Tag Archives: Govinda

Bollywood Box Office: July 3-5

I confess, the North American box office figures from July 3-5, 2015, have me stumped. How did Second Hand Husband — a movie with no must-see stars and no advanced local promotion — earn nearly $100,000 in North America?

The exact figures for Second Hand Husband‘s opening weekend, according to Bollywood Hungama, are $99,838 from 74 theaters ($1,349 average). That’s more than Hamari Adhuri Kahani earned in its first weekend in the US and Canada ($94,005), and that movie starred Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi. Second Hand Husband also vastly out-performed a few other 2015 releases with (marginally) viable stars in their opening weekends: Welcome 2 Karachi with Arshad Warsi ($26,013); Hashmi’s Mr. X ($24,806); and Hawaizaada with Ayushmann Khurrana ($16,546).

So how exactly does a movie that currently has only 17 user ratings, one user review, and two critic reviews — one by yours truly; the other link doesn’t even lead to a review — at IMDb earn almost six figures in North America? The most obvious answer is desperation. It’s been two weeks since a new Bollywood film released here, and there’s a chance we won’t get another until Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan opens on July 16. There could be untold legions of devoted Dharmendra fans, or lots of people morbidly curious to see the Bollywood debut of Govinda’s daughter. There could also be a large number of non-Bollywood fans who bought a ticket for Second Hand Husband based on its English title, who then walked out when they realized it was a foreign movie and went to see Jurassic World instead.

Whatever the reason, kudos to Second Hand Husband for turning in an opening weekend that was shockingly not disastrous.

Dil Dhadakne Do crossed the $3 million mark in North America its fifth weekend of release. It earned $48,788 from 27 theaters ($1,807 average) to bring its total to $3,013,736. That’s less than $8,000 behind Tanu Weds Manu Returns‘ total of $3,021,287. TWMR earned $2,782 from two theaters ($1,391 average) in its seventh weekend.

In its third weekend, ABCD 2 added another $27,807 from 22 theaters ($1,231 average), bringing its North American total to $865,222.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

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Movie Review: Second Hand Husband (2015)

SecondHandHusband0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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For an example of the problem with Bollywood nepotism, look no further than Second Hand Husband. In her big screen debut, Govinda’s daughter Tina Ahuja manages to be the worst part of a truly terrible movie.

Ahuja isn’t remotely prepared for a major role in a film, let alone to be a romantic lead. Her primary problem is that she squints her eyes when she talks, as though the mental strain of emoting while delivering her lines requires special concentration.

Ahuja’s role in the Second Hand Husband is that of Gurpreet, world’s dumbest divorce lawyer. She’s unable to prevent her client/boyfriend Rajbir (Gippy Grewal) from being hit with a hefty alimony payment in his divorce from Neha (Geeta Basra) because she doesn’t know what alimony is. When her parents ask her to explain the concept, she says, “Even I’m not clear about it.”

After she eventually reads the details of the settlement (let’s hope Rajbir isn’t actually paying for her services), Gurpreet finds a loophole that will get Rajbir out of his payments and allow the two of them to marry. Rajbir’s alimony stops when Neha remarries, so the two set about trying to find his ex-wife a new husband.

Well, that’s what the movie is about for all of ten minutes. The story shifts completely to the antics of Rajbir’s drunk-driving, philandering boss, Ajit, whom we are supposed to find adorable because he’s played by Dharmendra.

There are subplots about Ajit’s wife and her own divorce proceedings, her brother’s family, Gurpreet’s family, a thief turned tea vendor, and a lovelorn cop played by Vijay Raaz (who gives a more sympathetic performance than this movie deserves).

All of this serves to keep Rajbir and Gurpreet apart, not in a romantic sense but in the sense that they have very few scenes together, despite their deferred marriage being the driver behind the whole story. One guess is that Gurpreet’s role was larger at one point, but was minimized later after writer-director Smeep Kang realized Ahuja can’t act. (She can’t dance, either. During most of one song set in a dance club, she sits.)

Then again, it could just be that Kang doesn’t know how to tell a story. Characters are introduced without explanation, taking over the narrative even though we don’t know or care who they are. Transitions between scenes fail to give a sense of time or place.

The dialogue is so expository and delivered at a such a slow pace that Second Hand Husband feels like a foreign language instructional video. The subtitle translation also stinks. When Gurpreet begs Neha, “Didi (sister), please,” the line is written as, “Baby, please.”

