I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a ton of great Hindi films are set to expire from the service on August 1, as a result of the end of two-year contract with UTV Motion Pictures. Netflix could renew the contract in the near future, or the package of films could migrate to another streaming service. UTV is owned at least in part by Disney, so Hotstar is a likely destination. We’ll have to wait and see where they end up. Until then, here are the titles to catch on Netflix while you can:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-two new additions to the catalog! About half of these titles were on Netflix years ago, but the rest — films like Highway, Mohenjo Daro, and PK — are available on the service for the first time. I’m excited that three more of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have joined the catalog. Here are all the titles added today:
After reviewing my lists of the best Hindi movies for 2008 and 2009, I’m convinced that 2010 was Bollywood’s best year among the three. Of the approximately fifty Hindi movies I reviewed this year, here are my picks for the top films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Some movies are worth seeing just for the stunning visuals, like the updated epic Raavan — which takes place primarily outdoors amid stunning natural beauty — and Guzaarish, which paints a personal struggle in super-saturated blues.
Another romance, The Japanese Wife, deserves an honorable mention. It tells the story of two pen pals — one a Japanese woman and the other a man from Bengal — who fall in love through letters written in beginner’s English. Because it’s not in Hindi, it’s not in the running for best Bollywood movie, but I heartily recommend it.
The two best Hindi movies of 2010 defy easy classification. Part drama, part comedy, part romance and part adventure, they represent cinematic storytelling at its most complete. Both movies are less than two-hours long, emphasizing that it’s the quality of the story, not the length of its runtime, that makes a fulfilling cinematic experience.
Ishqiya features memorable performances by Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah as a widow and a pair of petty thieves trying to pull off a heist. The story is simple but compelling, and the performances make it shine. It’s a remarkable effort from debutant director Abhishek Chaubey.
The movie that has stuck with me more than any other is Road, Movie. After playing at international festivals in 2009, it opened in limited release in the U.S. in May of 2010. I caught it during its short run on On Demand. It tells the story of a city guy who drives a dilapidated truck across the desert, meeting strange companions along the way and learning the secret history of the truck: it was once a mobile movie theater.
Road, Movie is so charming and engaging that it briefly made me believe that I could make a career of driving a truck though rural India, projecting old movies onto the sides of buildings for grateful villagers (never mind that there are few things in the world I’m less qualified to do, and the need for the service is shrinking). The film embodies the escapism that cinema provides and inspires us to dream improbable dreams.
Road, Movie isn’t the easiest film to find in the U.S. — it’s not yet available on Netflix or Amazon (though my local public library has three copies) — so seize the chance to watch it when you can. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
There’s no let up in new Hindi releases in the Chicago area. Two new comedies open on Friday, December 10, 2010: Band Baaja Baaraat and No Problem, which gets the wider release of the two. No Problem stars Anil Kapoor as a bumbling cop trying to solve a bank robbery. Pop star Shakira makes a special appearance in the movie.
The romantic comedy Band Baaja Baaraat (“Wedding Music Band”) follows the exploits of two friends trying to run a wedding planning business.
Band Baaja Baaraat opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Check this incomplete list for nationwide theaters carrying Band Baaja Baaraat, which has a runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.
Starting Friday, the Golf Glen 5 is carrying one other Hindi movie I haven’t found much information on: Family Pack.
Other Indian movies playing in the area this weekend include Rakht Charitra 2 (Tamil and Telugu) and Cocktail (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove also has both versions of Rakht Charitra 2, as well as the Telugu movies Manasara and Orange.
Give thanks for the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the reason why America gets Break Ke Baad (“After the Break”) two days before the rest of the world. The romantic comedy stars Deepika Padukone and Imran Khan as a pair of childhood sweethearts struggling to make their relationship work as adults.
The wonderful drama Guzaarish continues through the holiday weekend at the Pipers Alley 4, Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30, having earned $488,121 in its opening weekend in U.S. theaters. The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying over Golmaal 3, which has earned $1,132,192 in the U.S. so far.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area over the Thanksgiving holiday include Chekavar (Malayalam), Karma: Do You Believe (Telugu), Orange (Telugu) and Tere Ishq Nachaya (Punjabi) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is carrying Orange and Enthiran (Tamil and Telugu versions).
