Tag Archives: Haider

Book Review: This Place | That Place (2022)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy This Place | That Place at Amazon

*This Place | That Place will be released on June 14, 2022

The innovative format of Nandita Dinesh’s This Place | That Place, along with its timeless subject matter, make her debut novel an absolute must-read.

Dinesh’s background in theater and the study of protest movements informs how she constructs This Place | That Place. The novel is primarily a dialogue between two characters, organized to read almost like a screenplay. The conversations are supplemented with other documents, including excepts from a guidebook and a developmental materials for a curriculum, along with notes from the character reviewing the document. The inclusion of these materials reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.

The (sadly) evergreen subject of This Place | That Place is military occupation. Conversations between the two main characters — a man from the occupied country and a woman from the occupying country — take place inside his house during the first few days of a surprise military curfew.

In order to make her novel as universal as possible, Dinesh doesn’t assign names to either the countries or the characters. The book could be about Ukraine and Russia or Palestine and Israel, etc. Yet the setting is clearly inspired by Kashmir (“This Place”) in 2019, when India (“That Place”) revoked Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and cut off access to the outside world. Fans of Hindi films will appreciate the characters’ discussion of a “Shakespeare adaptation” set in the region, clearly referring to director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet.

Conversations between the main couple tend to focus on limits: practical limits on the movements of people under curfew; the limits of her ability to understand his experience of living under occupation; limits on the ability of individuals and groups on either side to change the terms of the occupation. The pair deliberately avoid addressing the romantic tension between them in order to delay the most frustrating discussion of all: the limits the occupation places on their possible future as a couple.

The woman from “That Place” is in “This Place” to pilot a (secret) course to deprogram occupying soldiers, similar to tactics used to deprogram cult members. The goal is to get soldiers to question their orders, rather than follow them blindly and to view the local citizens as people, not enemies. It’s one of an array of interesting resistance tactics discussed in the book. Editorial notes attached to the woman’s curriculum give further insights into the characters.

Perhaps of most interest to those of us lucky enough to live outside of a military occupation is the man’s document on how to endure prolonged periods of curfew. Most of the man’s solutions involve taking control of time — the only thing one has in abundance when locked inside one’s house — or at least the perception of it.

As the book explains, despite an outsider’s best efforts to empathize, it’s almost impossible to truly understand what it’s like to be trapped with no access — physical or virtual — to the outside world for days or months. Dinesh does a wonderful job guiding the reader to empathize with the situation right up until the point when the reader realizes that it can’t really be done without personal experience. It’s a an effective call to action.

Dinesh uses her wealth of experience to craft a thought-provoking novel that doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Rather, This Place | That Place invites further exploration and provides a new lens through which to see the world. As one character states: “One of the things that people without the experience of curfew don’t understand, is how easy it is to keep entire nations subjugated when its citizens cannot access information.” That’s a warning all of us should take to heart, no matter where we live.

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Streaming Video News: July 25, 2020

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:

Opening October 5: Andhadhun and Loveyatri

Two new Bollywood movies release in Chicago area theaters on October 5, 2018. First up is Andhadhun, a thriller with a dynamite cast that includes Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, and Tabu.

Andhadhun opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

The weekend’s other new release is Loveyatri, which was called Loveratri until a couple of weeks ago. It marks the film debuts of Warina Husssain and Salman Khan’s brother-in-law.

Loveyatri opens Friday at all three of the above theaters. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

After a good opening weekend, Sui Dhaaga: Made in India carries over for a second week at all three of the above theaters, plus the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

The South Barrington 24 holds onto Stree and Batti Gul Meter Chalu, while MovieMax allots Pataakha two showings over the weekend.

On Thursday, October 11, director Vishal Bhardwaj will be in Chicago for a screening and panel discussion of his brilliant Hamlet adaptation Haider as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. The screening starts at 4:30 p.m., and tickets are just $8.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Streaming Video News: August 2, 2018

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:

In other Netflix news, the streaming service announced that it’s begun work on a Baahubali prequel series based on Anand Neelakantan’s book The Rise of Sivagami. Woo hoo!

