Tag Archives: Hindi Medium

Best Bollywood Movies of 2017

Looking back at all of the 2017 releases that I reviewed, there were more movies that I liked than those I didn’t. Here are my ten favorites from a sizable group of contenders.

I love a well-made action movie, and 2017 had two that stood out. Commando 2 took full advantage of Vidyut Jammwal’s impressive physical skills in a solid followup to 2013’s terrific Commando: A One Man Army. The slick action comedy A Gentleman had cool stunts, abundant laughs, and the perfect leading duo for such a film: Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez.

Malhotra made another appearance in the Top Ten with his murder mystery remake Ittefaq, featuring a great performance by Akshaye Khanna as a detective. The other thriller on the list, Trapped, found Rajkummar Rao carrying the weight of an entire movie by himself as his character sought to escape a locked apartment.

Secret Superstar was a touching family drama with surprising emotional depth, especially since its marketing focused heavily on Aamir Khan’s wacky (and very funny) cameo performance. Though Hindi Medium was more deliberately comedic, it likewise packed an unexpected punch, effectively illustrating the negative effects of income inequality on quality public education.

Three wonderful romantic comedies made my Top Ten list. Ayushmann Khurrana lamented the one who (he thinks) got away in the delightful Meri Pyaari Bindu, and he starred in the clever update of Cyrano de BergeracBareilly Ki Barfi — opposite Rajkummar Rao (again) and Kriti Sanon, in her best performance to date. Anushka Sharma showcased her skills as both a producer and an actress in the beautiful tearjerker Phillauri.

While I normally restrict my yearly Top Ten list to just Bollywood movies, I have to make an exception for the multi-lingual film that raised the bar for all Indian cinema on the international stage. My favorite movie of 2017 was Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. Everything about Baahubali 2 was epic: battles, choreography, story, sets, costumes, performances. It’s the kind of movie that reminded me why I enjoy movies in the first place. Writer-director S.S. Rajamouli deserves all the accolades he received for making a truly magnificent film.

Check my Netflix and Amazon Prime pages to see which of these movies are available for streaming in the United States.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2017

  1. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Phillauri — Buy at Amazon
  3. Bareilly Ki Barfi — Buy at Amazon
  4. Hindi Medium — Buy at Amazon
  5. Secret Superstar
  6. A Gentleman — Buy at Amazon
  7. Meri Pyaari Bindu — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Trapped
  9. Ittefaq — Buy/rent at iTunes
  10. Commando 2 — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists

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Bollywood Box Office: August 18-20, 2017

Bareilly Ki Barfi got off to a flying start in North America, despite opening in a tiny number of theaters. From August 18-20, 2017, the romantic comedy earned $185,699 from 44 theaters. Its opening weekend per-theater average of $4,220 is sixth best for the year, just ahead of Hindi Medium‘s $3,892 average. In its second weekend of release, sleeper hit Hindi Medium added a theater and retained two-thirds of its opening weekend business. Its total earnings were ultimately 3.5 times its opening weekend total. If Bareilly Ki Barfi follows Hindi Medium‘s path, that would mean a second weekend total of around $125,000 and an ultimate total of $650,000. I hope Bareilly Ki Barfi can pull off that feat, because it’s really, really good.

Bareilly Ki Barfi wasn’t the only Hindi film to have a good weekend in North America. In its second weekend, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha held on to nearly 60% of its opening weekend returns, posting earnings of $398,182 from 143 theaters ($2,757 average). Its total earnings of $1,381,754 are already double the amount it earned last weekend. Akshay Kumar’s other headlining release of 2017 — Jolly LLB 2 — had a better opening weekend, whereas Toilet had the better second weekend, holding on to a greater share of its first weekend business. Let’s see how close Toilet can come to Jolly LLB 2‘s $1,641,082 total.

Other Hindi films still in North American theaters:

  • Jab Harry Met Sejal: Week 3; $31,337 from 40 theaters; $783 average; $1,981,227 total
  • Mubarakan: Week 4; $4,829 from eight theaters; $604 average; $733,800 total

Sources: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: July 7-9, 2017

Both of the weekend’s new Hindi releases did well in North America relative to the size of their theatrical footprints. From July 7-9, 2017, Mom earned $260,433 from 94 theaters ($2,771 average; adjusted average of $3,339 from 78 theaters*). For context, that’s the twelfth highest opening weekend theater count for a Bollywood film in North America for the year, but the 9th best average and tenth best opening weekend gross.

During the same period, Guest Iin London earned $29,378 from 30 theaters ($979 average; adjusted average of $1,175 from 25 theaters). That’s the same minuscule theater count as Dobaara: See Your Evil, yet Guest Iin London earned four times as much as the horror movie did in its opening weekend.

