I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a ton of new additions to the catalog. Netflix kicked off 2016 by adding seventeen (!) Hindi movies to the streaming catalog, along with a number of movies in other Indian languages, most notably director Mani Ratnam’s 2015 Tamil hit OK Kanmani. I added a category for films in other Indian languages at the bottom of my Netflix page. (January 2 update: Dum Laga Ke Haisha is also now on Netflix!)
Here’s a list of all the Bollywood films added to Netflix today:
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! and Piku are two of my favorite movies of 2015, and I can’t wait to check out Randeep Hooda in Main Aur Charles, which didn’t open in US theaters. A number of these films — like Katiyabaaz and Kshay — were hits on the festival circuit, and this is the first opportunity for a wide audience to see them. Same for the Gujarati film The Good Road, India’s official submission to the 86th Oscars, which was also added today.
2014 delivered a bunch of well-crafted films aimed at a savvy audience. Here are my ten best of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Films with budgets large and small took aim at social issues affecting ordinary citizens. Siddharth powerfully explores poverty through the experience of a man searching for his missing child. The divisive intersection of politics and religion is skewered both by indies — Filmistaan and Dekh Tamasha Dekh — and the year’s biggest hit, PK.
Other films put creative spins on existing formulas. Highway turns a typical damsel-in-distress scenario into a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Dedh Ishqiya features a budding romance between a middle-aged couple, played by Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Naseeruddin Shah. I thought I’d seen enough gangster movies for a lifetime until Kill Dil revitalized the genre in stylish fashion.
Ankhon Dekhi challenges the notion that a movie has to be “about” a specific theme, instead presenting itself as a movie to simply experience.
My sentimental favorite film of 2014 is Queen. Watching Kangana Ranuat as charming small-town girl Rani gallivanting about Europe on her solo honeymoon is a joyous experience. It’s a movie I look forward to revisiting.
Yet one movie stood out from the rest because of its riveting story and immaculate direction. The best Hindi movie of 2014 is Haider.
I’m a huge fan of director Vishal Bhardwaj, and even with high expectations going in, I was still blown away by Haider. It’s gorgeous, thanks both to the natural beauty of Kashmir and Bhardwaj’s use of a bold color palette against a snowy backdrop. Kudos to cinematographer Pankaj Kumar as well.
Bhardwaj — who also wrote the film’s music — maximizes the potential for song as a narrative device in a sequence in which Haider (a modern Hamlet, played by Shahid Kapoor) publicly implicates his uncle in his father’s disappearance. The scene is much more effective as a musical performance than it would have been as a speech.
Bhardwaj also deserves credit for placing his version of Hamlet in such a politically and emotionally charged environment. Notes at the end of the movie highlight how ongoing tension between India and Pakistan have cut off a beautiful place like Kashmir from the rest of the world, to the detriment of regular people simply trying to exist. Placing a 400-year-old story within the context of a modern conflict emphasizes that quelling the dangerous temptations that come with political ambition is a problem humans haven’t yet solved. Haider is a magnificent piece of visual storytelling.
Despite being lambasted by critics, Humshakals performed reasonably well in its first weekend in North American theaters. From June 20-22, 2014, Humshakals earned $262,502 from 165 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,591.
That $262,502 gross isn’t exceptional, but it’s in keeping with the total earnings of several Hindi comedies released in 2013 in North America.
Humshakals is likely to stick around for another week, so its total earnings will probably be closer to those of Besharam than Yamla Pagla Deewana 2. In 2013, a film only needed to earn upwards of $230,000 to finish in the top half of highest earning Hindi movies in the U.S. and Canada, so Humshakals is well-positioned to finish in the top half for 2014.
However, Besharam was considered a box office flop relative to expectations, so matching its total is nothing to brag about. In one crucial regard, Humshakals already lags behind. Besharam opened in an overly ambitious 217 theaters in North America, and its first weekend per-screen average was $2,323. Humshakals — whose 165-theater opening was also too ambitious — only averaged $1,591.
That’s a lower opening weekend average than director Sajid Khan’s last critically panned film: 2013’s Himmatwala, which averaged $1,998 on 99 screens in its first weekend before posting a final tally of $270,880.
While Humshakals‘ earnings aren’t horrible, they’re not great. Its performance — like the performance of Besharam — highlights the importance of correctly judging demand for your product and booking the right number of theaters accordingly.
