I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with four new additions to the catalog. Well, four re-additions, actually. After a prolonged absence from the service, Besharam, Bodyguard, I, Me, aur Main, and Singham are back. Their return (sort of) offsets the recent expiration of Kill Dil, Shahid, and Shuddh Desi Romance.
This is the sixth “worst movies of the year” post I’ve written, and every year the worst movies share the same problems: bad plot construction, unintentionally unlikable protagonists, and the reprehensible treatment of female characters. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Most of this year’s crop of bad movies have the standard problems, but I give credit to Zila Ghaziabad for making it onto the list for a whole new reason: failure to appreciate the strength of the Censor Board’s opposition to smoking.
While all Indian filmmakers know that scenes in which a character smokes are likely to be tagged with an onscreen warning that reads, “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health,” director Anand Kumar refused to capitulate in Zila Ghaziabad. As a result, the warning appears onscreen for nearly half of the movie. It’s so distracting that I’m almost convinced it was deliberate and that the whole movie is Kumar’s dig at the Censor Board.
Among movies that stunk in more conventional fashion, Bajatey Raho, Bullett Raja, and Fukrey were full of plot holes that never should’ve made it out of a first draft, let alone into a finished project. Fukrey wins bonus points for a racist scene in which a character refers to a group of black bodyguards as the “Chicago Bulls.”
I, Me aur Main and Ramaiya Vastavaiya were hampered by really, really unlikeable lead characters. Not to be outdone, Grand Masti featured not one, but three total jerks in leading roles. I’m awarding bonus points to Grand Masti for racism, sexism, and making a joke about gang rape.
Grand Masti wasn’t the only movie to try to make light of rape or treat it as a plot device. The threat of rape was used to provoke the male leads in R… Rajkumar and Himmatwala. Both movies try to make that case that a woman’s only defense against rape is a strong male family member or boyfriend.
As patronizing as that idea is, it’s still not as abhorrent as the violently sexist message of my worst film of 2013: 3G. This poorly written horror movie cites pornography as the primary reason romantic relationships fail, but never suggests that the problem lies with those who view porn. Instead, it explicitly blames the women who perform in porn (and implicitly blames any woman with a sex drive). Want to get rid of porn? Kill all the porn stars!
At the same time that the movie blames sexually active women for provoking the violence committed against them, directors Shantanu & Sheershak go out of their way to portray actress Sonal Chauhan as a sex object. The camera ogles her breasts and buttocks while she writhes around on the beach and on a kitchen island (something I’m guessing she doesn’t do for fun when she’s at home alone).
Shantanu & Sheershak fail to recognize their own hypocrisy. Who’s more responsible for Chauhan’s depiction as a sex object: Chauhan — a paid performer — or the men who told her what to do and how to pose, filmed her, paid her, and then counted on others to pay to watch what they filmed?
Worst Bollywood Movies of 2013
- 3G — Buy at Amazon
- Grand Masti — Buy at Amazon
- Himmatwala — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Fukrey — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Bullett Raja — Buy at Amazon
- R… Rajkumar — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Ramaiya Vastavaiya — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Zila Ghaziabad — Buy at Amazon
- I, Me aur Main — Buy at Amazon
- Bajatey Raho — Buy at Amazon
Previous Worst Movies Lists
For the first time in months, there are no new Hindi movies opening in Chicago area theaters this weekend. The sequel Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns didn’t make the cut locally, which isn’t a surprise given that the original Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster earned a pathetic $13,634 in the two weeks it spent in U.S. theaters in 2011.
As of Friday, March 8, 2013, Kai Po Che! remains the most widely available Hindi movie showing in Chicagoland. After earning $876,568 from its first two weeks in the U.S., it carries over at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Many theaters have cut back on the number of showings per day of Kai Po Che! and other niche films to free up screenspace for Oz The Great and Powerful, so make sure to check the schedule before heading to the theater.
