After enduring three weeks with no new Hindi films in North American theaters, fans turned out in large numbers for the thriller NH10. During the weekend of March 13-15, 2015, NH10 earned $143,209 from 46 theaters. Its per-screen average earnings of $3,113 are second highest for the year, behind Baby‘s $4,393 opening weekend average.
NH10‘s per-screen average is twice that of another actress-led film from 2015, January’s Dolly Ki Doli ($1,557 average). Dolly Ki Doli had the theoretical advantages of Rajkummar Rao in a supporting role and a cameo by Saif Ali Khan, but it overreached by opening in 72 theaters. Plus, NH10 is simply a better movie.
2014 featured two more direct comparisons by which to measure NH10‘s performance: Queen and Gulaab Gang. Both movies released on March 7, 2014, with Queen opening in 39 theaters in the United States and Canada and Gulaab Gang in 46. In their first weekend in theaters, Queen took in $161,998 ($4,154 average) and Gulaab Gang $60,718 ($1,320 average).
It’s hard to imagine any movie receiving the extraordinary uptick in business that propelled Queen to an eventual total in excess of $1.4 million, but NH10‘s opening weekend performance is closer to that of Queen than to other recent female-led films. With no new releases of note on the horizon for the rest of the month and a positive IMDb rating of 7.6 stars, NH10 should hold up well in the weeks to come.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Badlapur: Week 4; $6,495 from eight theaters; $812 average; 418,490 total
Roy: Week 5; $196 from one theater; $242,344 total
Shamitabh: Week 6; $52 from one theater; $299,352 total
When international media outlets report of new horrors inflicted upon Indian women on a seemingly daily basis, there’s a need for inspiring films to provide relief. Gulaab Gang‘s tale of female empowerment has its heart in the right place but isn’t introspective enough to leave a lasting mark.
Inspired by the real-life Gulaabi Gang of activists in Uttar Pradesh, Gulaab Gang follows the exploits of a fictional gang of female vigilantes, lead by Rajjo (Madhuri Dixit). A sequence at the start of the film — inexplicably voiced-over by a man instead of a woman — explains that Rajjo turned to activism when she was denied an education as a girl. This is as much insight into any of the characters as the movie provides.
In addition to admonishing abusive husbands, the dozens of members of the Gulaab Gang fix problems in the village when corrupt bureaucrats or out-numbered policemen won’t. Landlord cut off your electricity? Boss won’t pay your wages? The Gulaab Gang will fix it!
The gang is also responsible for educating the youth of the village. Rajjo repeatedly states that she wants to build a school for the village, but doesn’t her compound already serve that purpose? It’s never made clear why a new school building is important enough that it can be used to blackmail Rajjo.
The movie fails to identify some of the key characters. Rajjo has two young lieutenants, and one of them — a woman with a nose ring played by Priyanka Bose — is never named, as far as I could tell. The other, Mahi (Divya Jagdale), is only named in the last thirty minutes of the film.
The last thirty minutes are relentlessly depressing for Rajjo and her crew. Rajjo’s arch-nemesis — a politician named Sumitra Devi (Juhi Chawla, whose smugness evokes Manoj Bajpayee in similar roles) — goes beyond trying to discredit Rajjo to advocating for the murder of the whole gang.
Gulaab Gang builds such an air of hopelessness in its final act that the resolution feels abrupt and inadequate. A dance number before the climactic battle doesn’t help.
Where the movie excels is in building a case that women can carry action movies. The fight sequences are more realistic than most Bollywood rural action flicks — no one flies twenty feet into the air after taking a punch — but are just as satisfying.
The best moment in the Soumik Sen-directed film involves a chilling act of violence committed by the gang against a rapist who’s gone for a swim. As they carry the man into his father’s house and deposit him on a couch, Mahi says with an exhausted air, “We had a hard time getting him out of the water.” The camera cuts to a floor-level shot of empty pant-legs dangling as a gang member sets a pair of sandals beneath them, where feet should be.
