Prime Video India announced some 2018 releases poised to join the streaming service in the near future, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get them in the United States, too (but I can’t guarantee it). I’m keeping an eye out for the Kannada films Sankashta Kara Ganapathi and Katheyondu Shuruvagide on November 1, the Tamil thrillers Imaikkaa Nodigal on November 3 and NOTA on November 4, and the Amazon original series Mirzapur on November 16.
Eros Now recently released Smoke, an original series starring Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Mandira Bedi, and Gulshan Devaiah, among a host of other Bollywood regulars. All eleven episodes are available when you subscribe to Eros Now directly, but I can’t seem to find it on Eros Now’s Amazon channel. If you’re considering the Amazon option, it might be worth trying it for free for seven days first.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu had an okay opening weekend in North America. From September 21-23, 2018, the social issue picture earned $139,365 from 73 theaters ($1,909 average), according to Bollywood Hungama.
Manmarziyaan is closing in on half a million dollars in North America after second-weekend earnings of $101,797 from 79 theaters ($1,289 average) brought its total to $489,414. The less said the better about another film in its second weekend of release: Mitron, which earned $874 from four theaters ($219 average). Its total earnings stand at $11,354 — fourth worst for the year so far.
The big story remains the continuing box office success of Stree, which added another $60,534 from 27 theaters over the weekend ($2,242 average). Of the 25 Hindi films to last four weeks in North American theaters this year, Stree is one of six films to earn more than $50,000 in its fourth weekend of release. If it follows the trend of those other five movies, it should earn more than $10,000 next weekend and stick around for at least another three weeks, if only in a handful of theaters. Stree‘s total earnings stand at $769,438. An $800,000 final tally is doable.
Gold stuck around for a sixth weekend in one theater, earning $596 to bring its total to $1,129,092.
After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Manmarziyaan — aka “Husband Material” — had a good opening weekend in North America. From September 14-16, 2018, Manmarziyaan earned $292,463 from 100 theaters ($2,925 average), according to figures provided by Sumit Chadha. The weekend’s other new release — the Jackky Bhagnani comedy Mitron — fared predictably poorly, bringing in $7,674 from 13 theaters ($590 average).
Forty Hindi films (including a few multilingual movies) have released in North America in so far in 2018, making it a convenient time to establish benchmarks for success by separating those movies into quartiles (figures below are estimates because I like round numbers). Based on total North American earnings, the bottom quartile includes titles that earned less than $80,000. The second quartile ranges from $80,000 to about $300,000, with the next ranging from $300,000 up to $1.1 million. Essentially, a movie needs to earn more than $1 million to make it into the top quartile here, but just $300,000 to make it into the top half.
Other Hindi films still showing in North American theaters:
Stree: Week 3; $96,170 from 41 theaters; $2,346 average; $665,464 total
Gold: Week 5; $2,118 from two theaters; $1,059 average; $1,127,974 total
Paltan: Week 2; $470 from three theaters; $157 average; $17,923 total
Stree is on fire in North America. The delightful horror comedy just posted the best Weekend 1-Weekend 2 holdover for the year so far, hanging onto nearly 80% of its opening weekend business despite dropping a handful of theaters. From September 7-9, 2018, Stree earned $162,044 from 52 theaters ($3,116 average), bringing its total to $504,448 after ten days — a wonderful accomplishment for a movie that opened in just 60 theaters.
The weekend’s two new Hindi releases would’ve been better off not opening here at all, combining to earn less than $20,000. The war drama Paltan earned $13,418 from 14 theaters ($958 average) in the United States and Canada. The romance Laila Majnu — which only opened in the US — earned $4,090 from eleven theaters ($372 average), setting a new low for the year for opening weekend total and opening weekend average.
Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se — which released with Stree two weeks ago — fared poorly as well, taking in $12,236 from 21 theaters ($583 average), bringing its total to $103,691.
Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:
Gold: Week 4; $10,840 from twelve theaters; $903 average; $1,124,374 total
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi: Week 3; $4,397 from seven theaters; $628 average; $135,815 total
Satyameva Jayate: Week 4; $3,103 from three theaters; $1,034 average; $224,707
Two new Bollywood films get limited releases in Chicago area theaters on September 7, 2018. The historical war drama Paltan features an ensemble cast that includes Arjun Rampal, Jackie Shroff, and Sonu Sood.
Also opening Friday at MovieMax is the romance Laila Majnu, with a screenplay by Imtiaz Ali.
After a good opening weekend in North America, Stree carries over at the South Barrington 24 and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se also gets a second week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24.
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi sticks around a third week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24, which holds over Gold and Satyameva Jayate as well.
Other Indian, Pakistani, and Bengali movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:
One new Hindi film benefited from the long holiday weekend in North America, and the other did not. From August 31-September 2, 2018, the horror comedy Stree earned $203,915 from 60 theaters* ($3,399 average), according to Bollywood Hungama — pretty good for a movie I wasn’t even sure would release here. Even with Monday’s Labor Day holiday theoretically boosting Sunday’s business, Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se only mustered $56,553 from 38 theaters ($1,488 average), with more than half its total coming from 14 Canadian theaters.
Other Hindi movies still showing in the US and Canada:
Gold: Week 3; $46,674 from 33 theaters; $1,414 average; $1,088,007 total
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi: Week 2; $15,367 from 15 theaters; $1,024 average; $121,689 total
Satyameva Jayate: Week 3; $8,926 from six theaters; $1,488 average; $216,619 total
*Bollywood Hungama routinely counts Canadian theaters twice in its weekly reporting, at least for a movie’s first few weekends of release. When possible, I try to verify the correct theater count with other sources. The above figures represent what I believe to be the actual theater counts. Bollywood Hungama’s reporting technically puts Stree in 68 theaters (making for a $2,999 per-theater average).
Update: When I published this on the afternoon of August 29, all the theaters had posted their full weekend schedules. Check again on Friday, and Stree is showing at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It’s showing in 60 theaters across North America, and it has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 8 min.
One new Hindi film opens in Chicago area theaters on August 31, 2018, and sadly it’s not Stree. It’s the third installment in Dharmendra & Sons comedy franchise: Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se.
Turns out there wasn’t much appetite for a Happy Bhag Jayegi sequel after all. From August 24-26, 2018, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi earned $66,179 from 39 theaters ($1,697 average) in North America, according to Bollywood Hungama. That’s less than half as much as the original earned during its opening weekend in August of 2016: $156,110 from 77 theaters ($2,027 average).
The weekend was uneventful for the other Hindi films showing in North America. Gold finished its second weekend with $146,645 from 115 theaters ($1,275 average), bringing its total to $968,377. Also in its second weekend, Satyameva Jayate took in $23,609 from 14 theaters ($1,686 average). Its total stands at $194,022.
After August 31’s two new releases — Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se and Stree — hit theaters, early September looks pretty quiet on the Bollywood front. Of the three films that were supposed to open on September 7, just one — Paltan — will debut on time, with Helicopter Eelapushed to October 12 and Drive postponed (and possibly heading straight to Netflix). September 14 also saw a schedule change, with Arjun Patialashifting to next year, leaving just Manmarziyan in theaters. The month closes out with 5 Weddings and Batti Gul Meter Chalu on September 21 and Sui Dhaaga: Made in India on September 28 — assuming they don’t pull a last-minute switcheroo. You can follow the changing whims of the Bollywood calendar on my Upcoming Releases page.
Director Reema Kagti and screenwriter Rajesh Devraj took some liberties with Gold, their fictionalized account of India’s 1948 Olympic field hockey victory, changing the names of players and minor details while keeping the core of the story intact. Yet the story’s predetermined ending seems to have stumped the filmmakers, as almost every attempt to create tension in Gold feels forced and inorganic.
