I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the premiere of the Netflix Original Marathi movie 15 August. A bunch of Hindi movies expire from the service March 30, so tonight is your last chance to watch these titles:
Shah Rukh Khan’s production company Red Chillies Entertainment has a streaming deal with Netflix that lasts through the end of this year, and I’ve wondered when Zero is going to wind up on Netflix. I checked on the other RCE titles produced since the deal was signed, and Dear Zindagi, Jab Harry Met Sejal, and Ittefaq all became available for streaming five months after their theatrical release. The only exception was Raees, which appeared on the service after four months. We can likely expect Zero to join Netflix at the end of May, maybe end of April. Badla is also an RCE production, so look for that in early July, possibly early June.
Some of the most disappointing films of 2012 were aimed at families with young children. Joker and Delhi Safari failed to appeal to both kids and adults alike.
A common thread among three of the worst films of the year is the cinematic treatment of violence against women, specifically sexual violence. The lead character in the revenge drama Hate Story is blamed for her own rape, pregnancy, and forced sterilization because she made the mistake of falling in love with an evil man who wanted to ruin her life.
In the inept horror movie Ghost, the torture and dismemberment of a woman named Mary Magdallen — a Biblical figure often portrayed as a prostitute — is depicted in vivid, lingering detail.
One film goes beyond just depicting women as victims deserving of mistreatment by men. It actually promotes a stalker and sex criminal to the status of hero. My Worst Bollywood Movie of 2012 is Ekk Deewana Tha.
Ekk Deewana Tha is so reprehensible because it thinks it’s a heartwarming romance about star-crossed lovers. In reality, the film’s hero, Sachin (Prateik) should be jailed for what he does to the object of his desire, Jessie (Amy Jackson). Jessie repeatedly tells Sachin not to pursue her romantically, which he does by tailing her to work and following her around their apartment complex. As in real life, Jessie’s reasons for telling him to back off are immaterial. “No” means no, or at least it should.
At one point when they are alone in a train compartment, Sachin kisses Jessie despite her objections. Why? Because she was just so pretty that he couldn’t help himself.
Ekk Deewana Tha has been the leading contender for my worst film of the year for a long time, but it’s even more appalling in light of the fact that an Indian gang-rape survivor is currently battling for her life in a Singapore hospital. (Update: the 23-year-old gang -rape victim has died.) The notion that men can take whatever they want from women without consequence — worse still, that a man’s ceaseless pursuit of an unwilling woman is somehow virtuous — needs to die. A meaningful first step is for Bollywood to stop making vile movies like Ekk Deewana Tha that turn rapists into heroes.
Hate Story is a distressing allegory about revenge. In an attempt to create an erotic thriller with an empowered female lead character, writer-producer Vikram Bhatt instead reinforces a belief system that blames women for the sexual violence committed against them.
The story begins as up-and-coming newspaper reporter Kaavya (Paoli Dam) is tipped off to a secret meeting between a judge and the CEO of a construction firm. The tip comes at dinnertime, and Kaavya’s mom is miffed that her adult daughter won’t be able to help set the table. That Kaavya’s parents treat her job as a cute hobby and not the profession it is indicates where Hate Story falls on the gender-equity continuum.
Kaavya breaks the bribery scandal with the help of her male photographer/best friend Vicky (Nikhil Dwivedi). The son of the construction firm’s owner, Sid (Gulshan Devaiya), offers Kaavya a job in order to keep her from reporting such stories in the future. Kaavya chucks her journalistic ethics and takes the job.
A lot of stuff happens in the first forty minutes of the film. Kaavya falls for Sid and sleeps with him, only to learn that the job and romance were a ruse. Sid fires Kaavya, shoves her to the ground, and points a gun at her, telling her, “I fuck the people who fuck with me.” Kaavya learns that she’s pregnant and tells Sid she’ll get half his money anyway. So he has her kidnapped and taken to an illicit country clinic for an abortion. For good measure, Sid has the doctor permanently sterilize her.
Kaavya’s natural response to this horrific violation is to want revenge. Gelding Sid seems like the most equivalent form of retribution, but it’s never mentioned. Neither is murder. Instead, Kaavya wants to ruin Sid’s business. Somehow, that doesn’t seem comparable to being raped, impregnated, and forcibly sterilized.
Even stupider is Kaavya’s plan to ruin Sid by becoming Delhi’s most sought-after prostitute. Wouldn’t her skills as a journalist be more valuable than her ability to turn tricks? Given that she directly tells a couple of male characters, “I’m sleeping with you to get info to use against Sid,” only for them to have sex with her and give her the info anyway, maybe it’s not such a dumb plan after all.
What the plan highlights is the appalling idea that a woman who’s been sexually assaulted is damaged goods, only useful for yet more sexual acts. Bhatt tries to write a few lines to explain that this was Kaavya’s choice, but I don’t buy it. First of all, the plot moves along too quickly for any meaningful character development that could explain Kaavya’s abrupt transition from innocent young woman to jaded sex worker.
More importantly, Kaavya doesn’t have any other options. After nearly dying as a result of the forced abortion, her parents disown her and leave town to avoid their gossipy neighbors. Even Vicky blames Kaavya for the rape, since she did fall in love with Sid. Vicky, who loves Kaavya, never offers to marry her and build a new life with her.
The theme of Hate Story is that revenge is a dangerous game, but the counterpart of revenge is justice. There’s never any mention of Sid going to jail for his crimes against Kaavya, and no one pursues justice on her behalf. If revenge isn’t an option either, how is Kaavya supposed to respond to her sexual assault? I’d like to know Vikram Bhatt’s response.
Two films make their debuts in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning May 25, 2012. First up is Arjun: The Warrior Prince, an animated film co-produced by UTV and Disney.
Arjun opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles. The family friendly film has English subtitles and a runtime of 96 minutes.
Also new in local theaters this weekend is Married 2 America, a thriller about an Indian-America woman whose husband goes missing while investigating a dam accident in India. The film released in Indian theaters on February 17. I suspect the success of Kahaani — which has a similar premise — prompted the eventual release of Married 2 America in the States.
Married 2 America opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.