Halfway to the 88th Oscar Submission Deadline

Even though the 87th Academy Awards ceremony took place just last month, we’re almost halfway through the qualifying period for submissions to the 88th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Qualifying films must be released theatrically in their home country between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. (Click here for the 87th Oscar’s eligibility rules.)  Accordingly, dozens of Hindi films already meet that qualification.

Since this blog focuses on Hindi-language films, I’m not going to discuss the merits of the dozens of movies in other Indian languages that would meet the qualifications. I’m also limited to movies that are, or have been, available in the United States. So, there are surely a few worthy Hindi films I’m going to miss.

Since October 1, 2014, I’ve given six films 3.5- or 4-star reviews. Let’s look at their chances:

As much as I enjoyed The Shaukeens and Kill Dil, they earned their stars primarily as great examples of their genres (comedy and revenge, respectively). I’m also ruling out Badlapur and NH10 because of similarities to other films — I Saw the Devil and Eden Lake, respectively — that could rub Oscar voters the wrong way.

That leaves us with Haider and PK. Haider — a gripping retelling of Hamlet set in a starkly beautiful, war-torn region — seems like an obvious choice to appeal to Oscar voters.

As charming and smart as PK is, it’s more mainstream than the average Foreign Language Oscar contender. Still, that fact could make it a bold choice for submission. It has high production values working in its favor, along with a funny and accessible performance by Aamir Khan, whom Oscar voters may remember from Lagaan.

Haider and PK would both make interesting challengers in the Foreign Language Oscar category. However, the Indian selection committee has in recent years chosen movies out of left field, regardless of their chance of actually winning the award (submitting The Good Road instead of The Lunchbox? Seriously?). I don’t know that either Haider or PK stands much of a chance of being selected by the committee, but I sure hope they are considered come September.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2014

2014 delivered a bunch of well-crafted films aimed at a savvy audience. Here are my ten best of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Films with budgets large and small took aim at social issues affecting ordinary citizens.  Siddharth powerfully explores poverty through the experience of a man searching for his missing child. The divisive intersection of politics and religion is skewered both by indies — Filmistaan and Dekh Tamasha Dekh — and the year’s biggest hit, PK.

Other films put creative spins on existing formulas. Highway turns a typical damsel-in-distress scenario into a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Dedh Ishqiya features a budding romance between a middle-aged couple, played by Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Naseeruddin Shah. I thought I’d seen enough gangster movies for a lifetime until Kill Dil revitalized the genre in stylish fashion.

Ankhon Dekhi challenges the notion that a movie has to be “about” a specific theme, instead presenting itself as a movie to simply experience.

My sentimental favorite film of 2014 is Queen. Watching Kangana Ranuat as charming small-town girl Rani gallivanting about Europe on her solo honeymoon is a joyous experience. It’s a movie I look forward to revisiting.

Yet one movie stood out from the rest because of its riveting story and immaculate direction. The best Hindi movie of 2014 is Haider.

I’m a huge fan of director Vishal Bhardwaj, and even with high expectations going in, I was still blown away by Haider. It’s gorgeous, thanks both to the natural beauty of Kashmir and Bhardwaj’s use of a bold color palette against a snowy backdrop. Kudos to cinematographer Pankaj Kumar as well.

Bhardwaj — who also wrote the film’s music — maximizes the potential for song as a narrative device in a sequence in which Haider (a modern Hamlet, played by Shahid Kapoor) publicly implicates his uncle in his father’s disappearance. The scene is much more effective as a musical performance than it would have been as a speech.

