Tag Archives: Dharmendra

Bollywood Box Office: July 3-5

I confess, the North American box office figures from July 3-5, 2015, have me stumped. How did Second Hand Husband — a movie with no must-see stars and no advanced local promotion — earn nearly $100,000 in North America?

The exact figures for Second Hand Husband‘s opening weekend, according to Bollywood Hungama, are $99,838 from 74 theaters ($1,349 average). That’s more than Hamari Adhuri Kahani earned in its first weekend in the US and Canada ($94,005), and that movie starred Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi. Second Hand Husband also vastly out-performed a few other 2015 releases with (marginally) viable stars in their opening weekends: Welcome 2 Karachi with Arshad Warsi ($26,013); Hashmi’s Mr. X ($24,806); and Hawaizaada with Ayushmann Khurrana ($16,546).

So how exactly does a movie that currently has only 17 user ratings, one user review, and two critic reviews — one by yours truly; the other link doesn’t even lead to a review — at IMDb earn almost six figures in North America? The most obvious answer is desperation. It’s been two weeks since a new Bollywood film released here, and there’s a chance we won’t get another until Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan opens on July 16. There could be untold legions of devoted Dharmendra fans, or lots of people morbidly curious to see the Bollywood debut of Govinda’s daughter. There could also be a large number of non-Bollywood fans who bought a ticket for Second Hand Husband based on its English title, who then walked out when they realized it was a foreign movie and went to see Jurassic World instead.

Whatever the reason, kudos to Second Hand Husband for turning in an opening weekend that was shockingly not disastrous.

Dil Dhadakne Do crossed the $3 million mark in North America its fifth weekend of release. It earned $48,788 from 27 theaters ($1,807 average) to bring its total to $3,013,736. That’s less than $8,000 behind Tanu Weds Manu Returns‘ total of $3,021,287. TWMR earned $2,782 from two theaters ($1,391 average) in its seventh weekend.

In its third weekend, ABCD 2 added another $27,807 from 22 theaters ($1,231 average), bringing its North American total to $865,222.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Second Hand Husband (2015)

SecondHandHusband0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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For an example of the problem with Bollywood nepotism, look no further than Second Hand Husband. In her big screen debut, Govinda’s daughter Tina Ahuja manages to be the worst part of a truly terrible movie.

Ahuja isn’t remotely prepared for a major role in a film, let alone to be a romantic lead. Her primary problem is that she squints her eyes when she talks, as though the mental strain of emoting while delivering her lines requires special concentration.

Ahuja’s role in the Second Hand Husband is that of Gurpreet, world’s dumbest divorce lawyer. She’s unable to prevent her client/boyfriend Rajbir (Gippy Grewal) from being hit with a hefty alimony payment in his divorce from Neha (Geeta Basra) because she doesn’t know what alimony is. When her parents ask her to explain the concept, she says, “Even I’m not clear about it.”

After she eventually reads the details of the settlement (let’s hope Rajbir isn’t actually paying for her services), Gurpreet finds a loophole that will get Rajbir out of his payments and allow the two of them to marry. Rajbir’s alimony stops when Neha remarries, so the two set about trying to find his ex-wife a new husband.

Well, that’s what the movie is about for all of ten minutes. The story shifts completely to the antics of Rajbir’s drunk-driving, philandering boss, Ajit, whom we are supposed to find adorable because he’s played by Dharmendra.

There are subplots about Ajit’s wife and her own divorce proceedings, her brother’s family, Gurpreet’s family, a thief turned tea vendor, and a lovelorn cop played by Vijay Raaz (who gives a more sympathetic performance than this movie deserves).

All of this serves to keep Rajbir and Gurpreet apart, not in a romantic sense but in the sense that they have very few scenes together, despite their deferred marriage being the driver behind the whole story. One guess is that Gurpreet’s role was larger at one point, but was minimized later after writer-director Smeep Kang realized Ahuja can’t act. (She can’t dance, either. During most of one song set in a dance club, she sits.)

Then again, it could just be that Kang doesn’t know how to tell a story. Characters are introduced without explanation, taking over the narrative even though we don’t know or care who they are. Transitions between scenes fail to give a sense of time or place.

The dialogue is so expository and delivered at a such a slow pace that Second Hand Husband feels like a foreign language instructional video. The subtitle translation also stinks. When Gurpreet begs Neha, “Didi (sister), please,” the line is written as, “Baby, please.”

Apart from Raaz, the film’s performances are annoying at best, phoned in at worst. Grewal — also in his Bollywood debut — does nothing to distinguish himself. Dharmendra lacks charm. Basra is a shrill stereotype, though Kang deserves much of the blame for creating such lazy, outmoded characters.

Second Hand Husband takes a solid, high-concept premise and ruins it in the name of launching two acting careers unlikely to take off. Skip it.