Apart from Raaz, the film’s performances are annoying at best, phoned in at worst. Grewal — also in his Bollywood debut — does nothing to distinguish himself. Dharmendra lacks charm. Basra is a shrill stereotype, though Kang deserves much of the blame for creating such lazy, outmoded characters.

Second Hand Husband takes a solid, high-concept premise and ruins it in the name of launching two acting careers unlikely to take off. Skip it.

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Movie Review: Happy Ending (2014)

Happy_Ending2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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How sad that the weakest element in a movie about a screenwriter is the screenplay. Despite sporadic funny bits and good performances, Happy Ending takes too long to reach its own happy ending.

Saif Ali Khan plays Yudi, a bestselling author who’s been coasting on his fame in Los Angeles for the last six years. When his money runs out, Yudi’s last option is to write a screenplay for Armaan (Govinda), an aging superstar who wants to appeal to a younger audience with a romantic comedy — or “romedy,” as Armaan calls it — that rips off various Hollywood films.

At the same time, Yudi is plagued by woman troubles. He can’t seem to break up with his cheerfully possessive girlfriend, Vishakha (Kalki Koechlin), and he’s jealous of the hot new author at his publishing house, Aanchal (Ileana D’Cruz).

Throughout the film, Yudi is visited by his chubby, hairy alter ego, Yogi (also Khan). Yogi gives Yudi advice, usually by making references to movie formulas. The characters repeatedly look into the camera and acknowledge the audience. At the film’s mid-point — when things are going well for Yudi — Yogi mentions that this is typically when things go wrong. The payoff for this pronouncement is delayed until after the intermission break.

Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. — who also wrote the screenplay — try to add a visual element to the screenwriting references by introducing some scenes with accompanying on-screen text listing the scene number and plot point. This only happens four or five times in the movie, so it’s not enough to qualify as a recurring theme. It just feels like a half-baked idea.

For all of the attention paid to screenwriting references, little attention was paid to story structure. There is no conflict in Happy Ending — besides the general question of whether or not Yudi will set aside his partying ways in favor of a mature romantic relationship — and there are no stakes. Yudi’s money problems are permanently resolved with an advance from Armaan, who doesn’t seem to care that Yudi isn’t making progress on the screenplay.

Vishakha gets a lot of screentime in the first half of the film. The upside is that Koechlin is quite funny in the role. The downside is that her relationship with Yudi is dead in the water, and she’s not crazy enough to endanger him. It wastes time that should’ve been spent on the budding relationship between Yudi and Aanchal.

Yudi and Aanchal don’t spend any meaningful time together until nearly an hour into the film. That is a shame, because D’Cruz is the best part of Happy Ending. She’s as funny as Koechlin, but with a relaxed charm. I wish someone in Hollywood would cast her on a TV show so I could watch her every week.

Yet even Aanchal’s scenes with Yudi are as slow and overwritten as the rest of the film. There are some genuine laughs — many generated by Khan, who’s a fine leading man — but they are separated by vast stretches where nothing much happens. Despite all its references to screenwriting, Happy Ending feels like a first draft.

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Opening November 21: Happy Ending

The Hindi comedy Happy Ending opens in the Chicago area on November 21, 2014. Saif Ali Khan and Govinda are the main draws, but I’m most interested to watch the very funny Ileana D’Cruz.

Happy Ending opens on Friday at the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

After an average opening weekend, Kill Dil carries over for a second week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. Both MovieMax and South Barrington 30 keep Happy New Year around for a fifth week, while MovieMax gives a third week to The Shaukeens.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Rowdy Fellow (Telugu) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont; Chaar Sahibzaade (3D; Punjabi w/English subtitles) at Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale; and Naaigal Jaakirathai (Tamil), Vanmam (Tamil), Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitam (Telugu), Varsham (Malayalam), and Kasturi Nivasa (Kannada) at MovieMax.

Movie Review: Kill Dil (2014)

Kill_Dil3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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With a vibe that combines the wild west with rock ‘n’ roll and Indian gangsters, Kill Dil (“Kill Heart“) has a unique, appealing aesthetic style. That style — plus a briskly paced story and a hypnotic performance by Ranveer Singh — make Kill Dil worth watching.

Singh plays Dev, one of two orphans raised by Bhaiyaji (Govinda), a gangster. The other orphan, Tutu (Ali Zafar), is Dev’s best friend and partner in crime. Together, they serve as Bhaiyaji’s chief assassins.

