To give you a sense of just how big Amazon’s Indian catalog is, I recently removed about 80 expired links from my list, and it only reduced the count to 2,428 movies. If you wanted to watch a different Indian movie on Prime every day, it would take you six-and-a-half years to see all of them — and that’s only if Amazon didn’t add any new films!
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with three additions to the streaming catalog. Kahaani is back, which makes sense since director Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla is likely to join Netflix in early July. The Aamir Khan-hosted documentary Rubaru Roshini is also now available, as is director Aditya Kripalani’s Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal. Like Kripalani’s previous film — Tikli and Laxmi Bomb — Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal also deals with sexual violence against women, using it as the basis for a revenge drama. I found the new film too upsetting to finish, so be forewarned.
Neerja debuted with superb numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 19-21, 2016, the biopic earned $619,185 from 88 theaters in the United States and Canada for a terrific per-screen average of $7,036. The first quarter of the year is prime time for female-led dramas, with Neerja following in the footsteps of past successes like: NH10, which opened in March, 2015, with $143,209 from 46 theaters ($3,113 average); Queen — March, 2014, opened with $161,998 from 39 theaters ($4,154 average); and Kahaani — March, 2012, opened with $263,011 from 45 theaters ($5,845 average). Credit to the team behind Neerja for recognizing that there is an appetite for these kinds of films, and that the money and effort spent on promoting them can yield big results from a growing number of theaters.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the weekend’s other new release, Loveshhuda, which is a textbook case for how not to release a movie internationally. Loveshhuda released with absolutely no fanfare in eight theaters in the US and Canada and earned $1,399. That’s an average of $175 per screen (thanks to generous rounding up on my part). There are several lessons to reiterate here. 1) Don’t release a movie starring a couple of nugus — I could stop there — on the same weekend as a buzz-heavy release with an established star. 2) Let people know in advance that you are planning to release the movie, don’t just drop into theaters with no warning. 3) If you don’t think the movie can carry at least 30 theaters in the US and Canada, don’t bother.
Fitoor‘s business fell 86% in its second weekend, taking in $45,157 from 60 theaters ($753 average). Its total stands at $503,316.
In its third weekend, Ghayal Once Again added another $3,761 from five theaters ($752 average) to bring its total to $292,340. The fascinating thing about that total is that nearly half of it — $136,795 — comes from Canada, despite the fact that it never played on more than 13 theaters there. It opened in 67 theaters in the US. Never let anyone question Canada’s devotion to Sunny Deol.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
Airlift: Week 5; $19,569 from 12 theaters; $1,631 average; $1,843,074 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 10; $1,207 from two theaters; $604 average; $6,563,317 total
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two pieces of bad news. First, Kahaani is set to expire from the streaming service on January 16, 2015. This is one of my favorite movies, and I find new details to love whenever I watch it. I’ve shared this film with people who don’t normally watch Hindi films to rave reviews. If you haven’t seen this great thriller before, check it out this weekend. If you have, watch it again to be reminded of how wonderful Vidya Balan is.
Theatrical trailers are unreliable indicators of which Hindi films will actually open in the U.S. For example, the trailer for Paan Singh Tomar ran in local theaters a year after the film’s release. Still, I was sure that the coming-of-age drama Purani Jeans would open in the Chicago area. Its trailer ran here for a month, and there was little competition from other Hindi films releasing the same weekend.
Nope. Purani Jeans isn’t opening in Chicago area, and neither is any other new Hindi film. Chicago area Bollywood fans have two options in theaters the weekend beginning Friday, May 2, 2014, and, no, Kaanchi isn’t one of them.
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.
Thanks to impressive earnings of $1,027,121 from its first two weeks in the U.S., Cocktail gets a third week at both of the above theaters. Bol Bachchan — also performing well in the States, with earnings of $1,155,696 so far — gets a fourth week at the South Barrington 30.
Whether a matter of bad luck or poor planning, it’s unfortunate that Married 2 America debuted in India a month before Kahaani (and released two months after Kahaani in the U.S.). Both movies share a remarkably similar premise, and since Kahaani is probably the best Hindi movie of 2012 so far, Married 2 America looks terrible by comparison.
But even without the high bar set by Kahaani, Married 2 America would still be a snoozefest. It feels more like an extended episode of a soap opera than an event worthy of the big screen.
Married 2 America — an utterly meaningless title — opens with scenes of a tragic dam collapse in India. A torrent of water decimates a model village straight from the set of a 1950s Godzilla movie. Small kudos to the special effects department for using real miniatures and not bad CGI effects, at least not until another laughable flood scene later in the movie.
Fast forward two weeks to the New Jersey home of unhappily married couple Ravi (Chetan Pandit) and Anjali (Archana Joglekar). Ravi is consumed by his work, though he won’t tell Anjali what the problem is as he rebuffs her romantic overtures. He acts like a jerk to her, then leaves for India without so much as a hug good-bye.
After no contact from her husband for almost four months, Anjali finally seeks answers from the American architectural firm Ravi works for. His inexplicably British boss Mr. Jason tells Anjali that Ravi probably abandoned the marriage because, “As a wife, you were too perfect.”
Anjali goes to India herself where she learns that Ravi built the dam that collapsed in the opening scenes. The tragedy claimed the lives of hundreds of people and left thousands more homeless. There are plenty of people who might want Ravi dead, especially if the collapse wasn’t an accident.
Let me jump back to Anjali’s visit to the architectural firm. It’s revealed early on that Ravi goes missing after uncovering evidence of a conspiracy. He never tells his company about it, so it’s not as though Mr. Jason has any reason to cover up Ravi’s disappearance. Mr. Jason is just mean to Anjali for no reason and apparently unconcerned that one of his star employees has flown the coop.
The story drags on forever as Ravi and Anjali are separately kidnapped by two different mafia dons, only to both escape on the same night in attempts to free each other, only to then be captured by the don who formerly held his or her spouse. Married 2 America has a two-and-a-half hour runtime because of nonsense like this.
The acting is uniformly terrible. Many of the supporting cast sound as though they’re reading from cue cards. Pandit and Joglekar sleepwalk their way through the film with dead-behind-the-eyes performances. Ravi’s televised speech in which he belatedly admits to sort-of loving Anjali is particularly cringe-worthy.
Since none of the actors are up to emoting, the corny soundtrack goes overboard with emotional cues. It adds to the melodramatic and soapy feel of the movie. The song montages featuring Anjali looking forlorn are a joke.
Two films make their debuts in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning May 25, 2012. First up is Arjun: The Warrior Prince, an animated film co-produced by UTV and Disney.
Arjun opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles. The family friendly film has English subtitles and a runtime of 96 minutes.
Also new in local theaters this weekend is Married 2 America, a thriller about an Indian-America woman whose husband goes missing while investigating a dam accident in India. The film released in Indian theaters on February 17. I suspect the success of Kahaani — which has a similar premise — prompted the eventual release of Married 2 America in the States.
Married 2 America opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.