Other Indian movies still in North American theaters:

  • Tubelight: Week 3; $15,281 from 27 theaters; $566 average; $1,566,474 total
  • Hindi Medium: Week 8; $3,154 from one theater; $792,627 total
  • Baahubali 2: Week 11; $1,162 from one theater; $20,790,774 total

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: June 30-July 2, 2017

Things didn’t get any better for Salman Khan’s Tubelight in its second weekend in North America. From June 30-July 2, 2017, Tubelight earned $157,499 from 169 theaters ($932 average), bringing its total to $1,448,473. Tubelight‘s earned 83% less in its second weekend than its first — a much larger first-to-second-weekend drop than experienced by the other 2017 releases that earned more than $1 million here (which experienced drops ranging from 52%-71%). On the year’s list of overall highest earners in North America, you have to go down to OK Jaanu in 13th place to find a worse week-to-week holdover. The only caveat is that attendance in the United States was likely spread out over five days instead of three because of Independence Day on Tuesday, July 4. The daily earnings report by 143 Cinema provides some supporting evidence of that possibility. Still, this is a really disappointing performance.

Other Hindi movies still in US theaters:

  • Hindi Medium: Week 7; $6,186 from one theater; $784,609 total
  • Baahubali 2: Week 10; $890 from two theaters; $445 average; $20787,324 total

Sources: 143 Cinema and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: July 1, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with two exciting new additions to the catalog. The 2017 movies Begum Jaan and Hindi Medium (which I loved) are now available for streaming. Both films got small theatrical releases in the United States, so this is a great opportunity to catch up on movies that were easy to miss. Better yet, watch them for free with Heera’s free 7-day trial.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with more than twenty additions to the catalog, a mix of previously available titles and stuff brand new to the service. I’ve reviewed many of the films, including (click on the star-rating for my review):

Along with the Malayalam film Toymaker, the other Hindi movies added to Netflix today are Aankhen, Amrapali, Bheja Fry 2, Big Brother, Dashavatar: Every Era Has a Hero, Ishq Viskh, Lal Patthar, Liar’s Dice, Masti, Professor, Sarkar, and Yaar Gaddar. In the last month, Netflix has added almost fifty new Indian titles to its streaming catalog! For everything else new on Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Bollywood Box Office: June 23-25, 2017

Salman Khan’s Tubelight debuted in second place in the United States among new Indian movies, behind Allu Arjun’s Telugu film DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham! Salman squeaked out victory in North America overall thanks to the contributions of theaters in Canada — where DJ didn’t even release. From June 23-25, 2017, Bollywood Hungama reports that Tubelight earned $926,816 from 372 North American theaters ($2,491 average; adjusted average of $2,710 from 342 theaters*). Of that total, $169,344 came from 30 Canadian theaters, amounting to 18% of the total earnings from just 8% of the total theaters (342). Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru reports North American earnings of $930,058 from 338 theaters ($2,752 average) for Tubelight. That total was good enough to rank in 14th place at the overall North American box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

It’s easy to forget that the notion of Salman as a box office gold mine is a recent development in North America. Until the blockbuster performance of Bajrangi Bhaijaan in the summer of 2015, none of Salman’s films managed to earn more than $2.5 million here. Tubelight should earn around $2 million over the course of its run, putting it in line with the earnings of his releases from 2011-2014 — movies like Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, and Kick. We’ll have to wait until Tiger Zinda Hai releases this Christmas to see if Salman’s superb (if short) string of hits is really over.

DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham took in $873,249 from 190 US theaters ($4,596 average), 15th place overall at the North American box office.

Other Hindi movies still showing in the US:

  • Hindi Medium: Week 6; $9,228 from five theaters; $1,846 average; $773,477 total
  • Baahubali 2: Week 9; $726 from three theaters; $242 average; $20,786,308 total

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Sources: Box Office Guru, Box Office Mojo, and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: June 16-18, 2017

The bad news keeps piling up for Raabta. After a disastrous opening weekend in North America, Raabta‘s business fell by 90% in its second weekend of release. From June 16-18, 2017, the reincarnation drama took in just $7,732 from eighteen theaters — a per theater average of $430. Raabta‘s total stands at $116, 328. It’s the only Bollywood movie this year to open in more than 80 theaters in North America but fail to earn $200,000 over the course of its run.

The rest of the Hindi films still showing in the U.S. and Canada fared as follows:

  • Hindi Medium: Week 5; $24,626 from twelve theaters; $2,052 average; $757,549 total
  • Baahubali 2: Week 8; $15,185 from fourteen theaters; $1,085 average; $20,780,017 total
  • Sachin — A Billion Dreams: Week 4; $3,251 from five theaters; $650 average; $607,038 total
  • Sarkar 3: Week 6; $222 from one theater; $244,826 total
  • Hanuman Da’ Damdaar: Week 3; $90 from one theater; $358 total
  • Dobaara — See Your Evil: Week 3; $65 from one theater; $11,002 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

In Theaters: June 16, 2017

With Tubelight looming over next weekend’s horizon, no new Hindi movies open in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning Friday, June 16, 2017. There aren’t many Bollywood flicks sticking around, either.