With first weekend U.S. earnings of $159,619, The Attacks of 26/11 gets a second weekend at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. The Golf Glen 5 is the only area theater holding over last week’s other new release, I, Me aur Main, which presumably fared even worse at the box office.
I, Me aur Main (“I, Me and Myself”) is the uplifting tale about a selfish bastard who gets everything he wants without any real conflict or consequences. Congratulations to director Kapil Sharma and writer Devika Bhagat for creating a singularly unrelatable movie.
The selfish bastard in question is Ishaan (John Abraham). An introductory scene features young Ishaan taking credit for a paper airplane made by his older sister, Shivani. When Shivani grabs the plane from Ishaan, their mother punishes Shivani for picking on precious Ishaan. Mom repeatedly calls Ishaan “the best,” thus creating the unbearable egomaniac at the center of the film.
Emblematic of the film’s poor construction, the flashback starts with the subtitle, “Pune: many years ago.” The next scene, set in the present day, has the subtitle, “Mumbai: 25 years later.” Why not just say, “Pune: 25 years ago” in the first place? Is it some kind of short-term mystery?
Ishaan grows up to be a completely self-centered prick. His girlfriend, Anushka (Chitrangada Singh), is a successful lawyer who cooks for Ishaan and cleans up after him. Even though he’s a wealthy record producer, he expects Anushka to pay for all of the groceries she uses to feed him. He also cheats on her with other women.
Having endured three years of Ishaan’s fecklessness with no hope of a commitment in sight, Anushka finally kicks Ishaan out. Ishaan’s sister — the only member of his family to have met Anushka — takes Anushka’s side in the breakup. Shivani (Mini Mathur) knows her brother better than anyone, after all.
Ishaan lives on his own for all of a day before his mother abandons her husband in Pune to move in with her helpless adult son. He responds by nagging his mother.
Ishaan’s new neighbor is Gauri (Prachi Desai), a Manic Pixie Dream Girl sent from screenplay heaven to turn Ishaan into a likable person. It doesn’t work. Ishaan continues to be a dick until even his mother has had enough. When it comes time to make the morally correct choice in a climactic scene with Anushka, even she lets him off the hook. Writer Bhagat is determined that everything go right for Ishaan.
Why? What is so great about him? He’s utterly meritless. One of the great things about movies is the chance to experience a kind of justice that doesn’t usually exist in the real world. I, Me aur Main is about a rich, handsome guy getting everything he wants without any comeuppance. There’s no escapism in that. It’s just an unfortunate fact of life.
Case in point is John Abraham. Here’s an actor who seems to get all of his roles based on his muscular physique and not on his acting abilities. He’s never been forced to work on his craft or play any characters that aren’t charming louts. Casting him in this role was a mistake. A toned torso doesn’t make Ishaan worthy of a happy ending.
The women in the film perform well under the strain of Ishaan’s sexism, another of his fine qualities. Singh is strong and resolute as Anushka, the real hero of the film for being the first person in Ishaan’s life to ever reject him. Desai is cute as Gauri, but her character is undermined when she, too, turns selfish in the end.
Consider I, Me aur Main a cautionary tale for parents: Make your children self-confident. Don’t make them self-absorbed.
Two more new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 1, 2013. The romantic drama I, Me Aur Main stars John Abraham as a pampered man-child opposite Chitrangada Singh and Prachi Desai.
I, Me Aur Main opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 46 min.
Director Ram Gopal Varma’s thriller The Attacks of 26/11 also opens in area theaters on Friday. Given the relative freshness of the wounds inflicted by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, I’m curious to see if RGV will rein in some of his more eccentric directorial quirks and tell a more somber, straightforward story.
The Attacks of 26/11 opens on Friday at all of the above theaters and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.
Kai Po Che! posted strong first-weekend U.S. earnings of $522,765, meriting a second week in all of the above theaters plus the AMC River East 21 in Chicago. The disappointing gangster drama Zila Ghaziabad, predictably, does not get a second week.