Tag Archives: Indian

Movie Review: Welcome to New York (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Note: This is a review of the 2D version of the movie.

Welcome to New York has plenty of laughs for the hardest of hardcore Bollywood fans, packaged in an enjoyable fish-out-of-water comedy.

When I say “hardcore,” I mean it. It’s not enough to be familiar with the biggest Bollywood hits of recent years. Welcome to New York requires an appetite for industry gossip, knowledge of awards shows, and a fondness for Karan Johar–particularly his talk show, Koffee with Karan.

The extremely meta setting for Welcome to New York is the 18th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, which were held in New York City last year. As in real life, Johar plays the host of the awards show. His actual co-host, Saif Ali Khan, is replaced in the film by Riteish Deshmukh, playing a self-deprecating version of himself who bemoans his underpaid, B-list status.

In order to boost viewership in India, awards show organizers Gary (Boman Irani) and Sophia (Lara Dutta) create a talent contest, giving two winners the chance to perform onstage during the show. Sophia uses the contest to sabotage the show and get back at Gary, choosing the two worst entries among all the submissions as the winners.

Those winners are Teji (Diljit Dosanjh), a small-town repo man and wannabe actor, and Jeenal (Sonakshi Sinha), a feisty fashion designer. Whisked away to New York, the two must overcome their differences to navigate their flashy new surroundings and make their dreams come true.

Meanwhile, an angry Karan Johar doppelgänger named Arjun (also played by Johar) plans to kidnap his lookalike before the awards show. Teji accidentally foils one kidnapping attempt, thinking he’s playing a version of the Rapid Fire Round from Koffee with Karan.

The plotlines aren’t well-integrated, but it hardly matters, given how silly the movie is. Teji’s and Jeenal’s budding friendship is sweet to watch, and Dosanjh and Sinha are both effortlessly likeable. Dosanjh’s Teji gets most of the fish-out-of-water jokes, such as when he calls Jeenal’s terrycloth robe a “coat that looks like a towel.” Their characters have some amusing interactions with Aditya Roy Kapur and Sushant Singh Rajput that play off of people’s mistaken tendency to conflate actors with their roles.

When it comes to playing a role, no one in Welcome to New York does so more enthusiastically than Karan Johar, who plays the most outrageous version of himself imaginable. He’s vain, snarky, and snobbish, and he’s hilarious. He gets to spout lines like, “You are a traitor, Riteish Deshkmukh.” The payoff to subplot in which Karan advises Rana Daggubati on his career after Baahubali is worth the price of admission alone. Lara Dutta and Boman Irani being as great as always is a nice bonus.

The most disappointing element of Welcome to New York is its music. Songs range from forgettable to annoying, and there’s precious little dancing to speak of.

Casual fans may find Welcome to New York too “inside baseball,” but Bollywood junkies will see their obsession pay off in a multitude of self-referential gags. The actors seem like they had fun making the movie, and that quality translates to an enjoyable experience for the audience.

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Opening February 23: Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Welcome to New York

Two new Hindi films open in the Chicago area on February 23, 2018. First up is the romantic comedy Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, from the team behind the awful Pyaar Ka Punchnama movies.

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety opens on Friday 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. 18 min.

The weekend’s other new release is the comedy Welcome to New York, starring Sonakshi Sinha and Diljit Dosanjh. The South Barrington 24 and Cantera 17 carry the movie in both 2D and 3D, while MovieMax has it in 2D only. Welcome to New York has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 58 min.

Aiyaary gets a second week at all three of the above theaters, plus the AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18 in Rosemont. Pad Man carries over at all four of those theaters, plus the Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison.

Padmaavat holds over for a fifth week in 2D at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: February 16-18, 2018

Padmaavat can’t be stopped. Even in its fourth weekend of release, up against two newer Hindi films, Padmaavat remained the top-earning Bollywood movie in North America. During the weekend of February 16-18, 2018, the period drama earned $412,633 from 135 theaters ($3,057 average). Its $11,365,693 total is less than $1 million behind the current all-time highest-earning Bollywood movie in North America: Dangal, which earned $12,357,576 in 2016.

