With a new year underway, let’s take one last look at the biggest Hindi cinema duds of last year. Here are my picks for the worst Bollywood movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
I’m a little loath to include Baaghi on this list because the film is so unintentionally funny, but it’s also really, really bad, so I guess I have to.
Madaari tries to paint a guy who kidnaps and threatens to kill a little kid as a hero, thus earning it a spot on the list.
All the rest of the worst films of 2016 are problematic in the way they relate to women. Shivaay is weirdly hostile, while Sanam Re is tacky and outdated.
Ki and Ka‘s comedic approach to gender norms falls flat when its male character becomes a national role model just by doing chores. Still, Ki and Ka is positively progressive compared to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, a movie built around the stereotype that white women are sluts.
The worst film of the year is written and directed by the same man who wrote the dialogue for Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Milap Zaveri. Mastizaade is hatred masquerading as comedy, a mean-spirited attack on everyone who isn’t a straight, Indian man. Zaveri’s targets include women, addicts, and non-Indians, but he’s particularly fond of picking on people with disabilities. His characters literally point and laugh at a man in a wheelchair. This is about as loathsome as a film can be. Mastizaade‘s title as my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2016 is well deserved.
Neerja debuted with superb numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 19-21, 2016, the biopic earned $619,185 from 88 theaters in the United States and Canada for a terrific per-screen average of $7,036. The first quarter of the year is prime time for female-led dramas, with Neerja following in the footsteps of past successes like: NH10, which opened in March, 2015, with $143,209 from 46 theaters ($3,113 average); Queen — March, 2014, opened with $161,998 from 39 theaters ($4,154 average); and Kahaani — March, 2012, opened with $263,011 from 45 theaters ($5,845 average). Credit to the team behind Neerja for recognizing that there is an appetite for these kinds of films, and that the money and effort spent on promoting them can yield big results from a growing number of theaters.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the weekend’s other new release, Loveshhuda, which is a textbook case for how not to release a movie internationally. Loveshhuda released with absolutely no fanfare in eight theaters in the US and Canada and earned $1,399. That’s an average of $175 per screen (thanks to generous rounding up on my part). There are several lessons to reiterate here. 1) Don’t release a movie starring a couple of nugus — I could stop there — on the same weekend as a buzz-heavy release with an established star. 2) Let people know in advance that you are planning to release the movie, don’t just drop into theaters with no warning. 3) If you don’t think the movie can carry at least 30 theaters in the US and Canada, don’t bother.
Fitoor‘s business fell 86% in its second weekend, taking in $45,157 from 60 theaters ($753 average). Its total stands at $503,316.
In its third weekend, Ghayal Once Again added another $3,761 from five theaters ($752 average) to bring its total to $292,340. The fascinating thing about that total is that nearly half of it — $136,795 — comes from Canada, despite the fact that it never played on more than 13 theaters there. It opened in 67 theaters in the US. Never let anyone question Canada’s devotion to Sunny Deol.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
Airlift: Week 5; $19,569 from 12 theaters; $1,631 average; $1,843,074 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 10; $1,207 from two theaters; $604 average; $6,563,317 total
Fitoor debuted to good-not-great numbers in the United States and Canada. During the weekend of February 12-14, 2016, the romance earned $339,319 from 163 theaters, a per-screen average of $2,082. Two factors make Fitoor‘s debut underwhelming. First, the movie opened in the most theaters of any Hindi film released in North America so far this year, but it earned substantially less in its opening weekend than either Airlift ($815,933 from 98 theaters) or Wazir ($575,908 from 127 theaters) did in their opening weekends.
Second, Monday’s Presidents’ Day holiday should have boosted Sunday returns significantly, since many people had the following day off of work. Even with the holiday’s help, Fitoor still finished fourth for the year in 3-day opening weekend per-screen average behind Airlift ($8,326), Wazir ($4,535), and Ghayal Once Again ($2,167), according to Bollywood Hungama. Box Office Mojo lists Fitoor‘s 4-day weekend total as $392,670 from 147 theaters ($2,671 average).
Other Hindi movies showing in North American theaters:
Airlift: Week 4; $71,668 from 35 theaters; $2,048 average; $1,804,937 total
Ghayal Once Again: Week 2; $38,856 from 34 theaters; $1,143 average; $270,418 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 9; $1,987 from two theaters; $994 average; $6,561,698 total
I watched Ghayal Once Again, and I have no idea who anyone was or why anything happened. Though I didn’t watch the original Ghayal when it came out twenty-six years ago, I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is that director Sunny Deol and his writers focused all their attention on lengthy action sequences and ignored the plot.