One other Hindi movie opened in limited release in the U.S. on June 20, and its numbers are so bad that I can hardly believe they’re correct. Miss Lovely opened in three U.S. theaters, from which it earned just $558. Total. Despite a strong festival pedigree, its release wasn’t promoted in any meaningful way (unlike The Lunchbox), so potential moviegoers may not have known about it. Maybe Miss Lovely will have more success when it opens in Chicago and Austin this Friday.
Other Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada from June 20-22 included:
Holiday: Week 3; $48,468 from 34 theaters; $1,426 average; $806,123 total
The Lunchbox: Week 17; $20,354 from 22 theaters; $925 average; $3,963,922 total
Filmistaan: Week 3; $90 from one theater; $45,013 total
Heropanti: Week 5; $82 from one theater; $63,172 total
With no new Bollywood movies showing in North American theaters the weekend of June 13-15, 2014, activity at the box office was pretty slow. Here are the numbers for all Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
Holiday: week 2; $169,460 from 102 screens ($1,661 average); $706,893 total
The Lunchbox: week 16; $30,640 from 26 screens ($1,178 average); $4,094,681 total
Filmistaan: week 2; $5,776 from eight screens ($722 average); $44,307 total
Heropanti: week 4; $671 from one screen; $63,051 total
There’s a great line in Filmistaan that sums up the frustrating nature of the tension that has persisted between India and Pakistan since Partition in 1947. The film’s kidnapped Indian protagonist, Sunny (Sharib Hashmi), is surprised at being told he’s been secretly brought to Pakistan: “The food, the people all look the same. How would I know?”
That theme of commonality runs throughout Filmistaan. The movie beautifully makes its point that manufactured borders can’t erase the cultural similarities that unite the people of India and Pakistan, and that it’s the average citizens of both countries who pay the price for ongoing hostility.
Sunny is the consummate regular guy. He’s an out-of-shape, out-of-work wannabe actor who admits he doesn’t have the chops to make it in Bollywood. But he persists, taking the job of Assistant Director as a way into the industry.
On assignment with an American film crew, Sunny is kidnapped near the Pakistan border in Rajasthan. The militants leave him with a pair of guards in a small village across the border, hoping to nab the more valuable Americans on a second try.
Sunny endears himself to the village children with his impressions of Bollywood stars. His love for film sparks a friendship with Aftaab (Inaamulhaq), a movie buff and DVD pirate. And Sunny’s sheer ordinariness leads the younger of his two captors, Jawaad (Gopal Dutt), to question why they’re holding him in the first place.
Jawaad’s willingness to question orders — in stark contrast to his devout compatriot, Mehmood (Kumud Mishra) — gets at one of the movie’s other themes: the crippling effect of a lack of opportunities in Pakistan. The only reason Jawaad joined the militants and the only reason Aftaab is a film pirate and not a filmmaker is because of a lack of opportunity, caused primarily by the closed border with India and the zealots like Mehmood who want to keep it closed.
Filmistaan is hopeful about the prospects that young people from both countries will someday cast aside national hostilities in exchange for a future built on shared goals and cultural history. The subtlety with which it conveys this message through its story and characters heightens its impact.
Since Filmistaan is also a celebration of the movies, it excels in all the necessary ways. The acting is top-notch. Sets are stark and evocative, thanks to writer-director Nitin Kakkar and cinematographer Subhransu. The soundtrack is terrific.
The story builds to a cinematic climax that sadly doesn’t allow for the emotional payoff one would hope for. Given the effort that went into making the audience care deeply about the characters, the ending needed to be more cathartic.
Still, that doesn’t negate the great journey that Filmistaan takes the audience on. This is a unique and enjoyable film worth seeing.
The action flick Holiday: A Solider Is Never Off Duty is finally hitting theaters, along with one other Hindi movie I didn’t expect to open in the Chicago area. Holiday — Akshay Kumar’s latest pairing with Sonakshi Sinha — releases on June 6, 2014.
The other new Hindi movie in theaters this weekend is Filmistaan. It’s finally getting a wide release in India and abroad after bouncing around festivals for the last two years. AMC must have a lot of confidence in the movie, because it’s opening in three local AMC theaters.
Filmistaan opens on Friday at the River East 21, Showplace Niles 12 and South Barrington 30. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.