The weekend’s new release, Aiyaary, finished in second place, with earnings of $350,425 from 118 theaters ($2,970 average). It marks the lowest opening weekend for a film by director Neeraj Pandey, whose debut A Wednesday didn’t release in North America.

Pad Man closed out its second weekend with $318,001 from 131 theaters ($2,427 average), a 46% holdover from its opening weekend. It’s earned $1,313,120 so far.

*Bollywood Hungama routinely counts Canadian theaters twice in its weekly reporting, at least for a movie’s first two weekends of release. When possible, I try to verify the correct theater count with other sources, like Box Office Mojo. The above figures represent what I believe to be the actual theater counts. Bollywood Hungama’s reporting puts Aiyaary in 152 theaters (making for a $2,305 per-theater average) and Pad Man in 173 theaters (for a $1,838 per-theater average).

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Aiyaary (2018)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

In Aiyaary (“Shapeshifting“), things that require little explanation are belabored, while things that would benefit from being shown onscreen aren’t. The resulting movie is a boring spy thriller sans thrills.

Manoj Bajpayee plays Colonel Abhay Singh, leader of a secret group of Indian military intelligence officers — the kind of covert unit the Indian Army top brass promises to disavow should its existence ever be made public. Abhay’s superior officer even says, “No one will ever know what you did for this country.”

Neither will the audience, because writer-director Neeraj Pandey doesn’t show us what they do, apart from one scene of an unspecified assassination that serves two purposes: to establish Abhay’s remorselessness and to beat to death an unfunny joke about a subordinate packing vitamins instead of ammo.

The team consists of seven other officers, only two of whom have specific identities. Maya is the token girl, played by Commando‘s Pooja Chopra, who deserves a role far more substantive than this one. Jai (Sidharth Malhotra) is Abhay’s protegé gone rogue. Abhay intends to find Jai and terminate him if necessary.

Jai uncovers a bribery plot within the Indian Army, facilitated by retired Lt. General Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra) on behalf of London-based arms dealer Mukesh Kapoor (Adil Hussain). While Abhay tracks Jai, the protegé gathers evidence with the help of his internet security expert girlfriend, Sonia (Rakul Preet Singh, who also deserves a meatier part).

The details of the uncomplicated bribery scheme are spelled out in scenes bloated with dialogue. Pandey’s fondness for slow-motion shots underscores the film’s snail-like pace.

Of course the bribery scheme is just the tip of the iceberg, but there’s a naiveté to what Pandey considers a scandal big enough to topple the government. Maybe it’s just my American cynicism, but there’s nothing in Aiyaary egregious enough to inspire more than a “they’re all crooks” shrug.

Then again, the problem may be a matter of narrative focus. Pandey spends too much time on crimes that are obvious and easy to understand, before rushing through more complicated schemes that require evidence he neglects to present. Aiyaary‘s biggest scandals are based on hearsay — which wouldn’t stand up to public scrutiny and doesn’t make for good visual storytelling.

Manoj Bajpayee is often the best part of the movies he stars in, and Aiyaary is no exception. The film’s most enjoyable scenes are playful exchanges between Bajpayee and Juhi Babbar, who plays Abhay’s wife. Malhotra is solid, but his character feels flat, as is the case for many of the supporting characters, who only exist to move the story from Point A to Point B. A lot of talent goes to waste in Aiyaary.

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Movie Review: Love Per Square Foot (2018)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Love Per Square Foot on Netflix

Writer-director Anand Tiwari’s debut feature film Love Per Square Foot shows a lot of promise. Drawing from his own acting experience, Tiwari coaxes charming performances from his talented cast.

Two young strangers in Mumbai long for homes of their own. IT guy Sanjay (Vicky Kaushal) is tired of living with his fussy parents, Lata (Supriya Pathak) and Bhaskar (Raghuvir Yadav). Loan officer Karina (Angira Dhar) wants financial independence, a feat her mother Blossom (Ratna Pathak Shah) never quite achieved.

Sanjay is being strung along by his sexy boss, Rashi (Alankrita Sahai), and Karina is dating Sam (Kunaal Roy Kapur), a nice guy she likes but doesn’t love. When Sanjay and Karina hit it off at a mutual friend’s wedding, they realize that they can’t achieve their dreams if they stay with their current partners.