While Tutu looks every bit the part — black leather jacket, sunglasses, mustache — Dev’s goofy energy and bowl haircut seem at odds with his profession. Yet Dev’s spirited demeanor is what makes him Bhaiyaji’s favorite.

Predictably, everything falls apart when Dev falls in love with Disha (Parineeti Chopra). She works finding jobs for reformed criminals, but Tutu points out that she probably doesn’t want to date one. Dev has to decide whether a normal life with Disha is worth leaving Bhaiyaji and incurring his wrath.

Though the plot is a bit familiar, the presentation is not. The vibrant colors — especially during Bhaiyaji’s Diwali party — and framing make every shot captivating. The terrific rock soundtrack makes every song feel necessary in an otherwise very fast movie. Before you know it, an hour has passed and the word “Intermission” appears on screen.

Zafar, who normally plays nice guys, is very cool as an assassin, taking his cues from the Marlboro Man on the billboard above the apartment Tutu and Dev share. Govinda likewise sheds his usual comic image and makes an imposing tough guy.

Singh is a boundless source of energy, practically vibrating in every scene, even when his character isn’t the focus. He’s at his most “on” during dance numbers. It’s impossible not to watch him. He’s charisma personified.

Yet Singh’s best moment comes during a tearful discussion with Tutu, the moment when Dev must commit to his future. Singh’s earnestness is moving as he channels all that energy into a plea for understanding.

Chopra plays her character well, but she and Singh are somewhat lacking in chemistry (despite Chopra playing her most overtly sexy character to date). Disha seems a mismatch for Dev. It’s not just that he flunked out of fifth grade, it’s that their cultural tastes don’t seem to match. It’s not enough that Dev’s a nice guy.

There’s a moment that hints at a subplot about Dev finding in Disha’s family the parents he never had, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Plus, it’s a little hard to believe that neither Disha nor her family wouldn’t be suspicious of Dev’s evasiveness about his past.

What flaws Kill Dil has are masked by an undeniable cool factor. This is a doggone stylish movie that combines a bunch of elements to make something unique and interesting. In an industry awash in gangster movies, Kill Dil really stands out.

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Movie Review: Delhi Safari (2012)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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*Note: An English-language version of Delhi Safari will be released on December 7, 2012. This review covers the original Hindi-language version.

Bollywood isn’t known for making films specifically designed to appeal to children, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Delhi Safari, a wretched waste of time that insults moviegoers of all ages.

The most obvious criticism of the film is that it doesn’t look good. The animation quality is slightly above direct-to-video caliber. The character movements are so jerky you can practically see the physics engine that animated them.

Most of the backgrounds of the scenes are blurry and indistinct, presumably because the film released in India in 3D and the animators thought they could get away with it. My local theater only carried the movie in 2D, which emphasized every blurred face and fuzzy tree. Since many families will watch the movie at home on DVD or on cable television, it’s inexcusable to do the job halfway.

Of course, the obvious defense of the cheap-looking animation is that Indian studios operate on a fraction of the budget of a studio like Disney or Pixar, but many of the problems are stylistic choices. The animal lead characters have eerily human features like humanoid eyelids that render them grotesque (while the humans look like beings from The Sims). Combining creepy humanoid features with jerky movements lands the critters in the Uncanny Valley.

Sub-par animation could be forgiven if Delhi Safari‘s story was well told, but it’s not. There’s no sense of flow or pacing to the story. In order to keep costs down, the establishing elements of the story are rushed through. Within the first five minutes, we see a crying leopard cub, a flashback to the cub playing with his dad, and a song. By the end of those five minutes, the dad is dead.

The cub is Yuvi (Swini Khara), a young leopard whose jungle home is threatened by property developers. Yuvi, his mother, a bear, and a monkey make the journey from the greater Mumbai area to Delhi, kidnapping a talking parrot along the way to act as their spokesanimal in front of Parliament. Perhaps the film should’ve been named “The Road to Delhi,” as only the last ten minutes take place in the capital city.

Despite being a baby big cat, Yuvi is no Simba. Yuvi undergoes no character development, nor does he drive the story forward, apart from the occasions when his father’s ghost communicates with him from beyond the grave.

