annual festival on Wednesday, September 30, 2015. This year includes new competitive categories for features and short films, in addition to a slate of other features and shorts with a connection to South Asian culture.
I’ve reviewed several of the movies showcased at this year’s festival, including:
Patang — The festival begins with a special showing of Patang in memory of its director, Chicagoan Prashant Bhargava.
Dhanak — This adorable picture starts the day on Saturday, October 3, with a showing at 9 a.m.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge — In honor of its twentieth anniversary, the Bollywood classic gets a special showing on Saturday, October 3, at 5:45 p.m.
Hunterrr — One of the festival’s competitive features, this romantic-comedy-drama runs Saturday, October 3, at 9 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with director Harshavardan Kulkarni.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha — This delightful romantic-comedy didn’t release in the US theaters earlier this year when it released in India, so this is a great chance for Chicagoans to finally see it on the big screen. It runs in the non-competitive category on Saturday, October 3, at 9:30 p.m.
G – A Wanton Heart — Director Rahul Dahiya’s social drama makes its world premiere at the festival on Sunday, October 4, at 2 p.m.
If you can’t attend the festival in person, you can still catch several of these great films at home on the following platforms: