Tag Archives: Ek Thi Daayan

Bollywood Horror Movies at the North American Box Office

Bollywood horror movies are notorious duds at the North American box office. They open in a handful of theaters, make next to nothing, and disappear quickly. When Anushka Sharma announced that she would star in the horror film Pari — produced by her own company, Clean Slate Films — it raised the question of whether her presence as a marquee star could boost a genre movie’s ceiling internationally.

Horror films remain on the fringes of Bollywood. Most aren’t released in theaters internationally and are left to find their way into homes via DVD or streaming video. Still, when the Hindi film industry collectively decided (deliberately or not) in 2012 to increase the number of Bollywood movies released in North American theaters by a third — from 36 titles in 2011 to 48 in 2012, with an average of 50 Bollywood movies released here yearly since then — that left a lot of open slots to fill, leaving room for niche fare like horror flicks.

That’s not to say there was a Hindi horror boom in the United States and Canada. Most years only see one or two scary films released in theaters, plus a few titles that aren’t traditional horror fare like the horror comedy Go Goa Gone or the survival horror flick Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans.

Pari released in 45 theaters in North America: nine in Canada and 36 in the United States. That’s one more theater than carried NH10 — the maiden production from Sharma’s Clean Slate Films — back in 2015, but 42 fewer than the 87 that carried Clean Slate’s romantic comedy Phillauri last year (all numbers per Bollywood Hungama). Still, for a Hindi horror movie in North America, 45 theaters is about as big a theatrical footprint as you’ll find.

For the purposes of comparing to Pari, let’s look at other supernatural horror movies (which make up the bulk of Bollywood horror flicks). Here’s how such films have fared in North America over the years, in terms of: number of theaters they opened in; how much they earned total in their opening weekend; the average amount earned per theater in that opening weekend; and their final earnings total.

2012
Raaz 3: 28 theaters; $95,301; $3,404 average; $150,716 total
Bhoot Returns: 15 theaters; $3,478; $232 average; $3,478 total

2013
Ek Thi Daayan: 48 theaters; $65,857; $1,372 average; $112,135 total

2014
Ragini MMS 2: 20 theaters; $16,317; $815 average; $16,317 total

2016
1920 London: 38 theaters; $16,204; $426 average; $24,854 total

2017
Dobaara: See Your Evil: 30 theaters; $7,110; $237 average; $11,002 total

2018
1921: 10 theaters; $4,583; $458 average; $7,850 total

Pari opened with earnings of $118,906 — better than the final totals of all but one film in the list above (Raaz 3). Pari‘s $2,642 per-theater average was less than Raaz 3‘s $3,404 average, which only proves that Raaz 3 deserved a higher theater count than it got.

Where Pari really differentiated itself was in its second weekend performance. It held onto 54% of its opening weekend business ($64,247), which was leaps and bounds ahead of Raaz 3‘s 27% retention rate and Ek Thi Daayan‘s 21% carry over. By the end of its third weekend, Pari had earned $320,641 — more than double the next highest total on the list above.

The major takeaway from these numbers is that Hindi films in niche genres are more heavily dependent upon star power than those in more popular genres like romantic comedy or drama. The numbers also demonstrate which stars are able to draw North American Bollywood fans to the theater on their name alone. Sharma is obvious, as further bolstered by the box office success of her other home productions: NH10 ($319,872 total) and Phillauri ($471,522 total). Raaz 3 and Ek Thi Daayan star Emraan Hashmi is another clear box office draw, although his popular co-stars — Bipasha Bashu in Raaz 3 and the trio of Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, and Huma Qureshi in Ek Thi Daayan — certainly helped. Both movies took in more than $100,000 here.

Yet no other recent Hindi horror film released theatrically in North America managed to earn even $25,000. Qureshi couldn’t do it opposite her real-life sibling, Saqib Saleem, in Dobaara. Despite their own name recognition and the fact that their movies were sequels, Sunny Leone and Sharman Joshi fell short with Ragini MMS 2 and 1920 London, respectively. With such dependence on the caliber of the cast, one wonders if Bollywood horror films without top-tier stars wouldn’t fare better by releasing straight to streaming services here in North America and skipping theaters entirely.

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Streaming Video News: December 24, 2013

In celebration of Christmas, Eros Now has made a number of its premium titles available for streaming for free when you sign up for a trial subscription. Those titles include flicks from 2013, such as Lootera, Madras Cafe, Ek Thi Daayan, Grand Masti, Raanjhanaa, and — (cue the fanfare) — Krrish 3! If you’ve been waiting to check out the service, this is the perfect time to give it a try.

Eros Now also recently added Inkaar, which I’m eager to watch since it didn’t open in the U.S. It’s not included with the free trial, but Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh are hot enough that I can be swayed to shell out $7.99 for a month’s subscription.

Merry Christmas!

