Tag Archives: Hindi

Bollywood Box Office: November 9-11, 2018

Thugs of Hindostan‘s opening weekend was not great considering it released in the most theaters of any Hindi movie in North America this year. From November 9-11, 2018, it earned $1,185,386 from 377 theaters ($3,144 average), according to Box Office Mojo. Adding $264,462 from opening day collections on Thursday brings the swashbuckler’s 4-day total to $1,449,848. Its Friday-Sunday total is only fourth best for the year, even though 35 of those theaters charged higher ticket prices to show Thugs on their IMAX screens.

Thugs‘ per-screen average reveals the extent of audience disinterest in this title. $3,144 is just the 16th best opening weekend per-screen average for a Hindi film in North America this year. Adding in the returns from Thursday only brings the average up to $3,846. While one might dismiss this as a case of over-saturation, none of the other Hindi movies to release in more than 300 theaters this year fared as poorly. Padmaavat had an opening weekend PSA of $11,860. Sanju averaged $7,650 per screen. Even Race 3 averaged $5,385 per screen in its first weekend.

Will this poor performance affect the release calendar for the rest of the month? Other studios had all but ceded the territory between now and 2.0‘s release on November 29, assuming that Thugs of Hindostan would be a hot ticket for at least the next two weeks. The Sunny Deol-Preity Zinta comedy Bhaiaji Superhit looks even more likely to release here now on November 23, which would make it the only new release to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Last-minute release date changes aren’t unusual in Bollywood, so maybe some scrappy distributor can pull things together in a jiff to take advantage of this unexpected lull.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters (per Bollywood Hungama):

  • Badhaai Ho: Week 4; $153,098 from 59 theaters; $2,595 average; $2,961,841 total
  • Andhadhun: Week 6; $28,791 from 14 theaters; $2,057 average; $1,244,833 total
  • Baazaar: Week 3; $3,312 from eight theaters; $414 average; $324,616 total
  • Namaste England: Week 4; $24 from one theater; $107,951 total

Sources: 143 Cinema, Bollywood Hungama, and Box Office Mojo

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Movie Review: Thugs of Hindostan (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Despite its novelty as a rare Bollywood seafaring epic, Thugs of Hindostan is done in by  predictable character development and a familiar plot focused too heavily on its male protagonists.

The film begins promisingly enough, with Ronit Roy playing the leader of the last Indian kingdom to resist takeover by the British East India Company in 1795. After instructing his young daughter Zafira (played by fierce little Deshna Dugad) on the importance of protecting her homeland, King Mirza plans to attack the Brits at dawn, but the Company’s merciless lead officer Clive (Lloyd Owen) attacks first. Only Zafira escapes with the help of the royal family’s devoted bodyguard, Kattappa…er, Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan).

Fast-forwarding eleven years introduces the swaggering trickster Firangi (Aamir Khan). Firangi’s name means “foreigner,” explaining his willingness to pit Indians against Indians and Brits against Indians, all in the name of making a buck. He has no allegiance to the burgeoning resistance movement threatening the Company, making him the perfect spy to gather information on behalf of Clive’s second-in-command, Officer Powell (Gavin Marshall, who coordinated the circus acts for Dhoom 3, which also starred Khan and was directed by Thugs director Vijay Krishna Acharya).

The rebel leader “Azaad” (“Free”) is really Khudabaksh, assisted by grown up Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), who’s become a deadly fighter. The name Azaad is confusing, because it’s hard to tell when the rebel army shouts the word if they’re cheering for the man specifically or the concept of freedom, generally. This is significant because the first character we see in the movie is Zafira as a girl. Thugs should be her revenge saga, but Khudabaksh appears to get all the credit for attacking the Brits — unless the masses really are cheering for freedom and not just for him. Either way, crown princess Zafira winds up playing second fiddle to her bodyguard.

As is the case for many Hindi films, the challenge in Thugs is weighing the needs of the story against the needs of the stars. The stars’ needs clearly trump the narrative in this case. Without Khan or Bachchan — and perhaps with an actress with a longer resume than Shaikh’s — Zafira would be the main character. But one feels a calculus governing the whole plot, and that’s ensuring that the biggest stars get the most screentime. For example, Khan must be onscreen for three-fourths of the movie (I’m estimating), Bachchan for less (but he gets more dramatic entrances), etc. That limits the scope of what other characters are able to do and diminishes their importance.

That calculus is responsible for the absurdly lazy incorporation of Katrina Kaif’s dancer character Suraiyya into the plot. She’s summoned out of the ether as the screenplay demands, with no attempt to make her feel like a person who exists when she’s not onscreen. She’s a character designed for item numbers, nothing more. It’s a shame because Kaif is captivating in her brief dialogue scenes, and there had to have been some way to further utilize the grace and athleticism she displays in the songs “Suraiyya” and “Manzoor-e-Khuda”.