Bhardwaj also deserves credit for placing his version of Hamlet in such a politically and emotionally charged environment. Notes at the end of the movie highlight how ongoing tension between India and Pakistan have cut off a beautiful place like Kashmir from the rest of the world, to the detriment of regular people simply trying to exist. Placing a 400-year-old story within the context of a modern conflict emphasizes that quelling the dangerous temptations that come with political ambition is a problem humans haven’t yet solved. Haider is a magnificent piece of visual storytelling.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2014

    1. Haider — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    2. Queen — Buy/rent at Amazon
    3. Siddharth — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    4. Ankhon Dekhi — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    5. Highway — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    6. Dedh Ishqiya — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    7. PK — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    8. Dekh Tamasha Dekh — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    9. Kill Dil — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
    10. Filmistaan — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes

Previous Best Movies Lists

Bollywood Box Office: October 24-26

Happy New Year got off to a roaring start in its first weekend in North American theaters. From October 24-26, 2014 — plus some Thursday night preview showings — Happy New Year earned $2,076,873 from 280 theaters ($7,417 average per screen). That’s the biggest opening weekend performance of the year by a wide margin over second place Bang Bang, which earned $1,410,383 from 292 theaters.

However, Happy New Year‘s opening weekend earnings fall short of Shahrukh Khan’s biggest ever opening weekend in the United States and Canada. That honor goes to last year’s Chennai Express — also co-starring Deepika Padukone — which earned $2,416,213 from 196 theaters.

Among the three films Khan and Padukone have starred in together, Happy New Year ranks third in terms of per-screen average in North America. Its $7,417 ranks behind Chennai Express ($12,328) which ranks behind 2007’s Om Shanti Om ($15,474). Yet Happy New Year‘s average is still high enough to rank third for this year, behind only The Lunchbox and 2 States.

Other Hindi movies showing in North American theaters over the weekend include:

  • Bang Bang: Week 4; $19,536 from 20 theaters; $977 average; $2,578,746 total
  • Haider: Week 4; $3,326 from six theaters; $554 average; $1,036,098 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 35; $160 from one theater; $4,050,393

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening October 24: Happy New Year

One of the most hotly anticipated Bollywood movies of the year hits theaters on October 24, 2014. Happy New Year — starring Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood, and Vivaan Shah — gets a wide release in the Chicago area.

Several local theaters are offering preview showings of Happy New Year on Thursday night: MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Marcus Addison in Addison, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. On Friday, Happy New Year gets its official release in these additional theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 45 min.

The South Barrington 30 and MovieMax are both giving a fourth week to Haider and Bang Bang, which also carries over at the Cantera 17.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Kaththi (Tamil with English subtitles) at the Rosemont 18, Marcus Addison, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which is also carrying Pyaar Vali Love Story (Marathi), Poojai (Tamil), Oka Laila Kosam (Telugu), Vellimoonga (Malayalam), and Dikkulu Choodaku Ramayya (Telugu).

Bollywood Box Office: October 17-19

Bang Bang and Haider continued their strong box office performances in their last uncontested weekend before Shahrukh Khan’s Happy New Year hits theaters. In its third weekend in North America, Bang Bang earned an additional $138,308 from 128 theaters ($1,081 average per screen), bringing its total earnings to $2,523,614. That makes it the second highest earning Hindi film in North America in 2014, behind The Lunchbox.

Haider added $62,361 from 49 theaters ($1,273 average) to its coffers, bringing its total earnings in the United States and Canada to $1,022,727. That total puts it in eighth place in North America for the year.

Other Hindi movies showing in U.S. and Canadian theaters during the weekend of October 17-19, 2014:

  • Khoobsurat: Week 5; $2,296 from three theaters; $765 average; $725,610 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 34; $370 from one theater; $4,050,233 total
  • Daawat-e-Ishq: Week 5; $229 from one theater; $385,415 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

In Theaters: October 17, 2014

For a second week in a row, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area. We’ll have to wait until October 24 for Happy New Year.

When the theater schedules turn over on Friday, October 17, 2014, four local theaters will continue to carry Bang Bang: Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

Haider continues its run at MovieMax, Cantera, and South Barrington, which also holds over Khoobsurat for a fifth week.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include the Malayalam films Vellimoonga and Money Ratnam and the Telugu movies Oka Laila Kosam, Dikkulu Choodaku Ramayya, Govindudu Andarivadele, and Loukyam.