After tanking hard in its debut weekend, Raabta only carries over at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington. MovieMax Cinemas in Niles holds over Hindi Medium, Sachin: A Billion Dreams, and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion in Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil. That’s it.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: June 9-11, 2017

Raabta‘s release was greeted by crickets here in North America. During its opening weekend of June 9-11, 2017, it earned $76,244 from 82 theaters ($930 average; adjusted average of $1,059 from 72 theaters*). Raabta‘s earnings were well below those of other movies that opened in a similar number of North American theaters this year: movies like Phillauri ($259,250 from 87 theaters); The Ghazi Attack ($394,269 from 89 theaters); and Naam Shabana ($157,655 from 90 theaters). For Raabta to earn less than $100,000 and average under $1,000 per screen is hugely disappointing.

Other Hindi movies playing in North America:

  • Hindi Medium: Week 4; $39,782 from 25 theaters; $1,591 average; $716,503 total
  • Baahubali 2: Week 7; $35,657 from 34 theaters; $1,049 average; $20,753,072 total
  • Sachin — A Billion Dreams: Week 3; $14,823 from 24 theaters; $618 average; $599,593 total
  • Half Girlfriend: Week 4; $1,514 from three theaters; $505 average; $442,605 total
  • Jattu Engineer: Week 3; $1,435 from one theater; $17,652 total
  • Sarkar 3: Week 5; $232 from one theater; $244,456 total
  • Hanuman Da’ Damdaar: Week 2; $134 from one theater; $226 total
  • Dobaara — See Your Evil: $127 from two theaters; $64 average; $10,937 total

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Hindi Medium (2017)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack on iTunes

Hindi Medium strikes a perfect balance between the academic and the emotional, humorously illustrating how the class system impacts education.

While the title refers to the language of instruction — Hindi versus English — the film’s lessons translate internationally. The story is as relevant to America as it is to India, so audiences worldwide can easily connect with the material.

Raj (Irrfan Khan) and Mita Batra (Saba Qamar) own a successful bridal store in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk neighborhood. Though they have plenty of money, overprotective Mita worries that their middle-class status will limit future opportunities for their preschool-aged daughter, Pia (cute Dishita Sehgal). Mita convinces her reluctant husband to move to a fancier neighborhood, hoping that will help Pia gain entrance to one of the city’s prestigious elementary schools.

While the family has the money to afford their lifestyle upgrade, they lack the cultural and social capital to take advantage of it. Raj’s local tastes in music and food embarrass Mita in front of the Continental types she wants to befriend. Kids ignore Pia because she’s not English-fluent. When the Batras ask the few influential people they do know for help, they’re told that personal recommendations are taboo among this set. Bribery? Don’t even think about it.

There are myriad codes and status signifiers that Raj and Mitra don’t know about and have no hope of mastering, even with the help of a professional school-placement coach (Tillotama Shome). On top of that is an absurd layer of bureaucracy instituted by the schools simply because they can.

The most damning indictment of the class system is when the coach shares with them a common placement interview question for parents: “How will you introduce the concept of poverty to your child?” The children at these elite schools are so privileged and sheltered that they’ve never encountered a poor person, even in a city as crowded as Delhi.

The poor people from a nearby neighborhood already know that the system is rigged against anyone not from the upper crust, something Raj and Mita gradually realize for themselves. The couple finds a loophole when they learn that twenty-five percent of the spots at the elite schools are reserved for economically underprivileged students, who compete for spots via a lottery. The Batras decide to pose as poor temporarily in order to win one of the lottery spots, shifting house once again.

Writer-director Saket Chaudhary depicts the Batra’s behavior as reprehensible, but almost logical, using humor to ensure that the audience never loses affection for the characters. The Batra’s economic and social standing puts them in a uniquely desperate situation, especially within India where job inheritance within families is common. They’re successful enough to envision a broader future for their daughter beyond the walls of a Chandi Chowk bridal boutique, but doing so means breaking out of entrenched class hierarchy.

Chaudhary deserves kudos for the way he illustrates complex ideas like class and social capital, but particularly so for how he explains the importance of public schools — an ideal that mainstream American conservatives and liberals alike have forgotten, thanks to intense marketing by the for-profit charter school industry. The head of the local government school explains to the Batras that, when middle- and upper-class families put their children in private schools, it deprives the public schools of resources.

The director also makes an important point about poverty through the character of Shyam (Deepak Dobriyal), a kind neighbor who helps the Batras adjust to their newly “poor” status. “Living in poverty is an art,” he explains, as he and his wife Tulsi (Swati Das) teach Raj and Mita a whole new set of social skills appropriate for their diminished standing. Shyam insists that the poor don’t want charity, they want their rights. Just using the word “rights” scoffs at the idea that “opportunity” is enough.

Hindi Medium falls prey to some of the pitfalls of the Bollywood “issue movie” formula. There’s an awkwardly placed song number that interrupts the build-up to the climax, which is Raj giving a speech that no one has any reason to listen to. Chaudhary tries to invert the cliché with a twist on the requisite audience “slow clap,” but that’s trying to have it both ways.

Thanks to his immense talent, Khan comes out of this speech unscathed, the movie cementing his status as the thinking-person’s leading man of choice. Qamar handles Mita’s complexities beautifully, making even her most maddening qualities understandable. Yet another thing director Chaudhary does well is writing every character with their own goals and motivations. Having accomplished performers like Dobriyal and Amrita Singh (as the prep school principal) in supporting roles certainly helps.

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