I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because two awful movies starring Saif Ali Khan were just added to the service. (Also, Singham is back on Netflix again.) The 2014 slapstick comedy Humshakals is now available for streaming, as is 2013’s Bullett Raja. While Bullett Raja is simply a mess, Humshakals is offensive and mean. Both films are so terrible that they made my annual “Worst Bollywood Movies” lists in 2013 and 2014.
While I felt that there were more good Bollywood movies than bad released in 2014, the year did produce some truly awful Hindi films. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Some primarily suffered from poor story construction. In Jai Ho, Salman Khan inexplicably goes on a violent rampage when people fail to embrace his “pay it forward” scheme, resulting in Suniel Shetty plowing through traffic in a tank. Another Khan film — Kick — makes even less sense, as Khan transforms from a dopey slacker into Robin Hood overnight, and none of the supposedly intelligent characters in the film realize it’s him. Koyelaanchal‘s disorganized plot is a problem, but not as big a problem as its multiple flashbacks from the perspective of a baby.
I often write about gender issues in my reviews, so it’s no surprise that many of the worst movies of the year portrayed women negatively. The Xpose is essentially a morality lecture for women delivered by writer-actor-composer Himesh Reshammiya. According to Super Nani, a woman’s only real asset is her beauty, even if she’s old enough to be a grandmother.
A few lousy 2014 movies actually fancy themselves as socially progressive, even though they aren’t. Kaanchi inaccurately characterizes the heroine’s personal revenge as representative of a youth uprising against systemic corruption. The hero of Heropanti denounces arranged marriage while simultaneously affirming a father’s right to choose his daughter’s husband. Daawat-e-Ishq — the most disappointing Hindi film of 2014, given the quality of its cast and crew — depicts men as the real victims of dowry tradition.
The delightfully inept Karle Pyaar Karle could have been a perfect “so bad, it’s good” movie, were it not for a racist subplot. The movie’s heroine is threatened with forced marriage to a dark-skinned African man, a character introduced solely to represent the worst fate imaginable for an Indian woman. The hero and heroine use racial slurs, and the heroine’s mother proposes suicide for herself and her daughter as a way to avoid the marriage. It’s an offensive and frustrating end to an otherwise unintentionally hilarious movie.
The absolute worst Hindi movie of 2014 combines the shortcomings of the other films on the list and multiplies them exponentially. That film is the loud and tacky Humshakals. Offensive jokes are aimed at almost every group except straight Indian men, with director Sajid Khan’s preferred target being overweight women. As one can infer from the female characters Khan wrote for the movie, his ideal woman is a brainless sex object.
Unlike Karle Pyaar Karle, there’s nothing funny about Humshakals, intentional or unintentional. It’s a cynical film, pandering to the basest prejudices of the lowest common denominator. Sajid Khan writes the mean-spirited jokes he does because he thinks he can get away with them. It’s time for not only the audience but members of the industry to tell him that we deserve better.
Worst Hindi Movies of 2014
- Humshakals — Buy at Amazon
- Karle Pyaar Karle
- Kick — Buy at Amazon
- Koyelaanchal — Buy at Amazon
- Heropanti — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Jai Ho — Buy at Amazon
- Daawat-e-Ishq — Buy at Amazon or iTunes
- Super Nani — Buy/rent at iTunes
- The Xpose — Buy at Amazon
- Kaanchi: The Unbreakable — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
Previous Worst Movies Lists
July 4-6, 2014, wasn’t a great weekend for new Bollywood fare in North America. Lekar Hum Deewana Dil reaffirmed how hard it is to launch new talent overseas by earning just $10,529 from 33 theaters in the U.S., according to Bollywood Hungama. Its $319 average per theater is sixth worst for the year.
Bobby Jasoos wasn’t the hit I’d hoped it would be. Its earnings of $143,559 from 71 theaters in the U.S. and Canada ($2,022 average) is still in the top half for the year among opening weekends. Still, given how cute, accessible, and family friendly it is, I’d expected better.