The problem with the violence in Gulaab Gang is that its implications are never fully explored. A reporter asks Rajjo why her gang often resorts to violence — admittedly as a second option after peaceful means fail — and Rajjo responds in essence, “Because it works.” There’s no reason why women can’t be as violent as men, but an examination of how the gang sees their actions as different would have been interesting.
Another tendency that deserves more attention is the gang’s habit — Sumitra Devi is even worse about this — of humiliating men, even when they can meet their goals without doing so. When in a position of power, the women are just as apt to target their opponent’s gender-specific weaknesses as the men are in the same position.
Gulaab Gang‘s story needed more nuance to be truly considered a game changer. Still, it’s nice to see a Bollywood action film that doesn’t center around the heroics of a one-man army for a change.
Queen‘s box office run continues to amaze. The weekend of March 28-30, 2014, marked Queen‘s fourth weekend in North American theaters, during which it showed in more theaters and earned more money than it did in its first weekend (according to Bollywood Hungama).
To put this in perspective, compare Queen‘s North American box office performance to that of Jai Ho, currently the highest earning Hindi film released in the U.S. and Canada in 2014. Jai Ho opened in 183 theaters on January 24, earning $817,744. Its earnings fell by almost 80% in its second weekend. In its fourth and final weekend, it earned $2,396 from just three theaters.
Queen started out more slowly, earning $161,998 from thirty-nine theaters. Its earnings nearly doubled in its second week and held steady in week three. It expanded into its largest number of theaters in week four (sixty-four), whence it earned $212,550.
The way Queen has added just a few theaters per week mirrors the gradual roll-out of The Lunchbox in North America. The difference is that roll-out of The Lunchbox was planned, whereas Queen‘s growth has been due to audience demand.
With only Main Tera Hero likely to release in North America this upcoming weekend, Queen should retain much of its current theatrical footprint for a fifth weekend. With a total haul of $1,179,491 currently, that footprint should allow Queen to supplant Jai Ho ($1,256,275) as the highest earning Hindi film of 2014, so far.
Now showing in Canada as well as the U.S., The Lunchbox earned $277,853 from sixty-nine theaters ($4,027 average) in its fifth week of release. It’s total earnings stand at $848,990.
Dishkiyaoon made barely a peep in its opening weekend in theaters. It opened in just eleven theaters in the U.S. and Canada and earned $7,341 ($667 average). That’s still better than the first weekend returns of Gang of Ghosts, Ya Rab, and Karle Pyaar Karle, despite opening in fewer theaters than any of those films.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters include:
Despite two new Hindi films hitting theaters on March 21, 2014, the North American box office performances of all Bollywood films were dominated by a movie in its third week in theaters.
Queen continues its remarkable run, expanding into a total of fifty-seven theaters in its third week of release. According to Bollywood Hungama, it earned $284,030 in the U.S. and Canada for the weekend of March 21 through March 23, putting it in twentieth place in the general U.S. box office. With total earnings of $895,130 so far, Queen is poised to bypass Shaadi Ke Side Effects as the second highest earner among Bollywood films this year (behind Jai Ho).
The weekend’s two new releases fared dismally at the North American box office. Both movies opened in twenty theaters in the U.S. and Canada. Ragini MMS 2 earned $16,317 (an $815 average per screen), while Gang of Ghosts earned just $4509 ($225 average).
Bewakoofiyaan performed just about as miserably in its second weekend. It earned $12,589 from twenty-one theaters ($599 average). Its total stands at $105,025. Given that Bewakoofiyaan is a better movie than its numbers would indicate, I hope Yash Raj Films gets it on Netflix quickly to help it find an audience there.
The Lunchbox continues to perform well in the U.S., though figures differ on how well, based on the source. Now showing in thirty-six theaters, Bollywood Hungama lists The Lunchbox‘s fourth-weekend earnings as $139,033, while Box Office Mojo tallies them higher at $183,986. Bollywood Hungama reports the film’s total earnings as $468,043 so far, compared to Box Office Mojo’s total of $525,363.
Among older Hindi films still in theaters, Shaadi Ke Side Effects continues to best more recent offerings. In its fourth weekend — according to Bollywood Hungama — SKSE earned $3578 from eight theaters ($447 average), bringing its total to $946,659.