Often, the point of children’s cinema is to give kids a character they can relate to, a fellow young person who takes charge of his or her destiny in a way a real kid can’t. It’s inspirational escapism. In Delhi Safari, Yuvi just gets dragged along by the grown-ups around him. That’s the story of every day of a kid’s life, so why would any child want to sit through a movie where his on-screen avatar experiences more of the same?

The voice acting is okay, though I’m not sure what kind of accent Boman Irani’s rotund bear is meant to have. Govinda and Akshaye Khanna are entertaining as the monkey and parrot, respectively: antagonists who wind up being the main characters of the film. Govinda’s monkey also gets the lone funny moment in the film: when he goes to urinate in a field, there’s a “zip” sound effect, even though the monkey is naked.

Delhi Safari is a missed opportunity. The message of ecological responsibility is an important one that children readily understand and embrace. Much of the message is introduced through songs, but the version I watched didn’t subtitle any of the lyrics in English, even though songs make up about a third of the film’s ninety-minute runtime. A laudable message is no excuse for bad filmmaking.

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Movie Review: Raavan (2010)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s latest, Raavan, is his modern retelling of an ancient Indian epic, The Ramayana. By shifting the focus away from the poem’s hero and onto the villain and his victim, Ratnam successfully updates the classic story.

In a nutshell, the Ramayana (at least the part Raavan is about) tells of the kidnapping of Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, by the demon king Ravana. With the help of Hanuman, the monkey-god, Rama rescues Sita.

The story’s denouement has always troubled me. After the rescue, Rama asks Sita to prove her purity by stepping in to a sacred fire, since she had spent a long time with Ravana as his captive. She steps out unharmed, thus proving that she hasn’t been molested (and therefore unfaithful) during her imprisonment.

The couple rules happily until unfounded rumors about Sita’s purity crop up again. Rama banishes his pregnant wife to the forest. Years later, Sita arranges for Rama to meet his twin sons. After they win his approval, Sita asks the ground to swallow her up, and she disappears.

Perhaps if I’d grown up with the Ramayana as my source for spiritual parables, I might not find the ending of the story so sad for poor Sita. Due to her unflinching loyalty, she’s considered the pinnacle of wifely virtue. I’m happy to be an imperfect wife if it means not being burned, banished and buried alive. But Sita gets her say in Raavan.

The movie begins with a wave of attacks on police officers in a remote, forested area of India controlled by a warlord named Beera (Abhishek Bachchan). During the chaos, Beera kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the wife of the new police chief, Dev (Vikram).

Beera’s plan is to wait fourteen hours and then kill Ragini. Beera changes his mind after she jumps off of a cliff to avoid giving him the pleasure of killing her. Ragini survives the jump, and her fearlessness intrigues Beera. He holds her captive, as Dev searches for his wife with the help of a spry forest ranger named Sanjeevani (Govinda).

Raavan is undeniably gorgeous. Perpetually overcast skies saturate the greens and browns of the forest, and Ragini’s mustard yellow dress makes her glow like a flame. It’s hard to believe the exterior locations where the movie was shot are even real, so amazing are the rivers, rocks and waterfalls that populate Beera’s realm.

The first half of the movie is mostly a chase, as Beera draws Dev further into the jungle. I began to fear that there would be no explanation for why the two hate each other, apart from the fact that Beera’s the villain and Dev’s the hero. But the second half explores why Beera and the villagers who harbor his gang are at war with the police. As Ragini learns more, she prays for the strength to stay angry at Beera, even as she starts to sympathize with him.

Bachchan’s performance as Beera is generally strong. In the epic, Ravana has ten heads. In the movie, Beera exhibits some schizophrenic symptoms, arguing aloud with the voices in his head. His quirks are more distracting than menacing. There’s no doubt that he’s a violent man, but there’s a moral code governing his actions.

The Rama and Hanuman characters get second billing in Raavan. Govinda is well-suited to play the fidgety sidekick. Dev’s duties are pretty straightforward: find the girl, kill the bad guy. Yet he does many things that aren’t heroic at all. Eventually, these dubious actions form a pattern of behavior. Is he perhaps the story’s real villain?

Throughout Raavan, Ragini transforms from fighter to observer to negotiator. She has a powerful will to live on her own terms, refusing to be a victim, yet with more flexibility than either of the men in her life are capable of. Rai Bachchan endows Ragini with both a savage sense of self-preservation and dignity — fitting for a modern version of the ever-loyal Sita.

Note: The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min., but it’s closer to 2 hrs. 15 min.

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