One strange bit of Amazon housekeeping is that Yash Raj Films added new versions of several movies that were already on Prime, and the old links no longer work at all. It’s not that the listing remains and says the movie isn’t available on Prime — you get a “Page Not Found” error when you follow the link. I updated my list with the new links I’ve found, but here they are just in case you’ve got the old links in your bookmarks (if you find any other YRF Amazon Prime links in my list that no longer work, please leave a comment and let me know):
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera because the Amazon channel just increased its Hindi film collection by more than 25%! Heera added 79 movies to its streaming catalog, including a ton of titles from Yash Raj Films and a bunch of interesting older fare. Highlights include Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, Ishaqzaade, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. I’m inordinately excited that the horror flick Khamoshiyan is now available, just because it gives me an excuse to post a screenshot of one of the movie’s many amazing set decorations (seriously, if anyone knows where I can buy this painting, please let me know!):
[Update: The scoop from Sofia on Twitter is that these may not be “new” additions, as they’ve all been available to her since she subscribed last month. They only appeared in my results on Saturday, and I check Heera’s catalog everyday. Hrmmm…]
North American Bollywood fans were in the mood for love, turning out in impressive numbers for the romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee. In its opening weekend in 88 U.S. and Canadian theaters, the film earned $336,985 (according to Box Office Mojo).
Hasee Toh Phasee‘s per screen earnings of $3,829 bested every other film in the top twenty-five apart from The LEGO Movie and The Monuments Men, which finished the weekend in first and second place, respectively.
The success of Hasee Toh Phasee points to an upward trend in the young careers of the two lead actors: Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra. This is only Malhotra’s second film after 2012’s Student of the Year, which earned $326,508 from 106 theaters ($3,080 per screen) in its opening weekend in North America, going on to earn a total of $670,086.
Chopra had greater success with 2013’s Shuddh Desi Romance. It earned $345,624 from 116 theaters ($2976 per screen) in its first weekend, finishing its North American run with $641,000 in total earnings.
Distributor Reliance Big Pictures should be pleased if Hasee Toh Phasee ends up earning around $650,000 in the U.S. and Canada.
Aurangzeb should not work. The premise is silly: a long-lost twin impersonates his brother to take down their father’s criminal empire. Yet writer-director Atul Sabharwal executes his vision with such sincerity that the movie succeeds. I unapologetically love this action soap opera.
Sabharwal worked in television before this, his feature film debut, and it shows. There are so many twists and turns in the plot that it feels like a full season of a TV series condensed into one 140-minute movie. Aurangzeb: The Series would fit right in alongside The Vampire Diaries on The CW.
Arya (Pritviraj Sukumaran) — the film’s narrator — has a troubled relationship with his father, a disgraced police officer played by Anupam Kher in a moving cameo. Because of his father’s emotional distance, Arya was primarily raised by his uncle, Ravi (Rishi Kapoor), a crooked cop.
On his deathbed, Arya’s father confesses that he has a secret wife and son that Arya is now obligated to take care of. Arya resentfully breaks the news to the woman, Veera (Tanvi Azmi), only to realize that her son looks exactly like the son of the criminal mastermind, Yashwardhan (Jackie Shroff).
Uncle Ravi realizes that Veera and her son, Vishal (Arjun Kapoor), are Yashwardhan’s wife and son, presumed dead for the last 25 years after a “botched” police shootout that cost Arya’s father his job. In order to clear his father’s name, Arya and Ravi conspire to kidnap Yashwardhan’s son Ajay (also played by Arjun Kapoor) so that Vishal can impersonate his identical twin brother while acting as a police informant. Ravi explains that Vishal must act like Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor who gained his throne by defeating the brothers ahead of him in the line of succession.
The soapiness of the story is enhanced by an amazing soundtrack. Heartrending musical themes accompany Veera’s confessions to her sons. Bombastic rock blares when Ajay (or Vishal) strides into a room, ready to bust some heads. Thankfully, the soundtrack album includes several of the great instrumental songs by Amartya Rahut and Vipin Mishra.
As with any good soap opera, the film is really about family conflicts: brothers turned against one another, children resentful of their parents’ favoritism, and parents who feel they can’t express their feelings to their hot-headed sons. Arya hates Vishal because of the love his own father showed the gangster’s son. Vishal hates his mother for robbing him of a relationship with his biological father. Ajay hates everybody.
As in his debut, Ishaqzaade, Arjun Kapoor plays a scumbag, and he’s great at it. Ajay is loathsome almost beyond the point of sympathy, yet the hurt behind his lashing out is always obvious. Vishal undergoes some real character growth as he, too, as his timidity gives way to aggression.
Pritviraj puts Arya in a similarly precarious position to Ajay’s. One of Arya’s early scenes has him belittling his dying father, so it’s hard to love him. However, it does give him room to grow when he’s forced to choose between his father’s “family first” approach to morality or his uncle’s belief in success at any cost.
Rishi Kapoor is compelling as the head of a family of corrupt cops. Ravi’s son, Dev (Sikander Kher), is involved in the family business, too, and gets to do some sleazy stuff.
Jackie Shroff plays the most sympathetic of the movie’s flawed father figures. Yashwardhan is old enough that he’s not the fearsome thug he once was, making it hard for Vishal to reconcile the man before him with the villainous image he was sold.
The movie isn’t all emotional turmoil. There are plenty of cool fight scenes to keep things entertaining, and it’s impressive how well they integrate with the melodrama. This kind of action-soap opera can’t succeed if it’s done halfway, and Sabharwal goes all out. Aurangzeb is exciting, touching, and totally engrossing.
