I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. The 2014 Akshay Kumar comedy Entertainment is now available for streaming. Tamannaah Bhatia is really funny in the film, but many of the jokes are meaningless if you don’t understand Hindi or have a serious depth of Bollywood knowledge.
For a second weekend, Singham Returns held on to the top spot among Bollywood movies showing in North America. From August 22-24, 2014, the Ajay Devgn action sequel earned $218,164 from 127 theaters ($1,718 average), bringing its total earnings to $1,085,328. That total ranks sixth among Hindi films in North America in 2014, about $170,000 shy of Jai Ho.
The strong performance by Singham Returns forced new release Mardaani into second place for the weekend. (To be fair, Mardaani played on a third fewer screens than Singham Returns.) According to Bollywood Hungama, Mardaani earned $168,997 from 86 theaters, an average of $1,965.
I’m optimistic about Mardaani‘s second weekend for a few reasons. The movie has a high user rating of 8.1 stars at IMDb. Monday is a national holiday in the United States (Labor Day). And this Friday’s new release, Raja Natwarlal, will likely open on fewer than a hundred screens. All those factors could help Mardaani retain a good chunk of its first weekend earnings.
Complete North American box office figures for Akshay Kumar’s Entertainment remain impossible to come by. Based on the $143,699 the movie has earned in Canada so far, Entertainment‘s three-week North American total is likely around $500,000.
Other Hindi movies showing in North America include:
- Siddharth: Week 6; $2,491 from one theater; $59,808 total
- Kick: Week 5; $2,041 from four theaters ($510 average); $2,402,677 total
- The Lunchbox: Week 26; $725 from two theaters ($363 average) ;$4,035,675 total
The Rani Mukerji crime thriller Mardaani (“Masculine“) hits Chicago area theaters on August 22, 2014.
Mardaani opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 54 min.
After a super opening weekend, Singham Returns carries over at all four of the above theaters plus the AMC Showplace Niles 16 in Niles, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.
Singham Returns got off to a terrific start, turning in the fourth best opening weekend for a Hindi film in North America in 2014. Over the weekend of August 15-17, Singham Returns earned $654,054 from 127 theaters in the United States and Canada ($5,150 average), according to Box Office Mojo.
Singham Return‘s performance is significantly better than that of its predecessor, 2011’s Singham. In its opening weekend in North America, Singham earned $161,063 from 50 theaters ($3,221 average). During nine weeks of release, Singham earned a total of $350,864: a figure that Singham Returns nearly doubled in its first three days in theaters.
For a second week, the distributors of Entertainment failed to disclose their U.S. box office returns. We do know from Bollywood Hungama that the comedy earned $27,281 from 17 Canadian theaters, bringing its total in that country to $123,195.
Given that Akshay Kumar’s earlier 2014 release, Holiday, earned about 26% of its total North American gross from Canada, let’s assume that the $123,195 Entertainment earned in Canada represents 26% of its total haul as well. That would put Entertainment‘s total North American earnings at approximately $473,827. Fingers crossed that we’ll get the official figure someday.
Two other Hindi movies ran in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend:
- Kick: Week 4; $19,102 from 14 theaters ($1,364 average); $2,398,097 total
- The Lunchbox: Week 25; $1,652 from four theaters ($413 average); $4,033,909 total
The distributors of Entertainment didn’t report their complete North American box office figures to either Rentrak or Box Office Mojo, perhaps with good reason. The figures that do exist paint a bleak picture.
According to the Rentrak information posted by Bollywood Hungama, Entertainment‘s opening weekend gross earnings in North America (sans theater count) amounted to $236,257. Among the twenty-five Akshay Kumar releases of the last seven years for which I have opening weekend figures, Entertainment ranks in the bottom quartile, between Thank You ($244,183) and Khiladi 786 ($228,967).
This is a disappointment given the relatively good performance of Kumar’s Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty in June. However, it fits with the overall downward trend in Kumar’s popularity in the United States and Canada.
In its third weekend in theaters, Kick continued to pad its impressive North American tally. From 67 theaters, it earned $89,405 ($1,334 average), bringing its total to $2,331,837.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania closed out its fifth weekend of release by earning $1,231 from theaters ($410 average). Its total earnings of $882,343 rank eighth among Hindi movies released in North America in 2014.