One possible explanation is that — with the exception of superhero flicks like Krrish 3 and Ra.One — kid-friendly Hindi fare is a hard sell in North America. Compared to other family oriented films of recent years, Bobby Jasoos actually performed well (figures below are total North American earnings):
- Bhoothnath Returns: $133,939
- Delhi Safari: $4,334
- Joker: $169,181
- Ferrari Ki Sawaari: $434,107
- Arjun: $10,017
- Chillar Party: $6,330
Bobby Jasoos producer Dia Mirza tweeted:
— Dia Mirza Jasoos (@deespeak) July 7, 2014
There’s a need for movies like this. However, those movies have to be high quality. I wouldn’t recommend any of the movies in the list above. Perhaps years of uninspired family fare has parents feeling burned, and they simply stayed home rather than take the risk on Bobby Jasoos.
Several other Hindi films remained in theaters. In its second weekend, Ek Villain earned $115,022 from 78 theaters ($1,475 average), bringing its total in North America to $678,258.
Now in its nineteenth week, The Lunchbox added another $7,302 from five theaters to bring its total earnings to $4,004,347.
Humshakals earned $304 from three theaters, bringing the total from its three-week theatrical run to $412,000.
Holiday closed out its fifth week by earning $274 from one theater. Its North American total stands at $840,628.
July 4, 2014, sees two new Hindi movies opening in Chicago area theaters. First up is one of the two movies releasing in 2014 that I have been most excited about (the other was Highway): Bobby Jasoos! Vidya Balan plays a woman who aspires to be Hyderabad’s number one detective.
The other movie releasing on Independence Day is Lekar Hum Deewana Dil (“With Our Joyful Hearts“), a romantic drama featuring newcomers Armaan Jain and Deeksha Seth.
Lekar Hum Deewana Dil opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC River East 21 in Chicago. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 10 min.
As far as other Indian movies go, the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale has Punjab 1984 (Punjabi w/English subtitles), while MovieMax carries Ra Ra Krishnayya (Telugu), Arima Nambi (Tamil), Autonagar Surya (Telugu), Bangalore Days (Malayalam), Oohalu Gusagusalade (Telugu), and Mundasupatti (Tamil).
Ek Villain‘s impressive opening weekend performance in the U.S. and Canada shouldn’t come as a shock. High profile adult thrillers are rare commodities for Bollywood fans in North America, and fans tend to reward them by showing up at the theater.
According to Box Office Mojo, Ek Villain earned $414,116 from 104 theaters in its opening weekend in North America. Its per-screen average of $3,982 ranks sixth among opening weekend averages this year, just above star Sidharth Malhotra’s other 2014 release, Hasee Toh Phasee.
High profile Bollywood thrillers don’t come along often. (I’m not counting racier fare like my beloved Jism 2 and Murder 3, which opened in 19 and 12 theaters in North America, respectively.) The last was arguably Talaash in late 2012, which debuted on 172 screens and went on to earn $2,871,956. Earlier that year, Kahaani premiered on 45 screens but earned enough money to add theaters in its second weekend. It went on to gross $1,017,960.
Both of those movies featured established stars, but there seems to be a consensus that Malhotra is a star of the future. That’s evident in the number of theaters carrying his films. Distributor Reliance Big Pictures opened the romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee on 88 screens, and Eros International released Ek Villain in 104 theaters
Compare that theater count to Eros’ other North American theatrical releases this year. It’s obviously lower than the number of theaters allotted to Salman Khan’s Jai Ho (195) and Rajnikanth’s Kochadaiiyaan (161), but it’s only four fewer than Farhan Akhtar’s and Vidya Balan’s Shaadi Ke Side Effects (108). Most notably, Malhotra’s theater count for Ek Villain is significantly higher than the count fellow emerging star Varun Dhawan got for the comedy Main Tera Hero (77) and nearly ten times that of Harman Bhaweja’s Dishkiyaoon (11).