Streaming Video News: July 28, 2013

The horror film Ek Thi Daayan is now available on Eros Now free to subscribers or as a $1.99 rental. Despite an impressive cast and creepy atmosphere, Ek Thi Daayan lacks a coherent mythology to really make it work.

In other Eros Now news, the romance Raanjhanaa joins the catalog on Friday, August 2.

In Theaters April 26, 2013

No new Hindi movies are opening in the Chicago area this weekend, and there aren’t many older options available on the big screen either. Last weekend’s new release, Ek Thi Daayan, carries over at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, which also gives a third week to Nautanki Saala!.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Celluloid (Malayalam), Udhayam NH4 (Tamil), and the Telugu films Gunde Jaari Gallanthayyinde and Shadow.

Movie Review: Ek Thi Daayan (2013)

Ek_Thi_Poster2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Was the TV edit of Ek Thi Daayan (“Once There Lived a Witch”) released to theaters by mistake? There’s a lot missing from the story: important stuff like character establishment and a coherent mythology. Absent those, Ek Thi Daayan doesn’t really work.

The film jumps into the action so quickly that it neglects to properly introduce the main characters. Following a stylish animated opening credits sequence, we find our hero at work on stage. Bobo the Baffler (Emraan Hashmi) — one of India’s top illusionists, despite his ridiculous name — levitates his assistant at the top of a burning rope. The trick is monitored from a control room by Bobo’s girlfriend, Tamara (Huma Qureshi), and their young orphan friend, Zubin.

Bobo visually and aurally hallucinates a little girl, later revealed to be his long-deceased younger sister, Misha. Bobo misses his cue, and the assistant is badly burned. Backstage, Tamara complains that this is the third time Bobo has hallucinated mid-performance this month. Has no one in the media noticed that India’s top magician has literally burned through a bunch of assistants recently?

While Tamara complains to the priest at Zubin’s orphanage that she can’t get Bobo to commit to marriage — an apparent obstacle to their plans to adopt Zubin — Bobo wanders into an obviously haunted apartment building. In what turns out to be his childhood apartment, he again hallucinates that he sees Misha. Tamara arrives and points out that it’s not Misha, just the dead girl’s creepy-ass favorite doll.

They head home, a love song plays, and the couple has sex — in front of the scary doll.

Already twenty minutes into the movie, we still don’t have any reason to care about Bobo, Tamara, or Zubin, apart from the fact that they’re our only options. Are they good people? Are we supposed to aspire to be rich, famous magicians? Where the hell did they find this orphan kid anyway?

Doesn’t matter. Bobo gets professionally hypnotized, and the rest of the first half of the film is a flashback to the repressed memories of 11-year-old Bobo and the circumstances of Misha’s death. Was his dad’s second wife, Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma), really a witch, or was the boy just angry at her for replacing his mom?

There are clearly paranormal elements at work, but director Kannan Iyer and writers Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukal Sharma throw lore around willy-nilly, without a clear description of the rules of their supernatural world. Where do witches and demons come from? Can they be permanently destroyed? What does Bobo have to do with them? Are his repressed memories some kind of magical amnesia or the result of childhood fright?

There are so many unanswered questions and unclear relationships that it’s difficult to become invested in the characters. While the movie is atmospheric, the story is so straightforward that it lacks tension. The few jump-scares that exist are telegraphed.

It’s too bad, since there are some decent performances in Ek Thi Daayan. Konkona Sen Sharma is delightfully sinister, while not so overt as to eliminate the possibility that young Bobo has judged her unfairly. The young actors who portray Bobo and Misha are both talented.

Hashmi and Qureshi are solid, though their characters lack depth. Kalki Koechlin shows up in the second half as an obsessive fan of Bobo’s. Koechlin’s performance is similarly good, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that Bobo and Tamara aren’t unnerved by her character openly stalking Bobo.

With a runtime of just over two hours, Ek Thi Daayan isn’t long enough (by Bollywood standards) to become boring, but it never offers the audience much incentive to care. With more careful control of the story structure and establishing a mythology, this could have been quite good. Maybe it will make more sense if the DVD contains a director’s cut.

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Opening April 19: Ek Thi Daayan

Even though I’m a huge chicken, I am really excited about the new Hindi horror film opening in Chicago area theaters on April 19, 2013. Ek Thi Daayan (“Once There Lived a Witch”) has an incredible cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, and Huma Qureshi.

Ek Thi Daayan opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Its runtime is listed variously as 2 hrs. 10 min. and 2 hrs. 30 min.

Last weekend’s new release, Nautanki Saala!, gets a second week at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago and the South Barrington 30, which is also holding over Chashme Baddoor for a third week.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Telugu movies Chinna Cinema and Gunde Jaari Gallanthayyinde, Amen (Malayalam), and both the Tamil and Telugu versions of Udhayam NH4. The Cinemark Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale has Sadda Haq (Punjabi), while the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge carries over Baadshah (Telugu).