Tag Archives: Kahaani

Streaming Bollywood Films on the iPad

Update: The streaming service Mela shuts down permanently on September 15, 2012. With its only real competitor out of the picture, Netflix is unquestionably the best option for streaming Bollywood movies on iPad devices.

With Indian Premier League Cricket slowing the flow of major releases out of Bollywood, it’s time to examine another option for watching Hindi movies. iPad owners in the U.S. have several ways to stream Bollywood movies on their devices. But which app is the best, particularly for movie fans who rely (as I do) on English subtitles?

When reviewing streaming video services, I considered a few criteria:

  1. Is the app easy to search and navigate?
  2. How comprehensive is the catalog of movies available?
  3. Is one of the movies in the catalog Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?

All of the apps reviewed have a fee associated with full access to their catalogs. Here’s a look at the few of the streaming services available on the iPad.

Mela

Unlike other video streaming services, Mela focuses exclusively on Indian content. Mela’s iPad catalog — a subset of the full range of video entertainment available with their set-top box, which includes TV shows — features hundreds of movies in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, Marathi, and Gujarati. The full movie catalog is accessible with a $4.99 monthly subscription, though a limited number of films can be viewed for free without a subscription.

By virtue of having a narrow focus, the Mela iPad app is incredibly easy to search. After selecting which films you’d like to browse by language, movies are organized alphabetically by title. Movies cover a wide date range, from the ’60s to the present, including a number of films released in 2012.

Most of these newer films are independent movies that didn’t release in U.S. theaters. For most American fans, Mela is the only way to see the horror flick Ghost or the relationship drama Chaurahen.

But Mela offers more than just arthouse fare. It offers 2011 hits like The Dirty Picture and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and will soon add this year’s outstanding thriller Kahaani to its catalog.

Mela gets an incomplete grade on one criterion: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is available for streaming, but it’s not subtitled in English.

That’s Mela’s biggest drawback, at the moment: not all of the movies are subtitled in English, and not all of those films are marked as being subtitled in the movie description. I often have to start a movie and fast forward to see if the dialog is subtitled. Most recent releases are subtitled — as Kahaani will be — and the company continues to add subtitles to older films already in the catalog, a process that the company says should be completed in the next couple of months. (Dear Mela: please prioritize subtitling Disco Dancer. Thanks!)

Another feature that would make the app ideal would be an ability to search movies by release year. However, within each language, there is a category for newly added titles, which includes recent theatrical releases.

Netflix

Netflix is undoubtedly the video service Americans are most familiar with. In addition to an extensive library of DVDs, Netflix has more than 70 Hindi titles available for streaming. The unlimited streaming plan costs $7.99 per month and allows subscribers to watch movies on their computers, TV or mobile devices (adding a DVD-by-mail option costs an additional $7.99 per month, minimum).

The quality of Netflix’s Hindi streaming video catalog is impressive, and all the films are subtitled in English. The catalog presently includes popular titles like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dum Maaro Dum, and, most importantly, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The other obvious advantage for Netflix is its huge catalog of English-language movies and TV shows, as well as other foreign films.

However, the Netflix app doesn’t lend itself to serious catalog browsing. In addition to showcasing new releases, the home screen of my Netflix app suggested movies from odd categories like “Quirky Documentaries” and “Inspiring Movies”: clever, but useless if I want to see what new Hindi movies are available. Unlike at Netflix’s website, movies listed under the “Foreign” browsing category aren’t further subdivided by language, though it did suggest some titles in a “Bollywood” subcategory. Searching under the word “Hindi” yielded no results.

If I want to see which Hindi movie at Netflix has the most recent theatrical release date, I have to go to the Netflix website, search for Hindi-language movies, sort them by release year, add the appropriate movie to my queue, and then access my queue on the iPad app to watch the movie. It’s a more complicated process than it should be.

Hulu Plus

While Hulu specializes in TV content, it also offers movies for streaming. Much of the service is available for free on a computer, but iPad access requires a subscription to Hulu Plus for a cost of $7.99 per month. Like Netflix, a subscription offers access to a wide range of content beyond Bollywood films.