As for other Hindi movies showing in North America June 27-29, Bollywood Hungama reports a steep decline in receipts for Humshakals in its second weekend. Business fell by almost 90% as the comedy earned $33,398 from 73 theaters ($458 average). Its total stands at $393,557.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
- Holiday: Week 4; $12,245 from 12 theaters; $1,020 average; $839,183 total
- The Lunchbox: Week 17; $10,980 from 12 theaters; $915 average; $3,989,032 total
- Miss Lovely: Week 2; $143 from one theater; $1,100 total
How does a filmmaker who goes out of his way to set a low bar for himself still fail to make a movie that’s even slightly funny or appropriate? Director Sajid Khan achieves that feat with Humshakals (“Lookalikes“), his worst film yet in a career full of horrible films.
Khan opens Humshakals with an allegedly humorous director’s note about having forgotten something important a wise man once told him. Then he introduces his main character, Ashok (Saif Ali Khan), a millionaire moonlighting as a terrible standup comedian. Later, Ashok and his best friend, Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh), are tortured by being forced to watch Khan’s awful 2013 film Himmatwala.
Ashok’s bad jokes are pertinent because they set up a theme that runs through all of Khan’s movies: a lack of respect for women. Even if Khan doesn’t personally feel that way, he panders to the segment of the audience that does.
Ashok’s jokes are straight out of my 8-year-old nephew’s joke book, yet TV presenter Shanaya (Tamannaah Bhatia) finds them unironically hilarious. Beautiful and stupid: Khan’s ideal woman.
Shanaya’s not the only mental lightweight in the movie. Ashok and Kumar are imprisoned in a mental asylum by Ashok’s evil uncle, Mamaji (Ram Kapoor), alongside a pair of identical lookalikes, also named Ashok (Saif) and Kumar (Riteish), only the lookalikes have the mental capacity of children.
In yet another knock against women, the asylum’s psychologist, Dr. Shivani (Esha Gupta), falls instantly in love with Stupid Ashok when he tells her she’s pretty. Shivani — a doctor — is so insecure and desperate to have her physical appearance validated that she agrees to marry the first man who compliments her, even if he has the intellectual capacity of a grade schooler.
At least twice more Khan asserts the belief that a woman’s most important quality is her appearance. Shivani, Shanaya, and Mishti (Bipasha Basu) — a doctor, a TV presenter, and Rich Ashok’s estate manager — save the day by baring their midriffs and performing a racy dance number.
The worst is what happens when hefty Mamaji’s lookalike, Johnny (Ram), dresses in drag to help Rich Ashok and Rich Kumar. As soon as Johnny appears on screen in a dress and wig, the soundtrack is punctuated with elephant sound effects. Not when Johnny is dressed as a man of exactly the same proportions, only when he’s pretending to be a woman.
When a woman’s only value is how sexually appealing she is to straight men, there’s no greater character flaw than being overweight or unattractive. It’s such an egregious flaw that it deserves ridicule, even though an overweight man does not.
Khan really, really likes to poke fun at people he thinks are abnormal. Jokes are made at the expense of overweight women, little people, gays, Koreans, and especially the mentally ill. Everyone in the movie with a mental illness is also portrayed as being intellectually deficient.
Know who else Khan thinks are hilarious? Nazis. The asylum’s warden (played by Satish Shah) wears an SS uniform and prays to a photo of Adolf Hitler. He gives a “Heil Hitler” salute and threatens to send Ashok and Kumar to the “gas chamber.” Because there’s nothing funnier than genocide.
In addition to lacking empathy or an appropriate sense of humor, Khan is also a thief. Stupid Ashok mistakes a model of an orphanage for an “orphanage for ants,” a joke lifted from 2001’s Zoolander (I’ve included a video of the original below). Khan stole a joke from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for Himmatwala, so this is a pattern.
On top of all these offenses, Humshakals just plain sucks. Shots are out of focus. The plot moves at a snail’s pace. The songs are soulless. The choreography is lazy. The acting is bad, even though Ram Kapoor tries to humanize his characters.
With this track record of misogyny, intellectual property theft, and general disrespect for large segments of the global community, it’s time for actors to question whether appearing in a Sajid Khan film is worth the paycheck. I hope that the actors in Humshakals didn’t realize how offensive the movie was as they were making it (although Saif and Riteish should’ve known better when asked to prance around as a pair of gay stereotypes). I’m trying not let this piece of garbage tarnish my respect for them as performers, but it’s difficult.