The events of Gold are told from the perspective of Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar), an assistant manager on the British Indian field hockey team that won gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. As the world’s most formidable hockey team for many years running, frustration builds among the team at being forced to share their glory with their British oppressors. But with the independence movement growing in strength, Tapan and the team’s captain, Shankar (Kunal Kapoor), hope to one day win the gold for India alone.
World War II cancels the Olympics in 1940 and again in 1944. This is addressed in a song montage that shows Tapan spiraling into despair and alcoholism, but it warranted further exploration. What was it like for those athletes who spent their prime competitive years on the sidelines, particularly those in countries far removed from the theater of war? We learn from Tapan that Shankar became a coach and that another player, Imtiaz Ali Shah (Vineet Kumar Singh), became a freedom fighter, but not how they felt about being unable to compete.
Gold’s greatest fault is that it is too focused on Akshay Kumar’s character. His emotional journey is the only one shown in any real depth, and events are shown exclusively from his perspective. It’s a stark contrast to 2007’s Chak De! India — another patriotic field hockey movie — which managed to establish about a dozen other memorable characters, in addition to a manager played by a superstar actor (in that case, Shah Rukh Khan).
When the war ends and a new Olympic games is announced for 1948 in England, Tapan rushes to assemble a team. With independence from Britain right around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to beat the Brits on their home soil. The sports commissioner Mr. Wadia gives his consent, with the provision that Tapan share managerial duties with Mr. Mehta (Atul Kale).
With the former superstar Shankar comfortably retired, Tapan enlists Imtiaz to serve as captain, bringing veteran leadership to a squad of young players with no international experience. Two hopeful new stars include a Punjabi policeman named Himmat (Sunny Kaushal) and Raghubhir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), a prince from a noble family.
Yet the plans Tapan and Imtiaz make in anticipation of independence are destroyed by the surprise implementation of Partition. Violence forces Imtiaz and several other Muslim players to flee with their families to the newly formed Pakistan, and the team’s British-Indian players head to Australia. Gold‘s best sequence is the heart-wrenching moment when Imtiaz decides to leave the nation whose independence he fought for, saying: “My country is different now.” His character’s particular struggles warrant a standalone movie.
Sadly, Gold heads downhill from here. The newly assembled team’s training is plagued by problems that promise to generate dramatic tension. Only that tension never really manifests — since the problems are all solved as quickly as they start. Mehta undermines Tapan, but Wadia immediately endorses Tapan’s approach. The team won’t work together, but then they learn to do so in a matter of minutes.
It’s a shame that Kagti and Devraj abandon politics at this point, since it could have been a good source of intra-team conflict, especially since the characters aren’t strictly based on any of the real-life team members. How do working class team members feel about playing with a prince, who seems unaffected by the fallout from Partition? Is Himmat worried about the violence in Punjab while he’s in training? How do any of the other dozen or so unnamed players feel about… well, anything? Instead, the climactic tension is created by one character needlessly withholding information from others — a silly shortcut, given all the potential sources of conflict available.
The acting is uniformly decent, with Singh giving the film’s standout performance. Shah and Kaushal are good as well. Kumar is fine, but the film’s uneven mix of drama and comedy keeps this from being one of his more memorable roles. Mouni Roy — who plays Tapan’s wife, Monobina — likewise suffers for having to perform comedy scenes that aren’t especially funny. Roy is seventeen years younger than Kumar, which makes one wonder why her young, attractive character would marry a much older, intermittently-employed drunk — a question that could have been avoided by casting an actress closer in age to Kumar.
Many of Gold‘s shortcomings could be forgiven if its hockey scenes were exciting, but they aren’t (the few that exist anyway). The Olympic scenes are also hampered by distracting CGI crowds in the background. Contrast that with the thrilling, beautifully-shot hockey scenes in Chak De! India, and Gold is strictly average.
The romantic comedy sequel Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is the only new Bollywood film opening in the Chicago area on August 24, 2018. The 2016 original — Happy Bhag Jayegi — was just okay, but maybe the addition of Sonakshi Sinha to the cast can liven up the second film.
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi opens Friday at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 16 min.