The Lunchbox added another $650 to its 24-week total of $4,031,729.
Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama
The distributors of Entertainment should require prospective international audience members to take a placement exam before entering the theater. Do you speak Hindi fluently? Have you seen every Bollywood movie of note since 1960? No? Then don’t bother buying a ticket, because you won’t understand most of the jokes.
It’s so frustrating because Entertainment‘s plot is straightforward and high concept. Akhil (Akshay Kumar) discovers that he’s the illegitimate son of a recently deceased millionaire, Pannalal Johri (Dalip Tahil). Thinking he had no heirs, Johri left his estate to his dog, Entertainment (Junior, a cute Golden Retriever). Akhil tries to get rid of the dog and claim the inheritance but learns that he’s not the only one after the money.
With Entertainment, directing duo Sajid-Farhad had the chance to make the kind of accessible, family friendly film that remains rare in Bollywood. Unfortunately, many potential audience members will feel left out while watching the movie.
As with many Bollywood comedies, there are loads of wordplay jokes that by their very nature don’t translate well from Hindi to English. Furthering the problem is that Akhil’s best friend, Jugnu (Krishna Abhishek), speaks exclusively in movie references. Only some of his references to the plots of classic movies are explained.
Worse, he cites dozens of popular actors, using the literal meanings of their names as the punchline. (The English equivalent would be names like Grace, Daisy, or John.) The production team’s stalwart translators display only the literal meanings for the English subtitles on screen. Though one can hear Jugnu say “Sonakshi Sinha” as part of a punchline, her name doesn’t appear on screen, only the direct translation. It botches the joke and clearly delineates non-Hindi speakers as outsiders.
Of course, the bulk of the audience for Entertainment resides in India, watches Bollywood movies, and speaks Hindi, but the easy-to-follow story and English title made this an obvious crossover movie. The final product squanders that opportunity.
Entertainment is much more successful when it demonstrates an understanding of movie conventions and uses them for humor than when it just has characters list the names of films and film stars. Some of Entertainment‘s funniest moments are when the movie breaks the fourth wall, usually at the hands of Akhil’s girlfriend, Saaskshi (Tamannaah Bhatia).
Saakshi is a TV soap opera actress who has trouble leaving her work at the office. She breaks into soliloquies in which she addresses the camera directly, and the results are always funny.
One more great bit of metafiction involves the other claimants to Johri’s fortune, stepbrothers Karan (Prakash Raj) and Arjun (Sonu Sood). Whenever Karan raises his hand to strike Arjun, Arjun cries and invokes their dead mother. This triggers a mournful old movie tune sung by a woman, which causes the brothers to cry and make up. This song isn’t just in their heads. It’s audible to everyone, causing Saakshi and Akhil to look around confusedly for the source of the spectral singing.
Though Kumar’s comic performances are hit-or-miss, he’s pretty good in Entertainment, because the slapstick isn’t overdone. The supporting performances are good, too, especially Bhatia, but also Johnny Lever as Johri’s estate manager, Habibullah. (There are a bunch of jokes involving people messing up Habibullah’s name, and I didn’t understand what was so funny about them, either).
If you speak Hindi and have a depth of knowledge of Bollywood movies, you’ll probably enjoy Entertainment. It has some good gags, there are tons of cute dogs, and the story moves quickly enough. If you don’t understand Hindi or aren’t a Bollywood historian, I’d skip it.
Akshay Kumar’s latest comedy, Entertainment (formerly titled It’s Entertainment), opens in the Chicago area on August 8, 2014. The trailer makes my head hurt.
Entertainment opens on Friday at the AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 19 min.
Though not a Hindi movie, the culinary drama The Hundred-Foot Journey features Bollywood veterans Om Puri and Juhi Chawla. It releases nationwide on Friday.
Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include Geethanjali (Telugu), Galipatam (Telugu), Run Raja Run (Telugu), Jigarthanda (Tamil), Vikramadithyan (Malayalam), Sarabham (Tamil), Drushyam (Telugu), and Velaiyilla Pattathari (Tamil).