Tag Archives: English Vinglish

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

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.)

My favorite movies of the year were almost exclusively dramas, whether the subject matter was political (e.g., Shanghai and Chakravyuh), social (e.g., Ishaqzaade and Talaash), or personal (e.g., Cocktail and Patang).

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.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

  1. Kahaani — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Barfi! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  3. Supermen of Malegaon — Buy at Amazon
  4. Talaash — Buy at Amazon
  5. English Vinglish — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Patang — Buy/rent at iTunes
  7. Ishaqzaade — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Chakravyuh — Buy at Amazon
  9. Shanghai — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  10. Cocktail — Buy at Amazon

Honorable MentionJism 2 — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists

 

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In Theaters November 9, 2012

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.

Last weekend’s new release, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, performed poorly at the U.S. box office but gets a second week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

For a sense of how LSTCK underperformed, take a look at these returns from last weekend (courtesy of Box Office Mojo):

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana: $95,038 (first weekend)
Student of the Year: $49,885 (third weekend)
English Vinglish: $34,575 (fifth weekend)
Chakravyuh: $14,783 (second weekend)

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.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Ayalum Njanum Thammil (Malayalam) and the Telugu films Damarukam and Dhenikaina Ready.

Opening November 2: Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and Ata Pata Laapata

Two new Hindi movies are ready to open in the Chicago area on November 2, 2012. The comedy Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana gets the wider release of the two films:

LSTCK debuts on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min. All three theaters will also carry Student of the Year for a third week.

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.

The South Barrington 30 is giving a fifth and sixth week, respectively, to English Vinglish and OMG Oh My God.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Banking Hours 10 to 4 (Malayalam) and Dhenikaina Ready (Telugu).

Opening October 26: Ajab Gazabb Love

Two days after the opening of Chakravyuh, the Hindi romantic comedy Ajab Gazabb Love hits Chicago area theaters.

Ajab Gazabb Love opens on Friday, October 26, 2012, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.

Chakravyuh continues the run it began on Wednesday at both of the above theaters, as well as the AMC River East 21 in Chicago and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Its runtime is listed as 2 hrs. 32 min.

After collecting $326,508 in its opening weekend in the U.S., Student of the Year gets a second week at all four of the theaters mentioned above. English Vinglish — with U.S. earnings of $1,670,773 so far — gets a fourth week at the Cantera 17 and South Barrington 30, which is also holding over OMG Oh My God for a fifth week.

Last weekend’s other new release, Delhi Safari, failed to earn a second week in theaters. After six weeks, Barfi! finally vacates area screens, with total U.S. earnings standing at $2,799,445.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Trivandrum Lodge (Malayalam) and the Telugu films Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu and Dhenikaina Ready.

Opening October 19: Student of the Year and Delhi Safari

Looks like my fears of a prolonged Bollywood drought were unfounded. Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on October 19, 2012. Getting the wider release of the two is director Karan Johar’s Student of the Year.

SOTY opens in five area theaters on Friday: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

Also making its debut is the animated film Delhi Safari. Note that the version releasing this weekend is in Hindi, voiced by Indian actors like Akshaye Khanna and Boman Irani. Fandango‘s capsule description of the movie includes the information for the English-language version of the film releasing on December 7, featuring the voices of Jane Lynch and Cary Elwes.

Delhi Safari opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. It has a runtime of 1 hr. 50 min. If you need added incentive to see the film, take a picture of your Delhi Safari ticket stub and you can win a $50 Toys R’ Us gift card.

The charming English Vinglish continues to perform well at the box office, having earned $1,405,758 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters. It carries over for a third week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.

The South Barrington 30 also holds over OMG Oh My God for a fourth week and Barfi! for a sixth, with is total U.S. earnings standing at $2,779,172.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu (Telugu), Damarukam (Telugu), Maattrraan (Tamil), and Trivandrum Lodge (Malayalam).

The subtitled trailer for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is out. The film — which stars Imran Khan and my girl crush, Anushka Sharma — releases theatrically on January 11.

Movie Review: English Vinglish (2012)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

One of my favorite feelings is when I watch a new film that makes me think, “Now this is a movie. I wish more movies were like this.” Films that provoke that sensation for me aren’t necessarily perfect, but they are always well executed examples of the form that feel both familiar and fresh. Watching English Vinglish gave me that feeling.

This is writer-director Gauri Shinde’s first film, but you’d never know it. She gets how movies are supposed to be made. The pacing is excellent, and the characters are complex and grow throughout the story. English Vinglish is an impressive debut.

Shashi (Sridevi) is an Indian housewife unappreciated by her husband, Satish (Adil Hussain), and preteen daughter, Sapna. Her young son, Sagar (Shivansh Kotia), is still in the cuddly phase of childhood, and her live-in mother-in-law is sympathetic, but both require Shashi’s frequent attention, reducing her existence to that of a short-order cook. Satish even resents Shashi’s modest catering business selling her homemade sweets, insisting that cooking for her own family should give her satisfaction enough.

The real point of contention in the family is that Shashi doesn’t speak English. Her husband speaks it at his office and her children study it at school, so Satish and Sapna are able to make jokes at Shashi’s expense without her understanding. When Shashi’s sister asks her to fly to New York for a few weeks to help with preparations for her daughter’s wedding, Shashi is forced to confront her feelings of inadequacy regarding English. She enrolls in a language course that changes her perspective on everything.