Also like Netflix, Hulu’s catalog is a pain to search on the Hulu Plus iPad app. Hulu’s catalog of movies isn’t available to browse by category, so I searched for movies using the term “Hindi.” Searching for the term on the iPad yielded fewer than thirty titles, while the same search at Hulu’s website yielded more than sixty titles. (Oddly, Hulu doesn’t include Hindi movies in their “Foreign Language” category.)  Dil Se stood out among a largely unimpressive catalog that included the likes of 8×10 Tasveer and All the Best.

More annoying is that closed captioning is available on movies at Hulu’s website, but not on the Hulu Plus iPad app (though it is available on some other mobile devices). Not all of the Hindi movies in the catalog are subtitled automatically. So even generating a queue at Hulu’s website and selecting films from that queue doesn’t guarantee that the movie is watchable on the iPad.

The Rest

Thanks to an agreement several years ago with Eros Entertainment, Vudu has number of Bollywood movies available for rental and purchase on an individual basis. Most titles are from 2006 and earlier. The Vudu app is a player only, which means that movies must be browsed and purchased at the Vudu website for later viewing on the Vudu app. I found the process tedious and the catalog largely unsearchable, so I won’t bother renting from Vudu.

Neither Amazon Instant Videos nor YouTube Movies are currently available on the iPad.

Summary

For hardcore Bollywood fans, Mela is an essential app, especially since it costs less than other movie streaming apps. Even though many movies in the catalog currently lack subtitles, there are more than enough to keep English-only fans occupied until the catalog is completely subtitled. And no other company prioritizes independent Indian films the way Mela does.

Netflix is a great app for movie fans who don’t want to be limited to Bollywood titles alone. If you don’t live within driving distance of a theater that shows Hindi films, the Netflix catalog will keep you up to date on many of the biggest hits. However, for $3 more per month than Mela, be sure you take advantage of all the service has to offer in order to get your money’s worth.

Hulu Plus isn’t worth it for Bollywood movies alone, as you’ll quickly exhaust the limited selection of subpar titles. And with other services offering newer films, there’s no reason to bother slogging though Vudu’s annoying catalog.

Happy streaming!

In Theaters April 13, 2012

There are no new Hindi movies opening in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning Friday, April 13, 2012, but a couple of heavy hitters continue to commandeer local screenspace. After finishing in the top ten in U.S. box office returns in its opening weekend, Housefull 2 carries over at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Kahaani gets a well-deserved sixth week at the South Barrington 30.

Other movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Canadian thriller Pseudo: Blood of Our Own, The King & the Commissioner (Malayalam), and Rachcha (Telugu).

Opening April 5: Housefull 2

The all-star comedy sequel Housefull 2 deviates from the norm, arriving in Chicago area theaters on Thursday, April 5, 2012. I feel like I’ve already seen the trailer a million times, but here it is again:

Housefull 2 opens tomorrow at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. On top of its 2 hr. 35 min. runtime, Housefull 2 will reportedly be preceded by six movie trailers. Read my review of Housefull 2 here.

After theater schedules adjust to accommodate new Hollywood films opening on Friday, both the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30 will continue carrying over Agent Vinod and Kahaani. Agent Vinod‘s total earnings for its first two weeks in U.S. theaters are $632,446.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include 3 (Tamil) and Rachcha (Telugu).

In Theaters March 30, 2012

There are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area the weekend beginning Friday, March 30, but my two favorite Bollywood movies of 2012 are still playing in local theaters. After earning $427,043 in its opening weekend in U.S. theaters, fun spy flick Agent Vinod gets a second week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

The terrific thriller Kahaani gets a fourth week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include 3 (Tamil), Ee Rojullo (Telugu), and Ordinary (Malayalam).

Opening March 23: Agent Vinod

This weekend’s new Bollywood release is the thriller Agent Vinod, which is not a remake of the 1977 film of the same name. Saif Ali Khan plays the titular secret agent alongside Kareena Kapoor.

Agent Vinod opens in the Chicago area on Friday, March 23, 2012, 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 2 hrs. 37 min.

Another Hindi thriller, Kahaani, gets a third week at the South Barrington 30 and Golf Glen 5, which is also carrying the Malayalam film Second Show.

In Theaters March 16, 2012

The only Hindi movie playing in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning Friday, March 16, 2012, is Kahaani. The terrific thriller carries over for a second week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Ee Adutha Kaalathu (Malayalam) and the Telugu films Mr. Nokia and Nuvva Nena.