Despite knowing in advance that Guzaarish (“Request”) is a story about a paralyzed man trying to end his life, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional walloping the movie administered.
Guzaarish is heartbreaking without being manipulative. The characters occupy various positions on the ethical spectrum. In a movie about empathizing with someone else’s decision even if you disagree with it, it’s easy to identify with all of the characters and find their motives believable.
Guzaarish opens with a montage set to the song “Smile” (popularized by Nat King Cole), showcasing the details of Ethan Mascarenas’ (Hrithik Roshan) daily life. Ethan is paralyzed below the neck as a result of an accident fourteen years ago, and his days now consist of being washed, dressed and fed by his nurse, Sofia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Unable to use his hands to shoo away a fly that lands on his face, Ethan does as the song suggests and smiles.
In addition to being permanently immobilized, Ethan’s organs are shutting down. His diminishing lung function causes him to gasp for breath between sentences. Ethan asks his best friend and lawyer, Devyani (Shernaz Patel), to file a petition asking the court to allow him to commit suicide.
Everyone opposes the idea: the doctor who saved his life after the accident; Sofia, who’s cared for him every day since; his friend, Devyani; listeners to the radio show Ethan broadcasts from his bedroom; his new apprentice, Omar (Aditya Roy Kapoor), to whom Ethan passes on secrets from his days as one of the world’s top magicians. The court rejects his initial appeal, but Ethan is determined to take control of his own destiny.
The movie is not just about Ethan’s struggle, but how his decision affects those around him. One of the most powerful scenes takes place between Sofia and Devyani. After Sofia blames Devyani for enabling Ethan’s suicide pursual, Devyani reminds Sofia that she didn’t know him before the accident and can’t understand the life he lost. Devyani repeatedly walks toward the door, only to return with one last point in defense of her friend.
Guzaarish isn’t all tearjerking melodrama. Ethan copes with his disability through a mix of gallows humor and randy flirtation, begging straight-laced Sofia to show him the “sexy legs” he knows are under her floor-length skirts. When Sofia finally cuts loose and dances one night, it takes Ethan completely by surprise.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali adds details like Sofia’s long skirts to play up the Portuguese influence in Goa, where Guzaarish is set. Ethan’s beautiful but dilapidated mansion is also built and decorated in Goan-Portuguese style.
Guzaarish‘s arresting visual style keeps with Bhansali’s once-opulent, now-lonely aesthetic. The mansion’s blue color-scheme is similar to the super-saturated colors the director used in Saawariya, and the expansiveness of Ethan’s home is reminiscent of interiors in Devdas and Black. Regardless of subject matter, Bhansali’s movies are gorgeous to look at.
The director also has a flair for highlighting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s otherworldly beauty. With her pale skin and dark hair accented by bright red lipstick, there are moments in close-up where she looks more like a painting than a real person.
The few scenes in Guzaarish that don’t work are unnecessary side stories that are mercifully short. Characters — such as Ethan’s former assistant and his one-time rival — are introduced late in the movie without any previous mention and don’t have a role in the story apart from a brief flashback. Their interludes do nothing to advance the plot or reveal more about Ethan’s character.
Those distractions aside, Guzaarish‘s compelling story and breathtaking visuals make it a definite must-see.
Friday, November 19, 2010, sees the opening of the Hindi movie Guzaarish and Today’s Special, an English-language movie that may interest Bollywood fans. Guzaarish (“Request”) stars Hrithik Roshan as a quadriplegic former magician and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as his nurse.
Also opening this weekend is Today’s Special, which stars Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi as a chef forced to take over his family’s Indian restaurant. The movie is based on a play written by Mandvi and features Bollywood legend Naseeruddin Shah.
Today’s Special opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Check the movie’s official website for nationwide showtimes. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 39 min.
Besides Guzaarish, two other Hindi movies continue their runs in Chicago area theaters. Golmaal 3 gets a third week at the Pipers Alley 4, Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. Action Replayy also gets a third week at the South Barrington 30.
Other Indian movies showing around Chicago this weekend include the Telugu movies Kathi and Yemaindia Eevela at the Golf Glen 5.