Shaikh is likewise underutilized, despite having the most compelling emotional arc. She and Kaif share a nice moment in which their characters discuss the dangers of revolutionary action (after telling Khan’s chatterbox character to shut up). The film’s high point is a touching scene in which Zafira mourns her family, and Khudabaksh sings her to sleep as he did when she was a girl. The film is lessened for putting Zafira’s thirst for vengeance second to the question of whether Khan’s Captain Jack Sparrow-lite character will finally become a good person (of course he will).

One point in Thugs of Hindostan‘s favor is that they cast British actors who don’t sound ridiculous speaking Hindi, which is not common practice in Bollywood. There are good supporting performances by Roy, Sharat Saxena, and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Firangi’s psychic sidekick. Ila Arun has the only other female role of note, giving a funny turn as Jaitumbi, a potion-maker with a crush on the much-younger Firangi.

Thugs of Hindostan has one of the biggest budgets of all time for a Bollywood film, and it gets quite a lot of value for the money. Battle scenes are fun and clever, set against stunning backdrops. The leather armor worn by Zafira and Khudabashk is gorgeous, designed by Manoshi Nath and Rushi Sharma. Dance numbers are grand in scale.

High production values coupled with decent story pacing are enough to maintain interest while watching Thugs of Hindostan, even if its narrative deficiencies make it ultimately forgettable.

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Opening November 8: Thugs of Hindostan

One of the year’s most lavish Bollywood productions hits Chicago area theaters on November 8, 2018. The sea-faring adventure Thugs of Hindostan stars Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, and Katrina Kaif as pirates.

Thugs of Hindostan opens Thursday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles (IMAX only), Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington (IMAX and Standard), Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood. On Friday, Thugs opens at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago and AMC Oakbrook Center 12 in Oak Brook. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 55 min.

Badhaai Ho carries over for a fourth week at the Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, and South Barrington 24, which also holds onto Baazaar and Andhadhun.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: November 2-4, 2018

Badhaai Ho dominated the box office for a third consecutive weekend, earning $329,042 from 107 theaters ($3,075 average) from November 2-4, 2018, according to Bollywood Hungama. With $2,653,882 in earnings so far, it needs another $360,000 to move past Raazi into third place for the year.

Erin Fraser of the Bollywood Is For Lovers podcast chides me on Twitter whenever I point out instances of poorly reviewed films performing better in Canada than in the United States (as I did last week regarding Namaste England). Well, Erin, you’ll be happy to know that 5 Weddings made just $34 from one Canadian theater over the weekend, but a whopping $156 from the lone US theater showing it. You win this round, Canada! The romantic comedy has a ten-day total of $12,622.

Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:

  • Baazaar: Week 2; $40,188 from 40 theaters; $1,005 average; $292,994 total
  • Andhadhun: Week 5; $66,524 from 22 theaters; $3,024 average; $1,193,046 total
  • Namaste England: Week 3; $474 from three theaters; $158 average; $107,851 total
  • Helicopter Eela: Week 4; $123 from one theater; $71,651 total

Sources: 143 Cinema, Bollywood Hungama, and Box Office Mojo

In Theaters: November 2, 2018

No new Hindi movies open in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning November 2, 2018, in anticipation of next Thursday’s release of Thugs of Hindostan. Advanced tickets for the sea-faring epic are already on sale at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, which shows Thugs on both its IMAX screen and in standard format.

Local theatrical options for Bollywood fans as of this Friday include Badhaai Ho at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and Woodridge 18, with MovieMax and the South Barrington 24 holding over Baazaar and Andhadhun as well.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters this weekend:

TV Review: Ghoul (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Ghoul on Netflix

Ghoul pulls no punches in its depiction of the dangers of state-sanctioned religious intolerance. The show’s monsters are scary, but not as terrifying as the vision of the future presented by writer-director Patrick Graham.

The miniseries comprises three episodes, each with a runtime between 40-45 minutes (excluding closing credits). In all, Ghoul is about as long as a feature film. I appreciated the built-in breaks, which occur at logical points in the plot. This is a perfect kind of storytelling format for a streaming video platform, and I won’t be surprised to see it become more common as filmmakers adapt to changing audience viewing habits.

Graham keeps the scares to a minimum in the first episode: “Out of the Smokeless Fire,” establishing a world where every day is a nightmare for those on the wrong side of new societal divisions. A fascist Indian government cracks down on homegrown terrorism by outlawing certain religious texts and practices, burning books and whisking away citizens believed to harbor anti-nationalist sentiments for “re-education.” The only people targeted in crackdowns are Muslims, although the show doesn’t specifically identify the government as Hindu nationalist.