After making the festival rounds for several years, 2007’s Chaurahen (“Crossroads”) is finally being released theatrically in India on March 16. The English-language film is an adaptation of three short stories by author Nirmal Verma and stars Soha Ali Khan.

To coincide with the Indian theatrical release, streaming video service Mela is making Chaurahen available in the U.S. on Friday as well. The film can be streamed via Mela’s set-top box, Roku player or iPad app. Check Mela’s website for details.

Movie Review: Kahaani (2012)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Note: I recently watched Kahaani for a second time. I have no idea why I initially rated it 3.5 stars. This is about as good a movie can be.

With each film she makes, Vidya Balan reaffirms her status as India’s best actress (one of the best in the world, in fact). She does it again in Kahaani, a gripping thriller about identity.

Balan plays Vidya Bagchi, a heavily pregnant woman from London who arrives in Kolkata searching for her missing husband. Her husband, Arnab, had been in constant contact with Vidya for the first half of his month-long assignment, but she’s heard nothing from him in two weeks.

When Vidya files a missing persons report at the local police station, the head inspector repeatedly pronounces her name “Bidya,” insisting that “b” and “v” are interchangeable in Kolkata. Adding further confusion, a junior inspector, Rana (Parambrata Chatterjee), explains that everyone in Kolkata has two names: a “pet name” and an official name. Rana is the pet name that everyone uses; his official name is Satyoki.

The guest house and office where Arnab was supposed to have stayed and worked while in Kolkata have no record of his having been there. Vidya gets a lead when the head of human resources at the office says that Arnab’s photo bears an uncanny resemblance to a former employee named Milan Damji, a suspected terrorist who’s been on the run for two years. Is Arnab’s disappearance a case of mistaken identity, or could he and Milan Damji be the same man?

Kahaani is wonderfully atmospheric in the way it emphasizes the impossible task before Vidya. The city is crowded and unfamiliar to Vidya, who staggers in the heat under the weight of her pregnant belly. Kolkata is at its most chaotic during a climactic scene set during Durga Puja, a festival celebrating the Hindu goddess Durga, a renowned demon-slayer who also embodies maternal compassion and patience.

Vidya is aided throughout by Rana, and their rapport is central to the movie’s success. Rana develops a crush on Vidya, feelings which are doomed to amount to nothing. If he succeeds in helping her find Arnab, she’ll leave, reunited with the father of her unborn child. If he fails her, she’ll be heartbroken.

Vidya is perhaps more playful with Rana than she should be. But, as pointed out by Intelligence Bureau Officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a pregnant woman is no threat to anyone.

Balan and Chatterjee are both spectacular. Balan makes Vidya tenacious within the physical limitations of her pregnancy. Chatterjee tinges the lighter moments Rana shares with Vidya with a longing for a love that can never be.

One of the villains deserves a special mention: Bob (Saswata Chatterjeeas). He’s a paunchy, balding, middle-aged guy in glasses that you’d take no notice of if you saw him on the street, but it’s a bad omen whenever he shows up on screen in Kahaani. His very ordinariness makes him a chilling presence.

The plot is well-paced, allowing enough time for character development and tense action scenes. The cinematography gives scenes a grainy, yellowish tinge, as though a smoggy cloud obscures Vidya’s search through the bustling city. Kahaani is an accomplished thriller that doesn’t disappoint.

*Some theaters list Kahaani‘s runtime as 2 hrs. 30 min. It’s closer to 2 hours long.

Links

Opening March 9: Kahaani and Chaar Din Ki Chandni

Two new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 9, 2012.

Vidya Balan stars in the thriller Kahaani (read my review here) as a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband.

Kahaani opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min., but the actual runtime is closer to two hours.

This weekend’s other new Bollywood movie is the romance Chaar Din Ki Chandni, which opens on Friday at both of the above theaters.

Last weekend’s major new release, London Paris New York, carries over at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Paan Singh Tomar leaves area theaters after earning just $20,568 in its opening week in the United States. Likewise, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu makes way after amassing a four-week U.S. haul of $1,150,019, as does Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, which earned $155,247 from two weeks in American theaters.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Telugu films Ishq and Mr. Nokia.