Movie Review: Johnny Gaddaar (2007)

JohnnyGaddaar3 Stars (out of 4)

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Bollywood loves its own history. Too many Hindi films cater to fans with a depth of Bollywood knowledge at the expense of newcomers to the genre, who feel left out of the inside jokes. The neo-noir thriller Johnny Gaddaar (“Johnny the Traitor“) avoids that trap, enthusiastically paying homage to the past while providing enough context to welcome Bollywood newcomers.

It helps that writer-director Sriram Raghavan really understands how and why stories work onscreen. That understanding manifests subtly in the two films he made after Johnny Gaddaar: Agent Vinod and Badlapur. In Johnny Gaddaar, his references are explicit, using clips from other movies to advance his own heist story.

“Johnny” is an alias used by Vikram (Neil Nitin Mukesh), junior member of a quintet that runs a gambling ring. Veteran crook Seshadri (Dharmendra) holds together the uneasy group, which consists of Vikram, casino owner Prakash (Vinay Pathak), financier Shardul (Zakir Hussain), and the crew’s muscle, Shivay (Dayanand Shetty).

Vikram breaks a cardinal rule by falling in love with Shardul’s wife, Mini (Rimi Sen). In order to get enough cash for the two of them to flee to Canada, Vikram decides to steal the money the group pooled for a deal with the corrupt policeman, Kalyan (Govind Namdeo).

Even though he’s the most educated member of the crew, Vikram is also the newest to a life of crime. He concocts a solid plan to steal the cash, going so far as to chloroform himself in order to time how long his victim will remain unconscious. Yet he lacks the wiliness of an experienced crook, and his plan goes wrong in ways he never anticipated.

The primary theme of the film is the danger of unintended consequences, not just the direct effects on one’s own life but the psychological damage incurred when one inflicts pain on others, intentionally or not.

Vikram and his gang aren’t violent. He doesn’t own a gun, and the others aren’t in the habit of carrying theirs with them. Shiva is a gentle giant. When Vikram experiences his first taste of violence, it disturbs him. Sadly, that first experience makes violence a possible response to future conflicts, in a way it never was before.

It helps that Mukesh — in his first film role — looks as young and slight as he does. He doesn’t appear the least bit tough. It’s easy to accept him as the naive character he plays.

There’s another theme in the film about the nature of love, namely that Vikram doesn’t know what real love is. How can he be sure of his feelings for Mini or her feelings for him when they developed under duress? Vikram protests to Seshadri that their love is real, and Seshadri just shrugs.

Seshadri is one of multiple examples of what true love is that Vikram ignores in pursuit of his affair. Widowed Seshadri reminisces while listening to a recording of his wife singing. Prakash dotes on his wife, Varsha (Ashwini Kalsekar), a proud working mom. Shiva has a sweet, budding romance with the nurse who cares for his ailing mother.

Shardul doesn’t seem like such a bad husband to Mini, at least by mafia-film standards. He comes home and wants to catch up on the day with his wife, but she can’t get away from him fast enough. Her disgust for him is so obvious that you almost feel bad for the guy.

Even Kalyan — who is the scariest character in the film — tries to warn Vikram about the danger he’s in. When Vikram confesses that his favorite actor is Amitabh Bachchan, Kalyan asks if Vikram has seen Parwana, a movie in which Bachchan plays an obsessed lover who resorts to murder when his beloved falls for another man. Of course, Vikram hasn’t seen the movie.

Clips from Parwana are interspersed throughout Johnny Gaddaar, along with snippets of other Bollywood and Hollywood films. For movie buffs, it’s fun to try to spot all of the references Raghavan includes in his movie. The references never derail the story, and Raghavan makes some explicit enough that even non-movie buffs can feel included (as when Seshadri says he feels like he’s in a scene from Scarface as the gang counts their loot).

Johnny Gaddaar is a balanced, solid thriller that feels like a love letter to films of the past. It’s worth watching just to see an early piece of work by a promising director.


Movie Review: Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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The primary selling-point of Yamla Pagla Deewana (“Nutty Loony Crazy,” according to the lyrics of the title track) is that it stars Bollywood legend Dharmendra and his two sons, Sunny and Bobby Deol. But what if you didn’t know who the three leads were? Would the movie be as successful? I don’t think so.

Sunny Deol’s character, Paramveer, has lived in Canada with his mother since he was a child, after his thieving father ran off with his younger brother. After thirty years apart, Param’s mom begs him to bring her estranged husband and son back to her. He obliges and heads to Banares.

Param’s father, Dharam (Dharmendra) and brother, Gajodhar (Bobby Deol), don’t believe Param’s story. But Param gradually wins their trust, in part by acting as strongman during their heists. When Gajodhar’s girlfriend, Saheba (Kulraj Randhawa), is kidnapped by her goon brothers and taken home to Punjab, Dharam begs Param to help his younger brother.

