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Movie Review: Dishkiyaoon (2014)

Dishkiyaoon2 Stars (out of 4)

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Dishkiyaoon (an Indian onomatopoeia for the sound of a gunshot) aspires to be more than your average underworld action drama. It doesn’t meet its lofty goals, but it deserves credit for trying.

Debutant writer-director Sanamjit Singh Talwar’s ambitions cause problems from the start. The movie opens with Lakwa (Sunny Deol) and Viki (Harman Baweja) — though Lakwa insist on calling Viki “Chaudhray” for some reason — discussing Viki’s past. Flashbacks show everything from Viki being bullied in grade school to his joining a gang led by Mota Tony (Prashant Narayanan).

Every time the flashback returns to Lakwa and Viki in the present, the audience is reminded that we don’t know who these guys are, where they are, how they know each other, or why they are together at that moment. Those issues raise — and fail to answer — the fundamental question every director needs to answer within the first fifteen minutes of any movie: Why should we care?

When the questions of where they are and why are answered at the story’s midpoint, the revelation is underwhelming. The gimmick is not worth the frustration.

Dishkiyaoon‘s hook is that Viki isn’t a typical Bollywood action hero. Despite his buff physique — Baweja spends much of the movie shirtless — adult Viki is emotionally the same bullied little kid. He lacks swagger, despite the impunity that comes with being a gangster. When a pretty girl named Meera (Ayesha Khanna) asks what he does for a living, Viki bows his head sheepishly before showing her the pistol he always carries but never uses.

In many ways, Viki’s journey is less about his attempted rise to underworld supremacy than his search for an ideal father figure. Viki rejects his own inattentive, pacifist dad, first in favor of Tony, and then Lakwa. Most of the men around him are more alpha than Viki, including disreputable thugs like Rocky (Anand Tiwari) and Khaleefa (Sumit Nijhawan). Every event of consequence in the movie is a reaction to wounded male pride.

Only his childhood pal, Ketan (Hasan Zaidi), is as submissive as Viki, though Ketan’s low rank in the pecking order suits his position as a mafia accountant better than a buff flunky like Viki.

The underworld is so densely populated with gangsters, thugs, toadies, and corrupt cops — and they’re introduced in such rapid succession — that it’s impossible to keep track of them all.

Meera’s presence is superfluous. She’s supposed to represent the life Viki could have outside of organized crime, but leaving the mob isn’t that easy, and Viki never expresses a desire to do so.

The music in Dishkiyaoon is distracting, as it bounces from genre to genre without a governing theme. Meera’s introduction is accompanied by a heavy metal tune as she shreds on an electric guitar that isn’t plugged into an amplifier.

Baweja is okay as a leading man. In his defense, Viki is a hard character to pin down. Baweja does a nice job in the film’s climax, a scene in which Viki seems to lose his marbles.

Throughout most of Dishkiyaoon, I wondered if Viki was hallucinating Lakwa. His only connection to the plot is through Viki, and he fills the role of Viki’s ideal father figure. The story eventually confirms that Lakwa does exist, but wouldn’t it have been interesting if he didn’t?


Bollywood Box Office: May 23-25

It’s incredibly difficult to launch a new Hindi film hero’s career in North America, where superstars have even greater box office value than they do in India. It’s no surprise, then, that first weekend returns for Tiger Shroff’s big screen debut, Heropanti, seem underwhelming. From May 23-25, 2014, Heropanti took in $31,556 from 20 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, a per-screen average of $1,578.

The truth is that Heropanti‘s numbers are actually good for a movie starring a newcomer. The first factor to consider is that Heropanti faced unusually tough and unexpected competition. Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiiyaan shifted its opening date to May 23 at the last minute. Kochadaiiyaan pulled in $491,643 from 122 theaters ($4,030 average), a figure that probably should’ve been higher given the Superstar’s clout and higher 3D ticket prices.

And both Heropanti and Kochadaiiyaan were blown out of the water by the Telugu film Manam. It earned $844,271 from 108 U.S. theaters for an average of $7,817 per screen.