Two Hindi films are releasing in Chicago on June 27, 2014. One is an older festival favorite, while another makes its worldwide debut. The brand new film is Ek Villain, a thriller starring Riteish Deshmukh, Sidharth Malhotra, and Shraddha Kapoor that’s at least partially inspired by the 2010 Korean film I Saw the Devil. Having recently watched I Saw the Devil — one of the most graphic, brutal, depressing movies you’re likely to find — I have no idea how it could possibly be reworked for a mainstream Hindi-film audience.
Ek Villain opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 9 min. If it bears even a slight similarity to the original, you will regret bringing your kids to the theater with you.
Holiday gets a fourth weekend at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Punjab 1984 (Punjabi w/English subtitles) at the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale and Autonagar Surya (Telugu w/no subtitles) at MovieMax, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora. MovieMax is also carrying Saivam (Tamil), Bangalore Days (Malayalam), Oohalu Gusagusalade (Telugu), and Mundasupatti (Tamil).
Despite being lambasted by critics, Humshakals performed reasonably well in its first weekend in North American theaters. From June 20-22, 2014, Humshakals earned $262,502 from 165 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,591.
That $262,502 gross isn’t exceptional, but it’s in keeping with the total earnings of several Hindi comedies released in 2013 in North America.
Humshakals is likely to stick around for another week, so its total earnings will probably be closer to those of Besharam than Yamla Pagla Deewana 2. In 2013, a film only needed to earn upwards of $230,000 to finish in the top half of highest earning Hindi movies in the U.S. and Canada, so Humshakals is well-positioned to finish in the top half for 2014.
However, Besharam was considered a box office flop relative to expectations, so matching its total is nothing to brag about. In one crucial regard, Humshakals already lags behind. Besharam opened in an overly ambitious 217 theaters in North America, and its first weekend per-screen average was $2,323. Humshakals — whose 165-theater opening was also too ambitious — only averaged $1,591.
That’s a lower opening weekend average than director Sajid Khan’s last critically panned film: 2013’s Himmatwala, which averaged $1,998 on 99 screens in its first weekend before posting a final tally of $270,880.
While Humshakals‘ earnings aren’t horrible, they’re not great. Its performance — like the performance of Besharam — highlights the importance of correctly judging demand for your product and booking the right number of theaters accordingly.
One other Hindi movie opened in limited release in the U.S. on June 20, and its numbers are so bad that I can hardly believe they’re correct. Miss Lovely opened in three U.S. theaters, from which it earned just $558. Total. Despite a strong festival pedigree, its release wasn’t promoted in any meaningful way (unlike The Lunchbox), so potential moviegoers may not have known about it. Maybe Miss Lovely will have more success when it opens in Chicago and Austin this Friday.
Other Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada from June 20-22 included:
- Holiday: Week 3; $48,468 from 34 theaters; $1,426 average; $806,123 total
- The Lunchbox: Week 17; $20,354 from 22 theaters; $925 average; $3,963,922 total
- Filmistaan: Week 3; $90 from one theater; $45,013 total
- Heropanti: Week 5; $82 from one theater; $63,172 total
Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama.
The day I’ve been dreading all year is at hand: Humshakals opens in Chicago area theaters on June 20, 2014. It has one of the least appealing trailers I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, it’s opening in over 150 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
Humshakals opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 40 min.
Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax Cinemas this weekend include Bangalore Days (Malayalam), Vadacurry (Tamil), Oohalu Gusagusalaade (Telugu), Maine Pyar Kiya (Telugu), Mundasupatti (Tamil), Jump Jilani (Telugu), How Old Are You (Malayalam), Manam (Telugu).
Fox Star India released the trailers for two of their upcoming movies, and the flicks could not be more different from one another. The first movie releasing theatrically is director Hansal Mehta’s City Lights. It looks fascinating, so I really hope it opens in America as well as India on May 30.
The other movie is the wacky comedy Humshakals, which stars Saif Ali Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, and Ram Kapoor. It looks every bit as annoying as City Lights looks great. Humshakals hits theaters on June 20.