I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a ton of great Hindi films are set to expire from the service on August 1, as a result of the end of two-year contract with UTV Motion Pictures. Netflix could renew the contract in the near future, or the package of films could migrate to another streaming service. UTV is owned at least in part by Disney, so Hotstar is a likely destination. We’ll have to wait and see where they end up. Until then, here are the titles to catch on Netflix while you can:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-two new additions to the catalog! About half of these titles were on Netflix years ago, but the rest — films like Highway, Mohenjo Daro, and PK — are available on the service for the first time. I’m excited that three more of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have joined the catalog. Here are all the titles added today:
Some of the most disappointing films of 2012 were aimed at families with young children. Joker and Delhi Safari failed to appeal to both kids and adults alike.
A common thread among three of the worst films of the year is the cinematic treatment of violence against women, specifically sexual violence. The lead character in the revenge drama Hate Story is blamed for her own rape, pregnancy, and forced sterilization because she made the mistake of falling in love with an evil man who wanted to ruin her life.
In the inept horror movie Ghost, the torture and dismemberment of a woman named Mary Magdallen — a Biblical figure often portrayed as a prostitute — is depicted in vivid, lingering detail.
One film goes beyond just depicting women as victims deserving of mistreatment by men. It actually promotes a stalker and sex criminal to the status of hero. My Worst Bollywood Movie of 2012 is Ekk Deewana Tha.
Ekk Deewana Tha is so reprehensible because it thinks it’s a heartwarming romance about star-crossed lovers. In reality, the film’s hero, Sachin (Prateik) should be jailed for what he does to the object of his desire, Jessie (Amy Jackson). Jessie repeatedly tells Sachin not to pursue her romantically, which he does by tailing her to work and following her around their apartment complex. As in real life, Jessie’s reasons for telling him to back off are immaterial. “No” means no, or at least it should.
At one point when they are alone in a train compartment, Sachin kisses Jessie despite her objections. Why? Because she was just so pretty that he couldn’t help himself.
Ekk Deewana Tha has been the leading contender for my worst film of the year for a long time, but it’s even more appalling in light of the fact that an Indian gang-rape survivor is currently battling for her life in a Singapore hospital. (Update: the 23-year-old gang -rape victim has died.) The notion that men can take whatever they want from women without consequence — worse still, that a man’s ceaseless pursuit of an unwilling woman is somehow virtuous — needs to die. A meaningful first step is for Bollywood to stop making vile movies like Ekk Deewana Tha that turn rapists into heroes.
Despite opening to dismal collections of just $105,865 from seventy-four U.S. theaters, Joker gets a second week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. For comparison’s sake, the Tamil film Mugamoodi earned $55,501 from just twenty-two screens in its U.S. debut last weekend.
I’m sad to report that the streaming video service Mela is shutting down on September 15. I updated my article on the best ways to stream Bollywood movies on the iPad to reflect the news.
In the days that Mela remains active, I recommend using it to watch the exceptional documentary Supermen of Malegoan. If you’re a masochist, check out the Hindi horror film Ghost, the current leader in the race for my worst Bollywood film of 2012. Other movies I’ve reviewed via Mela include Hate Story, Bumboo, Chaurahen, and The Forest.
Have you ever listened to a four-year-old girl tell a story? They usually sound something like this: “There once was a princess who flew to the moon, and then they ate cake, but she was really a donkey, and her dad was a mailman. The end.” That four-year-old girl’s story has better continuity than Joker.
Scientist Agastya (Akshay Kumar) is in danger of losing his research funding after his experimental device fails to make contact with extraterrestrials. He’s given one month to complete the project when his girlfriend, Diva (Sonakshi Sinha), informs Agastya that his brother called. His father is sick, and Agastya must return to India at once.
In India, Diva learns why Agastya kept his family a secret: he comes from a village whose population descended from patients who escaped from an insane asylum. Everyone in Paglapur is wacky, including Agastya’s brother, Babban (Shreyas Talpade), who speaks only in gibberish. (The film doesn’t bother to explain how gibberish-speaking Babban was able to communicate the message about Agastya’s sick father over the phone to Diva.)
Eventually the truth comes out: Agastya’s dad isn’t really sick. The local river has been dammed, and the villagers need Agastya’s help to get the dam removed so they can water their crops.
Unfortunately, the village was left off the survey maps created in the 1940s, and none of the regional bureaucrats want to claim jurisdiction over Paglapur. One of the bureaucrats compares the village to the joker in a deck of cards: it exists, but it doesn’t belong to any of the suits (or, in Paglapur’s case, states).
I think the bureaucrat’s explanation is where the movie lost me for good. What a dumb justification for a movie title. It’s not a great analogy in the first place, and the title is meant to prey on moviegoers’ mental shortcuts. “I think Akshay Kumar is funny, and a joker is someone who is funny, so Joker must be another funny Akshay Kumar movie. Take my money, please!”
The surprise for those unfortunate moviegoers is that Kumar plays the straight man in Joker. He spends an uncharacteristically small amount of time running around and screaming, compared to many of his recent roles. Not only is Kumar himself not funny, neither is the rest of the cast.
Babban’s ceaseless gibberish is particularly grating. It’s the most annoying vocal tic I’ve heard since that character in Golmaal Returns who speaks only in vowels.
All the wacky character tics — the guy who thinks he’s a king, the guy dressed like a centurion, the kid who thinks he’s a lamp — are cover for an inane plot that seems like it’s being made up as it goes along. Events happen with no consideration for how to get from Point A to Point B. Director Shirish Kunder just has everyone act nuts to distract the audience from the radical shifts in the plot.
There’s a mystery that runs throughout Joker: where are all the women? There’s not a single female villager in Paglapur — apart from Diva, who has little to do in the film besides look bemused — yet ladies materialize from nowhere whenever a song-and-dance number starts. The absence of estrogen in town may explain why Babban falls for the first woman he sees, a news reporter played by Minissha Lamba, in one of the most underused cameos I’ve ever seen.
So, what are the positives about Joker? Chitrangda Singh looks gorgeous in the item number “Kaafirana.” Agastya’s American nemesis, Simon (Alexx O’Nell), has a magnificent head of curly red hair. Joker‘s runtime is mercifully short, at just about 100 minutes. Those probably aren’t good enough reasons to spend $10 on a movie ticket.
Another new Hindi movie opens in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning August 31, 2012. Joker stars Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in a comedy about aliens, not that you’d be able to infer that from the title.