Despite taking a hit from a pair of high-profile South Indian films, Heropanti‘s earnings hold up very well when compared to North American opening weekend performances by film’s starring other new or marginal heroes. Here are some examples from 2013 and 2014 (ordered by release date):

  • Rajeev Khandelwal in Table No. 21: $31,658 from 23 theaters; $1,376 average
  • Jackky Bhagnani in Rangrezz: $4,318 from 11 theaters; $393 average
  • Girish Kumar in Ramaiya Vastavaiya: $52,200 from 67 theaters; $779 average
  • Manish Paul in Mickey Virus: $24,100 from 48 theaters; $502 average
  • Shiv Darshan in Karle Pyaar Karle: $3,110 from 22 theaters; $141 average
  • Ajaz Khan in Ya Rab: $1,404 from 15 theaters; $94 average
  • Harman Baweja in Dishkiyaoon: $7,341 from 11 theaters; $667 average

Even with Priyanka Chopra as a costar, Ram Charan only grossed $81,117 from 79 theaters ($1,027 average) in the opening weekend of 2013’s Zanjeer. Only Dhanush had any success of note with his Hindi-film debut Raanjhanaa ($414,211 from 102 theaters; $4,061 average), and he had the advantage of having Sonam Kapoor for a costar.

The Lunchbox and 2 States were the only other Hindi films lingering in theaters over the Memorial Day weekend. With its theater count diminished to 57, The Lunchbox earned $86,749, bringing its total North American earnings to $3,706,362.

2 States earned $2,528 from five theaters to bring its total earnings to $2,190,307.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: March 28-30

Queen‘s box office run continues to amaze. The weekend of March 28-30, 2014, marked Queen‘s fourth weekend in North American theaters, during which it showed in more theaters and earned more money than it did in its first weekend (according to Bollywood Hungama).

To put this in perspective, compare Queen‘s North American box office performance to that of Jai Ho, currently the highest earning Hindi film released in the U.S. and Canada in 2014. Jai Ho opened in 183 theaters on January 24, earning $817,744. Its earnings fell by almost 80% in its second weekend. In its fourth and final weekend, it earned $2,396 from just three theaters.

Queen started out more slowly, earning $161,998 from thirty-nine theaters. Its earnings nearly doubled in its second week and held steady in week three. It expanded into its largest number of theaters in week four (sixty-four), whence it earned $212,550.

The way Queen has added just a few theaters per week mirrors the gradual roll-out of The Lunchbox in North America. The difference is that roll-out of The Lunchbox was planned, whereas Queen‘s growth has been due to audience demand.

With only Main Tera Hero likely to release in North America this upcoming weekend, Queen should retain much of its current theatrical footprint for a fifth weekend. With a total haul of $1,179,491 currently, that footprint should allow Queen to supplant Jai Ho ($1,256,275) as the highest earning Hindi film of 2014, so far.

Now showing in Canada as well as the U.S., The Lunchbox earned $277,853 from sixty-nine theaters ($4,027 average) in its fifth week of release. It’s total earnings stand at $848,990.

Dishkiyaoon made barely a peep in its opening weekend in theaters. It opened in just eleven theaters in the U.S. and Canada and earned $7,341 ($667 average). That’s still better than the first weekend returns of Gang of Ghosts, Ya Rab, and Karle Pyaar Karle, despite opening in fewer theaters than any of those films.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters include:

  • Total Siyapaa: Week 4; $1,207 from four screens, $125,743 total
  • Bewakoofiyaan: Week 3; $477 from two screens; $106,710 total
  • Gulaab Gang: Week 4; $426 from one screen; $98,475 total
  • Highway: Week 6; $160 from one screen; $529,449 total
  • Gang of Ghosts: Week 2; $72 from two screens; $5,978 total
  • Shaadi Ke Side Effects: Week 5; $48 from two screens; $947,787 total

Note: Figures courtesy of Bollywood Hungama

New Trailers: January 24, 2014

Lots of new trailers have come out in the last few days, but I haven’t yet posted the trailer for Gulaab Gang. It’s now available with English subtitles, so I finally understand the conflict between Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s community organizer character and Juhi Chawla’s politician. I’m looking forward to watching a movie with a good female villain when Gulaab Gang opens on March 7.

The other three recently released trailers are all for movies geared toward bros. None of the trailers have English subtitles, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all movies about bros doing bro stuff. All the flicks are set to release over the course of three weeks, by the end of which I expect my soul to be thoroughly crushed.

First up is O Teri, which looks like the worst of the lot. It’s a partial rip-off of Weekend at Bernie’s, and it features a character whose nickname is “A.I.D.S.” Please, cinema gods, don’t release this in U.S. theaters on March 21!

Dishkiyaoon is set to release the following week on March 28. It features more fighting than the other movies, for whatever that’s worth.

Bro Season comes to a close on April 4 with the release of Main Tera Hero. Varun Dhawan showed a lot of promise in Student of the Year, but I’m concerned by the amount of pelvic thrusting he does in this trailer and by the fact that his dad — David Dhawan — directs the movie.

So, what do we think? Any of these flicks pique your interest?