Of course, Shashi’s linguistic problems are just part of a larger identity crisis. Is she more than just a cooking- and cleaning-machine? Should she even aspire to be more than that? Why does she need to know English if she never leaves the house without her husband or kids to act as translators?

Shashi’s search for self-worth is universal, but there are distinct feminine aspects to her problem. It’s expected that men define themselves by their jobs, but what metric should a homemaker and mother use to define herself? As Shashi tells one of her classmates, “When a man cooks, it’s art. When a woman cooks, it’s duty.” Defining a life by the execution of rote tasks seems insufficient.

The classmate Shashi discusses cooking with is a handsome French chef named Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou). They form a friendship based on their love of food as well as their sense of isolation as foreigners who don’t speak the dominant language. The relationship is also fueled by Laurent’s obvious crush on Shashi.

Laurent’s affection puts Shashi in a precarious situation. She doesn’t lead him on, but she’s pleased to finally have someone — let alone a good-looking younger man — make her feel like she’s beautiful, funny, clever, and talented. Laurent’s compliments are hard to resist when the alternative is being treated like a glorified servant by her husband.

The French chef’s crush is understandable because, at age 49, Sridevi still looks perfect. Her performance as Shashi is likewise flawless. She channels every mother throughout history when Shashi puts on a brave face in response to her daughter’s insults, determined to hide her emotions until she’s alone.

Sridevi’s subtlety gives Shashi an air of realism: her quick, birdlike movements as she tries to comprehend the ticket machine in the subway; her slight smile as she silently mouths one of her newly acquired English words; even her dance moves are small and slightly embarrassed, rather than the broad gestures of a seasoned performer.

Nebbou’s performance as Laurent is also perfectly restrained. Since he can’t say the words, Laurent shows his fondness for Shashi through glances that linger longer than is considered socially appropriate. He’s not pushy, but he is persistent. He’s charming, but not in a cartoonish way.

The members of Shashi’s family are well-drawn. Her niece, Radha (Priya Anand), is an enthusiastic co-conspirator who encourages Shashi’s personal growth. Satish and Sapna aren’t villains, but they seem to enjoy sharing knowledge that Shashi lacks. Little Sagar is adorable, and never annoying or distracting.

Shashi’s English class is populated with characters who all have their own motivations, though not all are successfully portrayed. Jennifer (Maria Pendolino), the language school receptionist, is so believable that, for all I know, they cast an actual language school receptionist to play the part. However, the class’s lone East Asian of unspecified national origin, Yu Son (Maria Romano), distracts with her indeterminate accent.

Also suffering from accent-related problems is David (Cory Hibbs), the teacher of the class who initially speaks with a quasi-British accent that fades as the movie progresses. What does not fade is David’s flamboyant gayness. His over-the-top affectations make him into a caricature who can’t even be humanized by Shashi’s “gays are people, too” speech late in the film.

If the only real problems in a movie relate to a couple of minor characters, it’s safe to declare the film a success. English Vinglish is a refined, adult coming-of-age story with a fantastic heroine at its heart. This is definitely a must-see.

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In Theaters October 12, 2012

Update: The Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles finally posted its weekend schedule, and the theater will carry the new Hindi films Aiyyaa and Bhoot Returns. (Note: I don’t live anywhere near this theater, so I won’t be reviewing either of these movies, unfortunately.) The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying English Vinglish and OMG, as well as the Malayalam movies Molly Aunty Rocks! and Puthiya Theerangal, Maattrraan (Tamil) and its Telugu version, Brothers.

The steady stream of Bollywood movies flowing into Chicagoland has finally dried up. There are no new Hindi movies opening in Chicago area theaters on Friday, October 12, 2012. I’m especially disappointed that I won’t get to see Rani Mukerji’s Aiyyaa, but Ram Gopal Varma’s Bhoot Returns, Chittagong, and Makkhi seemed like potential candidates for screenspace as well.

Still, a few Bollywood options remain in local theaters. After posting impressive first-weekend earnings of $745,414 in the U.S., English Vinglish carries over at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Both theaters are also holding over OMG Oh My God for a third week, while the South Barrington 30 gives a fifth week to Barfi!, which has earned $2,692,161 in the U.S. so far.

Starting on Friday, the South Barrington 30 will also carry the Punjabi movie Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan.

Opening October 5: English Vinglish

The new Bollywood film opening in Chicago area theaters on October 5, 2012 — English Vinglish — marks the return of superstar actress Sridevi after a fourteen-year absence from the big screen. The film also has the worst theatrical trailer I’ve ever seen:

This alternate trailer — which never aired at my local cinema — is more substantive:

English Vinglish 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. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 10 min.

Of last weekend’s two new Hindi releases, OMG Oh My God carries over at all three of the above theaters, while Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal is deservedly booted from all local theaters except the South Barrington 30. The South Barrington 30 is also the only theater holding over Heroine, which has earned $560,285 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters.

Barfi!, meanwhile, continues to perform phenomenally well at the box office, having earned $2,462,008 in three weeks in the U.S. It gets a fourth week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, and Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Puthiya Theerangal (Malayalam), Rebel (Telugu), and Thaandavam (Tamil).