In order to take advantage of a government-sponsored housing program for newlyweds, Sanjay and Karina decide to apply together. They only have to get married if they win an apartment via a lottery draw, and even then, their arrangement is based on business rather than affection. They’ll split everything 50-50, from the costs of owning the apartment right down to household chores. That they start to fall in love with each other during the process is just a bonus.

The story takes its time establishing the relationship between Sanjay and Karina, which is great because Kaushal and Dhar are adorable together. Fresh off of his chilling turn as a crooked cop in Raman Raghav 2.0, Kaushal transitions seamlessly into an ideal romantic leading man. Dhar is effortlessly likeable and cute in her first film role.

Tiwari’s storytelling style is concise, with characters resolving problems that would normally stretch over several scenes with just a sentence or two. It’s refreshing, but it also creates the need to continually manufacture new conflicts in order to keep the story going. Problems aren’t born out of well-integrated subplots but rather spontaneously generate, and the story drags.

The two ex-lovers are one well Tiwari returns to, with Rashi’s demands on Sanjay’s attention becoming increasingly outlandish and less believable. As a character, Rashi is one-note, which is too bad because Sahai shows some charisma in her first film role. Kapur’s Sam has fewer scenes, but the actor makes the most of them.

Tiwari relies even more heavily on the main characters’ parents to complicate matters, chiefly on the grounds of religious objections to the union. Sanjay is Hindu and Karina is Christian, though neither seems especially devout. The sudden parental religious objections feel obligatory — as though one can’t make a Bollywood romantic comedy without them — and they don’t easily fit with the central modern love story. Despite having wonderful actors in the roles, all of the parents are unfunny caricatures.

The rookie writer-director must perfect his story crafting, but overall, Love Per Square Foot is a fine debut — not just for Anand Tiwari but for Angira Dhar as well.

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Opening February 16: Aiyaary

After getting bumped around the release calendar, Aiyaary finally makes its way into Chicago theaters on February 16, 2018. The crime thriller stars Sidharth Malhotra and Manoy Bajpayee.

Aiyaary opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, AMC Oakbrook Center 4 in Oak Brook, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 37 min.

Pad Man gets a second week at the River East 21, MovieMax, Rosemont 18, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, and Cantera 17.

Padmaavat carries over in 3D and 2D at the Cantera 17 and in 2D at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Naperville 16, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian and Bangladeshi movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: February 9-11, 2018

In its debut weekend, Pad Man finished second to Padmaavat at the North American box office. From February 9-11, 2018, Pad Man earned $689,272 from 152 theaters ($4,535 average), according to Bollywood Hungama*. Kumar’s recent releases have opened within a very narrow range of totals, from Toilet‘s $670,447 on the low end to Airlift‘s $815,933 on the high end. Pad Man‘s performance fits right within that range, so it appears Padmaavat had no discernible effect on Pad Man‘s opening weekend total.

The same applies in the other direction, too, as three-week-old Padmaavat out-earned Kumar’s brand new release. Granted, Padmaavat had a 126-screen advantage and inflated 3D prices for some tickets. Still, its enduring popularity is impressive. Over the weekend, Padmaavat earned $957,302 from 278 theaters ($3,444 average), bringing its total earnings to $10,556,813 — enough to squeak it past PK‘s $10,550,569 total into second place all time for Bollywood movies in North America. LiveMint has an interesting breakdown of where the money Padmaavat has earned so far has gone and how much of it is really profit after recovering costs.

[Update: Box Office Mojo reports weekend earnings of $740,326 from 152 theaters ($4,871 average) for Pad Man, and $1,039,904 from 282 theaters ($3,688 average) for Padmaavat, with total earnings of $10,638,033.]

*Bollywood Hungama routinely counts Canadian theaters twice in its weekly reporting, at least for a movie’s first two weekends of release. When possible, I try to verify the correct theater count with other sources, like Box Office Mojo. The above figures represent what I believe to be the actual theater counts. Bollywood Hungama’s reporting puts Pad Man in 173 theaters (making for a $3,984 per-screen average).

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