I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with more than fifty Indian titles that are now available for streaming. Most of the new films are in Hindi (23 titles), Punjabi (22), or Tamil (7), with one new addition each in Marathi and Bengali (as well as one Urdu movie from Pakistan). The full list of titles is available in the “Newly Added” section at the top of my Netflix page. Here are all of the Bollywood films that were just added:
The first major Bollywood release of 2010 is upon us. My Name Is Khan features Shahrukh Khan as Rizvan Khan, an Indian immigrant with Asperger syndrome living in San Fransisco. Kajol plays Rizvan’s love interest, Mandira. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 jeopardize their happiness, and Rizvan undertakes a cross-country journey to prove his love for Mandira.
I’m always interested in perspectives on 9/11 from filmmakers outside of the U.S., as in the 2009 Hindi films New York and Kurbaan. I’m a bit concerned about MNIK‘s surface similarities to Forrest Gump (a guy with social problems on a cross-country journey), a movie I wasn’t crazy about. But I have faith in SRK and Kajol to give spectacular performances that will win me over.
My Name Is Khan opens in the Chicago area on Friday, February 12 at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville. MNIK has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min. Based on the amount of time the AMC theaters are allowing between showings (usually a reliable indicator), I suspect the movie’s actual runtime is longer than that.
The only other Hindi movie showing in the Chicago area this weekend is 3 Idiots, which continues for its eighth week at the South Barrington 30. The movie has earned $6,463,622 in U.S. theaters thus far.
Striker departs theaters after one week. I don’t have figures on how much it earned in U.S. theaters, but American YouTube viewers have rented the movie just 1,283 times since its worldwide release last Friday. I hope Striker gets more attention when it releases on DVD, because it’s terrific.
Despite losing a couple of months of releases because of a dispute with theater owners, Indian filmmakers released a number of terrific Hindi movies in 2009. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Dramas Kurbaan and New York addressed terrorism with boldness and honesty, examining the reasons ordinary people become extremists. Delhi-6 dealt with religious differences in a manner both compelling and accessible. American audiences will enjoy the soundtrack by Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman.
A live-action version of Aladin was a novel update of the classic tale, appealing to adults and kids alike.
Romance was, as always, a popular theme. Amusing romantic comedies like Dil Bole Hadippa! and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani took a light take on love. Luck By Chance and Wake Up Sid, both of which starred talented actress Konkona Sen Sharma, took a more serious approach, addressing the challenges of pursuing career goals while maintaining a healthy relationship.
The best of this year’s romances was Love Aaj Kal. Telling love stories from two different time periods, the movie embraced traditional Bollywood romance conventions while showcasing contemporary relationship issues as well. The entertaining dance numbers will make American viewers feel like they’re getting a real Bollywood experience within a Westernized story structure. The modern relationships showcased in Love Aaj Kal, Luck By Chance and Wake Up Sid represent an important advance for Indian movie makers courting success abroad.
But the Best Bollywood Movie of 2009 has to be 3 Idiots. It’s a great comedy about friendship — with just a hint of romance — that features nuanced performances by Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi. The jokes are funny whether you’re listening to them in Hindi or reading them in English subtitles.
More importantly, 3 Idiots represents a step forward for Indian comedies. Most Hindi comedies released in recent years (excluding romantic comedies) have relied on slapstick humor: childish sound effects, comic violence and chase scenes that defy logic. There’s certainly a place for slapstick in modern cinema, but I don’t think this type of humor plays well in the international markets that Hindi filmmakers are looking to break into.
3 Idiots has its share of silliness, but it’s shown in a more subdued, realistic way that makes the characters relatable. It’s easier for the audience to cheer for the guys in 3 Idiots than for the farcical nincompoops in a movie like Do Knot Disturb (my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009), because in 3 Idiots they seem like real people. When they succeed, despite being a bit goofy, it gives hope to the rest of us goofballs.
After earning nearly $200,000 in the U.S. its opening weekend, Paa is sticking around for a second week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. De Dana Dan, which has earned $913,899 in the U.S. so far, returns to the Cantera 30 and South Barrington 30. The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Kurbaan (US $736,413 to date).
Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters this weekend include Katha (Telugu), Kerala Cafe (Malayalam) and Saleem (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is showing the Telugu film Arya 2.
One new Hindi movie hits Chicago area theaters in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. De Dana Dan stars Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty as a pair of loafers who concoct a get-rich-quick scheme to appease their girlfriends, played by Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy. Earlier this year, a reporter for Slate wrote about working as an extra for a day on the set of De Dana Dan.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area include the English language film Rockin’ Meera, opening on Thursday, November 26 at the Golf Glen 5. Also opening on Thursday is the Telugu movie Arya 2 at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.
Kurbaan, India’s most suspenseful and compelling drama of 2009, stars real-life lovebirds Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan as Avantika and Ehsaan, a pair of professors who fall in love in India. After Avantika gets a teaching job in America, where she has citizenship, the couple marry and buy a house in a New York suburb on a cul-de-sac with other Indian families.
Their new life isn’t as ideal as it first seems. Hindu Avantika (husband Ehsaan is a Muslim) doesn’t fit in with the conservative Muslims in the neighborhood. None of the women have jobs, and some are even forbidden from using the phone.
When one of the women tells Avantika that she’s afraid of her abusive husband, only to go missing the next day, Avantika searches for answers. In the missing woman’s basement, Avantika discovers a horrible secret: her neighbors are terrorists. Worse, Ehsaan is involved.
After her discovery, Avantika’s life becomes a daily fight for survival. She’s forced to question whether she can trust Ehsaan and whether he ever really loved her.
During its most intense moments, such as when Avantika realizes she is surrounded by terrorists (and may be married to one), Kurbaan is heart-poundingly suspenseful. Om Puri is menacing as Bhaijaan, the elder statesman among the terrorists. Because Kirron Kher usually plays doting mothers on screen, she’s especially chilling in her role as Bhaijaan’s wife, Aapa, whose duty it is to keep the women in line.
Kurbaan is also brutal. Deaths are graphic, and there’s a surprising amount of gore for an Indian film. But the violence only serves to make the terrorists, well, terrifying.
It’s important that Kurbaan illustrates that the bad guys are really bad, because the movie explores the issue of why one becomes a terrorist. Instead of religious fanaticism or the vague desire to destroy freedom, Kurbaan‘s characters chose their deadly path in response to personal loss. From this perspective, terrorism looks a lot like vigilantism, only on a massive scale.
But the core of Kurbaan is the relationship between Avantika and Ehsaan. Kapoor is spectacular as a woman whose life has been shattered by lies, but who still feels a need for the man who once made her so happy. And Khan is just as good, playing Ehsaan as a man torn between his love for his wife and his commitment to a cause.
If there’s a weak point in Kurbaan, it’s the subplot involving a reporter named Riyaaz (Vivek Oberoi). Seeking revenge upon the terrorists, he does that which only happens in the movies: he decides not to call the authorities so that he can bring the group down himself, from the inside.
It’s a common plot device, but it’s completely unrealistic. Plus, it works against Kurbaan‘s beliefs about terrorism. Riyaaz opts for vigilante justice, so what makes him more heroic than the men he’s trying to stop? Further, he’s indirectly responsible for more bloodshed than if he’d done what any actual person would have done in his position: called the cops.
Other Indian movies in theaters this weekend include Kanden Kadhalai (Tamil) and Magadheera (Telugu) at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove and Kurradu (Telugu), Heer Ranjha (Punjabi) and Bettadapurada Ditta Makkalu (Kannada) at the Golf Glen 5.