In its third weekend, Total Siyapaa earned $1,918 from 5 theaters ($383 average; $123,755 total earnings), while Gulaab Gang earned $1,334 from 4 theaters ($334 average; $97,630 total earnings).
Something fascinating happened at the North American box office during the weekend of March 14-16, 2014. A movie in its second weekend not only won the weekend over the lone new Hindi release, but also nearly doubled its own first weekend earnings.
Following an unexpectedly strong box office performance last weekend, driven by positive word of mouth, twelve more theaters in the U.S. and Canada added the charming coming-of-age film Queen to their rosters. With a total of fifty-one theaters in North America now showing Queen, it earned $299,592, nearly double the $161,998 it earned last weekend, according to Bollywood Hungama. Its $5874 per-screen average put it ahead of all of the movies in the general U.S. top twenty besides The Grand Budapest Hotel and Veronica Mars.
Queen‘s growing success put a major dent in the returns for the weekend’s only new release, Bewakoofiyaan. The romantic comedy took in just $67,738 from sixty-six screens for an appalling average of $1,026.
Bewakoofiyaan‘s underperformance is almost as surprising as Queen‘s overperformance. The rom-com had the backing of a major studio (Yash Raj Films), featured two rising stars in Ayushmann Khurrana and Sonam Kapoor, and the trailer was heavily promoted in theaters. On top of that, it’s an entertaining and very accessible movie.
Bollywood Hungama attributes the film’s poor performance in India to low overall theater attendance before the start of Holi and student exams. Given that neither of those reasons apply to the same degree in North America, why did Bewakoofiyaan fail here?
Too Many Romantic Comedies
There have been a glut of romantic comedies released recently: Hasee Toh Phasee on February 7, Shaadi Ke Side Effects on February 28, and Total Siyapaa on March 7. By the time Bewakoofiyaan hit theaters on March 14, I know I was much more in the mood to see some dudes fight than to watch another couple fumble their way to the altar.
Misleading Title Total Siyapaa is guilty of this, too. Which one of these titles would you assume belongs to a romantic comedy: Stupidities, Total Chaos, or The Side Effects of Marriage? The target audience for a rom-com may not be interested in stupidity or chaos. Also, with American multiplexes presently awash in action flicks, cartoons, and months-old Oscar nominees, Bewakoofiyaan could’ve drawn in mainstream moviegoers desperate for something new if it had an English title (like Queen).
The marketing for Bewakoofiyaan is as guilty of misrepresentation as the title. The trailer promises wackiness and stupidity that (thankfully) aren’t present in the movie. Why promote a film about the effects of the global recession on a romance between executives to the same crowd that would be happy to watch Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn slap each other for two hours?
As for the rest of this weekend’s box office returns, The Lunchbox continued its strong performance. Now in eighteen theaters, it earned $77,044 ($4,280 average), bringing its U.S. total to $290,526.
Shaadi Ke Side Effects earned $32,005 from thirty-two theaters ($1,000 average) in its third weekend. Its total North American earnings stand at $933,225.
The other films in their second weekend in the theaters fared far worse than Queen. Total Siyapaa earned $13,525 from twenty-one theaters ($644 average), while Gulaab Gang earned $11,048 from nineteen theaters ($581 average). Their total earnings — $116,241 and $92,203, respectively — are nothing to brag about.
Holding out in one remaining theater, Highway earned $1,511 to bring its four-week total earnings to $528,721.
Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Balyakalasakhi (Malayalam) and Hang Up (Telugu). The Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale is showing the Punjabi film Kaum De Heere (with English subtitles).
A glut of new releases led to some strange North American box office results for the weekend of March 7-9, 2014.
This past weekend saw the release of four new Hindi films — Queen, Gulaab Gang, Total Siyapaa, and Ya Rab (in its U.S. debut) — to compete against a big budget romcom (Shaadi Ki Side Effects), a hyped indie film (The Lunchbox), and a lingering critical hit (Highway). All four of the new films released in relatively few theaters, limiting the potential audience.