Producer/director Samir Karnik frequently reminds the audience about the actors’ star status. When Param shows Dharam a photo of the conman in his youth — proof of his prior relationship with Param’s mother — Dharam explains that it must be a photo of Dharmendra.

Later, Saheba asks Gajodhar why he’s not fighting beside his father and brother. He says that its best to let Dharmendra and Sunny Deol handle the action, leaving the romance to Bobby Deol.

The self references are distractions that ruin the flow of the movie. If one is familiar with the actors’ previous work, it’s no surprise that Sunny does all the fighting and that Bobby gets the girl. If not, the references make no sense.

The distractions and the slow pace of the first half are a shame, as the second half of Yamla Pagla Deewana is quite good. Anupam Kher is hilarious as Saheba’s eldest brother. Jokes about the qualities ascribed to English speakers in a place where the language not common, as in rural Punjab, are both informative and funny.

Param has an interesting role as a non-resident Indian (NRI). His blonde, Canadian wife, Mary (Australian actress Emma Brown Garrett) thinks that everyone in India is crazy. Saheba’s sister-in-law, Poli (Sucheta Khanna), thinks that Canada is paradise. She reads about Canada on the Internet, in spite of her limited English skills (as betrayed by her “I Love Caneda” t-shirt). Param, as both Indian and Canadian, bridges that gap and exploits it to his advantage.

But the good points of Yamla Pagla Deewana don’t outweigh its clunkier aspects. A little less self-awareness would’ve gone a long way.


Opening January 14: Yamla Pagla Deewana

One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on January 14, 2011. Yamla Pagla Deewana stars Bollywood legend Dharmendra and his sons, actors Sunny and Bobby Deol, as a family of con artists who must rescue a pretty girl.

Yamla Pagla Deewana opens Friday at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min.

All four of the theaters carrying Yamla Pagla Deewana are also holding over No One Killed Jessica, which earned $227,473 during its first weekend in U.S. theaters. Tees Maar Khan leaves area theaters, having earned $1,072,686 in the U.S. so far.

Other Indian movies showing around Chicagoland this weekend include Anaganga O Dheerudu (Telugu), Kaavalan (Tamil), Mirapakai (Telugu) and Prama Veera Chakra (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5; Manmadhan Ambu (Tamil) at the Cantera 30; and Siruthai (Tamil) at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.

Retro Review: Sholay (1975)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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I’ve seen a lot of recent Hindi movies, but I knew my Bollywood education was incomplete until I saw Sholay. After watching the nearly three-and-a-half hour behemoth, I understand why it’s a classic. But that doesn’t mean it’s a movie without flaws.

Sholay (“Embers”) is the preeminent example of the “curry western,” the Indian version of the “spaghetti western” popular in the United States in the mid-1960s. Its story and style borrow liberally from films like The Magnificent Seven and Once Upon a Time in the West.

Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan play thieves recruited by one of their former jailers, Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar), to capture a bandit leader. This bandit murdered the jailer’s family and has spent the subsequent years robbing the jailer’s poor village. Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Bachchan) initially agree to the job for the reward money but fall in love with two women from the village, giving them added incentive to succeed.

At its best, Sholay is an exciting action film. An early chase scene in which a coal-fired train is pursued by bandits on horseback contains some amazing cinematography. The camera cuts from static long shots of bad guys falling from their horses to a dynamic shot from Jai’s point of view as he rolls onto his back to fire at an assailant approaching from above.

Another highlight is the romance between Jai and Radha (Jaya Bhaduri), Thakur’s widowed daughter-in-law. Unlike the heroine in Once Upon a Time in the West, who tries to fulfill her deceased husband’s dream of building a railroad depot, Radha’s widowhood renders her a virtual ghost. She seems expected to exist in perpetual mourning, executing her household chores in silence. The longing looks between Radha and Jai defy social convention, adding poignancy.

But Sholay has one undeniable flaw: it’s too long. To justify a runtime of approximately 200 minutes, every shot needs to feel essential. Sholay doesn’t meet that standard.

There’s a lengthy sequence early in the movie that involves Jai and Veeru getting intentionally thrown in jail, only to break out and split the reward money with the pal who turned them in. The sequence is supposed to be funny as the thieves trick their high-stepping jailer with a Hitler mustache, but the jokes feel forced and the Hitler references a bit too casual.

Another failed comic device is plucky horse-cart driver Basanti (Hema Malini), Veeru’s love interest. She has a few touching moments, but she’s written to be annoying. The problem with deliberately annoying movie characters is that they annoy the audience as well as their fellow characters.

While many of the songs in Sholay are memorable — “Yeh Dosti” and “Mehbooba Mehbooba” in particular — their accompanying dance numbers bring the action to a halt.

The movie’s final battle is completely preposterous but is executed in a way that elevates it to campy art. For that reason alone, it’s hard to dislike Sholay. It’s certainly a classic, but it’s not a film for Bollywood newcomers.