Naive patriotism inspires Nida Rahim (Radhika Apte) to enlist in the military, despite being the daughter of an Islamic scholar (played by S.M. Zaheer). She’s convinced that the government’s harsh tactics truly are about national security and not religious oppression, as her father believes — so much so that she turns in her own father for re-education. Soon after, she’s posted at a secret government prison to aid the interrogation of notorious terrorist Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj), who is captured in the show’s opening, half-dead and surrounded by the corpses of his followers. But why would the military assign Nida, a junior interrogator, to such a high-profile case?

The last two episodes draw from any number of horror films in which the characters are trapped in a remote location with a monster, their terror turning them against one another when their survival depends on them working together. Few of the soldiers and prisoners get any meaningful character development other than Colonel Sunil Dacunha (Manav Kaul), whose idea it was to bring Nida in, and Lieutenant Laxmi Das (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee), Dacunha’s skeptical second-in-command.

Although the relative anonymity of the other soldiers signals their expendability, it also highlight’s the shows message that any agent of a fascist government is liable for its crimes. Not every soldier in Dacunha’s prison personally tortured prisoners, but all of them knew about it and did nothing to stop it. The jail’s cremation room is a stark visualization of the parallels to Nazism present throughout Graham’s screenplay.

When Ghoul‘s namesake creature finally appears, the story becomes quite scary, playing on the fears of those within the prison. Several of the soldiers, including Dacunha, are haunted by the way engaging in torture has warped their sense of morality — not enough to stop torturing people, unfortunately — allowing the monster to play on their guilt. The scares in Ghoul are more psychological than surprise driven, and there’s a considerable amount of blood.

Nida is plagued by her own guilt, and she has no allies in her new surroundings. Apte is compelling in the lead role, showing both Nida’s grit and vulnerability. Bravely, the series doesn’t downplay her commitment to the totalitarian government. She’s willing to follow orders until the moment she’s absolutely convinced that she’s been duped. Nor does Ghoul try to make Dacunha more sympathetic than he should be. Kaul depicts Dacunha as conflicted, but unquestionably a bad person. Ghoul knows which way its moral compass points, and it’s not afraid to show it.

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Bollywood Box Office: October 26-28, 2018

The weekend’s new Bollywood releases were overshadowed by the behemoth Badhaai Ho. From October 26-28, 2018, Baazaar earned $139,316 from 87 North American theaters ($1,601 average), according to Bollywood Hungama — not terrible, but nothing to write home about. 5 Weddings opened with a wretched $5,218 from eleven theaters ($474 average).

Right now, Badhaai Ho is where it’s at. The family comedy added twenty theaters in its second weekend of release, taking in $688,627 from 127 theaters ($5,422 average), according to 143 Cinema. In ten days, it has amassed an amazing $1,891,984. It needs another $800,000 or so to break into the Top 5 for the year in North America, but with no new Bollywood movies releasing here this coming weekend, that’s totally possible.

Andhadhun is still going strong as well, with 143 Cinema reporting fourth-weekend earnings of $99,499 from 26 theaters ($3,827 average). Its total stands at $1,104,601.

Namaste England‘s second-weekend returns are kinda tragic: $4,378 from twelve theaters ($365 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Four Canadian theaters are responsible for $3,733 of that total, meaning that Namaste England earned a measly $645 from eight US theaters. That’s a per-screen average of $933 in Canada versus just $81 in the United States. Yikes! Namaste England has total earnings of $98,710.

Sources: 143 Cinema and Bollywood Hungama

Opening October 25 and 26: Baazaar and 5 Weddings

Chicago area Bollywood fans get two new films to choose from the weekend beginning October 26, 2018. Saif Ali Khan’s Wall Street-esque thriller Baazaar gets a head start, opening in local theaters on October 25.

Baazaar opens Thursday 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. 20 min.

On Friday, the English-language, American-produced romantic comedy 5 Weddings — starring Rajkummar Rao and Nargis Fakhri — opens at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 30 min.

After a great opening weekend, Badhaai Ho carries over at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17 and expands to the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. Andhadhun carries over at MovieMax and the South Barrington 24, which also holds onto Namaste England a second week.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters this weekend:

Movie Review: Once Again (2018)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Once Again on Netflix

A reclusive movie star pursues a romance with the woman who cooks for him in Once Again.

Comparisons between Once Again and 2013’s The Lunchbox are inevitable. Both films are about lonely Mumbaikars who form a romantic attachment to one another through the medium of food. While The Lunchbox chronicles the development of attraction, Once Again pushes its lead couple forward into a relationship.