According to Bollywood Hungama, the weekend’s winner in terms of total gross was Shaadi Ki Side Effects in its second release week. Much of that success stems from showing in ninety theaters, whereas its closest competitor — Total Siyapaa — commanded only fifty screens. SKSE earned $165,079 ($1,834 average), bringing its total North American collections to $855,836.
In terms of per screen average, The Lunchbox won the weekend. Expanding into thirteen theaters nationally, The Lunchbox earned $114,779 for an average of $8,829 per screen. Its two-week U.S. total stands at $174,711.
Queen fared the best of the weekend’s new releases. It earned $161,998 from thirty-nine theaters. Its per screen average of $4,154 is the fourth highest for a Hindi film this year, and it bested the average of all but the three highest earners in the overall U.S. top ten (according to Box Office Mojo).
The second place finisher among the new releases earned less than half of Queen‘s total, despite debuting on more screens. Total Siyapaa earned $77,469 from fifty screens for an average of $1,549.
Despite having arguably the most local hype of any of the new flicks, Gulaab Gang earned just $60,718 from 46 screens, a per screen average of $1,320.
The big loser of the weekend was Ya Rab, which dropped into fifteen U.S. theaters with no fanfare weeks after its Indian theatrical release. It managed to underperform even Karle Pyaar Karle, taking in $1,404 total for an average of just $94. Jeepers.
In its third week in theaters, Highway earned $10,904 from seven screens. Its per screen average of $1,558 was better than those of Total Siyapaa, Gulaab Gang, and Ya Rab in their debut weekends. Highway‘s total North American earnings stand at $525,033.
I have never seen a weekend so packed with new Hindi films! Five new movies open in the Chicago area on March 7, 2014, though in a limited number of theaters.
At last, Chicago gets The Lunchbox! The only downside is that it’s opening in just two theaters, and neither of them is a theater that typically shows Bollywood movies. Clearly, distributor Sony Pictures Classics trusts that The Lunchbox will draw in the general public, in addition to the local Bollywood diehards. I’d love for this to start a trend.
The rest of the new Hindi movies opening locally March 7 will run at many of the usual Bollywood-friendly theaters. First up is Gulaab Gang, starring Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Juhi Chawla. It opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 19 min.
Also new on Friday is Total Siyapaa (formerly known as Aman Ki Asha), a romantic comedy starring Ali Zafar and Yami Gautam. It opens at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30 and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 49 min.
The Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30 will also carry Kangana Ranaut’s Queen this weekend. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 26 min.
Even though it released in India on February 7, the political drama Ya Rab debuts this Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. It has a listed runtime of 2 hours.
Note: My tentative plan (subject to change) is to reviewQueen on Monday and Gulaab Gang on Tuesday. I’m planning to give Ya Rab a pass, but things can always change. My reviews of The Lunchbox and Total Siyapaa are now online.
Lots of new trailers have come out in the last few days, but I haven’t yet posted the trailer for Gulaab Gang. It’s now available with English subtitles, so I finally understand the conflict between Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s community organizer character and Juhi Chawla’s politician. I’m looking forward to watching a movie with a good female villain when Gulaab Gang opens on March 7.
The other three recently released trailers are all for movies geared toward bros. None of the trailers have English subtitles, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all movies about bros doing bro stuff. All the flicks are set to release over the course of three weeks, by the end of which I expect my soul to be thoroughly crushed.
First up is O Teri, which looks like the worst of the lot. It’s a partial rip-off of Weekend at Bernie’s, and it features a character whose nickname is “A.I.D.S.” Please, cinema gods, don’t release this in U.S. theaters on March 21!
Dishkiyaoon is set to release the following week on March 28. It features more fighting than the other movies, for whatever that’s worth.
Bro Season comes to a close on April 4 with the release of Main Tera Hero. Varun Dhawan showed a lot of promise in Student of the Year, but I’m concerned by the amount of pelvic thrusting he does in this trailer and by the fact that his dad — David Dhawan — directs the movie.
So, what do we think? Any of these flicks pique your interest?