Here’s my best guess as to what the hell Ghayal Once Again is about (with spoilers, I guess, though I’m not spoiling anything by helping you avoid this movie):
Ajay (Sunny Deol) runs a high-tech vigilante firm in Mumbai. He kidnaps and tortures people, and is famous for doing so. The police don’t seem to care.
But Ajay harbors demons, presumably from stuff that happened in Ghayal. He has PTSD after being framed for murdering his wife and child. He’s functional, but by no means cured, although his neurologist, Riya (Soha Ali Khan) — who may also be his new wife — thinks he’s fine.
Ajay gives an award to four college kids for something, and then the kids sing and go on a camping trip. When they get home, they realize that they accidentally captured video footage of rich brat Kabir Bhansal (Abhilash Kumar) murdering Ajay’s friend Joe (Om Puri). Except, at that exact moment, the news reports that Joe died when he crashed into an oil tanker while driving his van with its distinctive “I Heart Butter Chicken” (or something) bumper sticker.
See, Joe met with Kabir, Mr. Bhansal (Narendra Jha), and some cringing government guy (Manoj Joshi) to complain to one of them about the other one. Mr. Bhansal is super rich, though no one knows why. Kabir calls Joe a slave, Joe gets mad, and Kabir shoots him. Then Bhansal has Troy — head of his security force of “highly trained foreigners” — put Joe in the Butter Chicken Mobile and drive it into the tanker.
The kids’ first instinct is to call Ajay, but they call one of their dads instead. Dad does the dumbest thing possible and goes to Bhansal with the evidence, rather than just destroying it. Dad is surprised when Bhansal threatens the kids and insists on bugging their phones.
It’s worth noting that Bhansal has access to such advanced surveillance equipment that it makes Mission: Impossible look like they’re using Apple ][s. He also lives in a twenty story house with a practice tee on the roof, and he regularly golfs balls onto the street below AND NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.
One of the kids was smart enough to make a copy of the video, so Troy and his goons chase the kids in a cool sequence most notable for Sunny Deol’s absence from it. Bhansal watches the action from afar, yelling at his army of code monkeys, “Why is it taking you so long to hack into his server? It’s been more than half an hour!”
When Ajay finally joins the chase, it goes on for-freaking-ever because he refuses to put the hard drive with the duplicate video in his pocket and keeps dropping it. Then he steals a helicopter and flies it into Bhansal’s house. Justice is served, though we don’t know how, why, or on whose behalf.
Ghayal Once Again opened to big numbers in North America, while Sanam Teri Kasam flopped hard. During the weekend of February 5-7, 2016, Ghayal Once Again earned $173,395 from 80 theaters ($2,167 average). This impressive debut for the Sunny Deol sequel was due primarily to his devoted Canadian fans. 43% of the movie’s total opening weekend gross came from 13 theaters in Canada, which accounted for just 16% of the total number of theaters in North America. The per-screen average for those Canadian theaters was $5,702, compared to $1,482 per screen in the United States.
Sanam Teri Kasam had the worst opening weekend of 2016 so far, which is saying something. It earned just $21,660 from 37 theaters, for a pathetic average of just $585. The recent anemic earnings of Sanam Teri Kasam, Mastizaade, and Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 make the case for same-day digital rental in North America, rather than theatrical releases for films that won’t bring people to the cinema. A few films tried same-day rental back in 2010 before the test was largely abandoned, but I’d love to see Eros Now revisit it.
Bollywood Hungama — which gets its information from Rentrak — didn’t post weekend earnings for Airlift, which still has a large presence in North American theaters.
Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:
Bajirao Mastani: Week 8; $4,347 from four theaters; $1,087 average; $6,558,711 total
Saala Khadoos: Week 2; $3,831 from eight theaters; $479 average; $88,381 total
Mastizaade: Week 2; $2,233 from two theaters; $1,117 average; $43,403 total
Wazir: Week 5; $818 from three theaters; $273 average; $1,112,655 total
Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Week 3; $190 from one theater; $31,914 total
For the third week in a row, two new Hindi films are opening in the Chicago area. The sequel Ghayal Once Again — starring Sunny Deol — is one of the two new releases hitting theaters on February 5, 2016.