There are some critical differences between the two films. The duo in The Lunchbox have a significant age difference working against them: she’s a young mother with a child, he’s days away from retirement. In Once Again, the obstacles are economic class and gender expectations. Amar (Neeraj Kabi) is one of the nation’s most popular stars. Tara (Shefali Shah) runs a restaurant, which she’s done for the twenty years since her husband died, as a means to support her family.

Recently divorced, Amar lives alone. He has a standing order with Tara’s restaurant to supply dinner to his high-rise apartment. Calls to Tara for meal requests became more intimate in nature over time, and Once Again begins with Amar asking the restaurateur to finally meet in person.

Tara has her hands full. Her son Dev (Priyanshu Painyuli, who played the title character in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero) is getting married, and she’s fighting with the bank to secure a loan for restaurant repairs. On top of that are all the questions of what a romantic relationship would mean for her after decades alone, always putting her own wants and needs second to those of her children.

Amar is more impulsive and less introspective, showing up outside of Tara’s restaurant unannounced one day. It’s the push the fledgling romance needs, and the two find they share a crackling chemistry. But of course things can’t go smoothly for the middle-aged lovebirds. When paparazzi take photos of them on a date, it creates havoc, especially for Tara.

Once Again acknowledges the greater burden borne by Tara. She’s suddenly an item of public interest, followed by reporters once she steps out of the sanctuary of her kitchen. Dev and his future in-laws fret about the perception of impropriety among their social circle — as if a woman is only allowed one romantic relationship in her life, even if her husband dies when her children are very young, as in Tara’s case.

Amar himself seems less understanding of Tara’s predicament than filmmaker Kanwal Sethi’s script is. Amar is used to being famous, and no one bats an eye at when a man reenters the dating scene in middle age. Plus Amar’s wealth affords him a kind of social protection that doesn’t apply to a struggling small business owner like Tara.

Once Again‘s great failing is that, even though it raises issues on Tara’s behalf, it seems to side with Amar’s “who cares what anyone else thinks” romantic notions. Amar is allowed to chart the course of their relationship, driven by his own wants and without any course corrections to make things easier for Tara.

The subplot about Tara’s bank loan is badly mismanaged. Its inclusion seems to inevitably point toward a conversation between Tara and Amar about his possible financial assistance and the effect of their economic inequality on their relationship, but she never even mentions the loan to him. The loan is a big issue for Tara and Dev, so for her to not even mention it to Amar is weird.

Elements working in Once Again‘s favor include endearing performances by Shah, Kabi, and Painyuli. The movie’s MVP is Director of Photography Eeshit Narain, who shoots delectable footage of Tara cooking in her restaurant and positively hypnotic footage of Mumbai at night, shot from inside Amar’s car as he drives restlessly around the city.

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Bollywood Box Office: October 19-21, 2018

It’s time to officially declare 2018 Ayushmann Khurrana’s year, right? Two weeks after scoring a surprise hit with Andhadhun, his followup release Badhaai Ho took the North American box office by storm. From October 19-21, the family comedy earned $822,801 from 107 theaters ($7,690 average), according to 143 Cinema. That’s the third-best opening weekend average for the year. Andhadhun is still going strong, taking in $147,779 from 62 theaters* ($2,384 average), according to Box Office Mojo, which puts the thriller’s total at $959,504 thus far.

The weekend’s other new release — Namaste England — was crushed by the Khurrana juggernaut. Per Box Office Mojo, the romantic comedy sequel earned just $67,612 from 71 theaters. That’s a per-screen average of $952. I’m curious to see how Namaste England‘s failure affects the release plans for another film starring the movie’s lead duo of Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor — Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, currently on the calendar for a March, 2019 debut.

Helicopter Eela has the dubious distinction of posting the worst second-weekend per-screen average for the year. It made $535 from seven theaters — an average of $76 per theater. Oy. It has total earnings of $70,966, according to Bollywood Hungama.

Other Bollywood movies still in North American theaters (per Bollywood Hungama):

  • Sui Dhaaga: Week 4; $2,391 from ten theaters; $239 average; $1,160,677 total
  • Loveyatri: Week 3; $83 from one theater; $119,084 total

*Concerns about the accuracy of Bollywood Hungama’s reporting led me to switch to Box Office Mojo’s data for Andhadhun. BOM reported that Andhadhun actually added six theaters last weekend, which contradicts one of my main points in last week’s box office report (based on Bollywood Hungama’s info). Oops. Nevertheless, Andhadhun and Queen are still the only Hindi movies in the last decade to earn more in their second weekend’s while following a traditional release format in North America.

Sources: 143 Cinema, Bollywood Hungama, and Box Office Mojo