2012 was a good year for Hindi movies. Of the fifty 2012 releases that I reviewed this year, thirty-one earned positive reviews of 2.5-stars or higher. The ten films below were the best of the best. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
English Vinglish — a personal drama about a mother’s quest to regain her self-worth — proved to be one of the years most delightful surprises, thanks to a triumphant return to the big screen by Sridevi.
I awarded a perfect four-stars to three movies this year — movies that could not be more different from one another. Supermen of Malegaon is one of the most fun and fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. While it never released theatrically in the U.S., the whole movie is available for free with English subtitles on YouTube.
Evaluated in a vacuum, Barfi! is a wonderful and heart-wrenching movie. But given director Anurag Basu’s apparent lifting of whole scenes from other films, I have trouble recommending it with a clear conscience. Therefore, I instead recommend the (unfortunately-titled) Jism 2, a movie so bad, it’s good. There’s no movie I had more fun watching in 2012.
The best film of the year was a meticulously crafted thriller with character development to spare and a magnificent, evocative setting. My best Bollywood movie of 2012 is Kahaani.
This is a movie I could watch over and over again. Vidya Balan reaffirms that she’s the most talented actress working in Hindi films at the moment. Her co-star, Parambrata Chatterjee, holds his own alongside her, playing a police officer with a crush that’s doomed to go nowhere.
One aspect of Kahaani I particularly appreciate is its positive take on marriage. Balan plays Vidya, a pregnant woman from London searching for her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing in Kolkata. Everyone tries to tell her that he has probably just run out on her, but she refuses to believe them. She knows in her heart that not only would he never leave their unborn baby, but he wouldn’t leave her, either.
So often, we’re confronted with cultural tropes that portray marriage negatively. Husbands are depicted as either incorrigible philanderers or hapless morons barely tolerated by wives who only need them for baby-making and yardwork.
Isn’t it more satisfying to see an onscreen marriage in which both partners really know and value each other? That’s what makes Vidya’s search so frustrating and engrossing: there’s real love at stake.
Unlike most movies produced by Yash Raj Films, Ishaqzaade (“Love Rebels”) didn’t get a major roll-out in North American theaters when it released in India in May. Instead, YRF waited to show Ishaqzaade — rechristened as “Born to Hate…Destined to Love” — at the Toronto International Film Festival, where its global sales rights were acquired by Shoreline Entertainment.
Even though the film is already available on DVD in the U.S., I hope the new acquisition means greater theatrical exposure for Ishaqzaade. It’s a tremendous movie.
Ishaqzaade is a Romeo & Juliet-type romance set in the terrifying world of local politics in Uttar Pradesh. It’s election season in the town of Almore, and the reigning politician, Qureshi, is challenged by the patriarch of the Chauhan family. Besides political animosity, the families are divided by religion as well: the Qureshis are Muslim, the Chauhans are Hindu.
Parma Chauhan (Arjun Kapoor) is the youngest of his grandfather’s grandsons. He’s marginalized in the family hierarchy in part because of his age, but also because his mother is a widow (not that she was responsible for her husband’s death). Parma is desperate to get in his grandfather’s good graces, but Parma’s attitude makes him a liability.
Parma has the devastating combination of a short temper and a sense of entitlement. When a merchant mentions selling diesel fuel to the Qureshis, Parma burns the merchant’s warehouse “to teach him a lesson.” He fails to consider that abusing the common folk hurts his grandfather’s election prospects.
The youngest member of the Qureshi family is Zoya (Parineeti Chopra), herself something of a firebrand. She’s responsible for coordinating her father’s campaign on her college campus, but is eager to do more. When Parma and his goons kidnap a dancer performing at a Qureshi party, Zoya chases after him in her jeep while firing her newly acquired pistol. However, her father’s plans for her are limited to marrying Zoya off to a banker from London, and he laughs at her political ambitions.
Zoya and Parma’s story really begins with an on-campus encounter. He urinates on her father’s campaign poster. She slaps him. He points a gun at her. Parma is impressed that Zoya doesn’t flinch at the loaded gun. She’s impressed when he sneaks into the girls’ bathroom to apologize.
This story is not Romeo & Juliet, however. When Parma starts pursuing Zoya, he’s still the same deplorable person who burned the merchant’s warehouse. Zoya is immature in her own right, in that she allows her feelings to override her awareness that her father would never allow her to marry a Hindu, let alone a member of the Chauhan family.
Ishaqzaade never lets romantic film conventions obscure the social norms of the region in which the film takes place. Religious differences are not something to be toyed with and are not easily overcome. Politics can be a similarly deadly enterprise, with seemingly no offense too minor to be greeted with gunfire.
I was most fascinated with the role of women in the film. Zoya’s headstrong personality makes her a fine mascot within her family, but doesn’t lend itself to a quiet life as a wife and mother, the only future her father sees for her. Zoya’s mother and Parma’s mother are sympathetic to her but pragmatic as well. Undersized and out-gunned, the women in both families have little choice but to submit to the will of the men.
The only other women in Ishaqzaade outside of the two families are prostitutes. The kidnapped dancer, Chand Baby (Gauhar Khan), is admired for her beauty and dancing skills, but it’s always clear where she ranks in the social order. Chauhan refers to her as “the whore.”
When men place so much emphasis on controlling women (and their sexuality in particular), it makes women a natural target for exploitation. From a practical standpoint, it seems a squandering of resources. Zoya’s brothers are good for carrying out simple orders, but they lack her cleverness and passionate commitment to the cause.
Chopra does a great job making Zoya feisty, yet vulnerable and naive. After all, she’s essentially still a kid. Kapoor has a swagger that makes Parma loathsome while simultaneously betraying the insecurity fueling the bravado. Parma is not a loveable character, but he is fascinating to watch. The lead actors’ performances are well-executed in a movie that demands much from its cast and its audience.