With an increased amount of traffic to my website in the last couple of weeks, I thought I should give a quick explainer of how Access Bollywood operates for anyone new to the site. First of all, welcome newcomers! I update my lists of Indian movies on Netflix and Indian movies on Amazon Prime every day with new additions to the catalogs and info on upcoming releases and expiration dates, when available. I used to take weekends off, but I’m switching to a 7-day-a-week schedule for the foreseeable future. We need something to keep our spirits up these days, and if I can help alert folks to new movies to watch, I’m gonna do it.
The “Newly Added” section at the top of my Netflix page has all of the Indian movies and series that have been added in the last month, plus international projects that feature prominent Indian actors, like Netflix’s April release Extraction, starring Randeep Hooda and Manoj Bajpayee. Because Amazon Prime adds so many more titles than Netflix every month (75 in the last week alone), all of the new additions from the last seven days are at the top of the “Newly Added” section of my Prime page. Below that are all the 2020 releases added in the last month.
In happy news, Eros Now is offering two free months of streaming if you sign up using the code STAYSAFE. I haven’t used Eros Now in a while, but their catalog is massive, with content across multiple languages as well as original films and series. The only sort option is “Most Popular” — though you can winnow results down by “Language” and “Decade” — so it can be hard to find what you’re looking for. Here are some of my favorite films in the Eros Now catalog (the title links to the movie’s Eros Now page, the star-ranking to my review). Stay safe! — Kathy
Two new Hindi films open in the Chicago area on February 21, 2020. The romantic comedy Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan — a spin-off of 2017’s Shubh Mangal Saavdhan — features Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar as a gay couple struggling with their families’ objections.
With no new Hindi movies opening in the U.S. or Canada on Friday, May 2, 2014, old favorites continued to pull in crowds at the North American box office. The Lunchbox — now in its tenth week — earned $255,736 from 141 screens ($1,814 average), bringing its total earnings to $2,968,497 so far.
2 States also held up well in its third week. It earned $167,377 from ninety-one screens ($1,839 average) to bring its total North American earnings to $1,978,594.
With The Lunchbox set to pass $3 million in North American earnings this week and 2 States about to the clear the $2 million mark, it’s worth noting the significance of these achievements. Both movies are romantic dramas, as opposed to action-packed spectacles. Neither film features A-list superstars (industry and audience respect for Irrfan Khan notwithstanding).
A look at the last five years of box office receipts reveals similarities among the sixteen Hindi films that managed to earn more than $2 million in North America during that period (five in 2013, five in 2012, two in 2011, one in 2010, and two in 2009). Four films are action sequels: Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Dabangg 2, and Don 2. A small list of actors show up in multiple movies on the list:
Hrithik Roshan: Krrish 3 and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
[Somebody in Bollywood needs to cash in by bringing back Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan for Ra.Two, featuring Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as the villains.]
The Lunchbox continues to earn big, thanks to its partnership with a Hollywood distributor — Sony Pictures Classics — which has dramatically expanded its potential audience compared to a typical Hindi film. Though movie adaptations of popular books are far rarer in India than in Hollywood, the success of 2 States should start to change that.
The only other Hindi movie showing in the U.S. the weekend of May 2-4 was Queen. Now in its ninth week, it earned $190 from one theater, bringing its total earnings to $1,417,405.
An attractive cast and raucous party scenes are the lure Cocktail uses to draw the audience into an exploration of modern romance and female friendship. It’s a frothy concoction that packs a punch.
Country girl Meera (Diana Penty) arrives in London to reunite with her husband Kunal (Randeep Hooda), only to learn that the marriage was a scam to cheat her out of her dowry money. Alone in an unfamiliar city, Meera meets Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a party girl. Veronica’s decadent lifestyle is financed by her wealthy absentee father, and she offers Meera a place to stay without a second thought. Though opposites in temperament, the women become best friends.
During a night on the town, Veronica plays a prank on Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), a serial flirt who hit on Meera when she first arrived in London. Veronica and Gautam become romantically involved, and he moves into Veronica’s house as well, forming a truce with Meera.
In order to get his mother (Dimple Kapadia) to stop pressuring him about marriage, Gautam admits that he’s in a relationship. When Mom arrives unexpectedly from India, Gautam says that prim, proper Meera is his girlfriend, not drunk, half-naked Veronica. The charade continues on a South African vacation where things get predictably complicated.
The story is organized as a classic Bollywood tale-of-two-halves. The first half of the film is lighthearted as the friends get to know each other. Some of the best laughs come courtesy of Gautam’s uncle, played by Boman Irani.
The second half of the film becomes an interesting character study with meaningful dialog. Writers Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali offer insightful commentary on modern, hook-up culture through the characters of Gautam and Veronica.
As soon as Gautam starts his sham relationship with Meera, everyone in the audience knows that things will end badly, but Gautam honestly doesn’t. He thinks he can say sweet things to Meera and that she won’t fall for him, and that he can do this in front of Veronica without making her jealous. He treats his “no strings attached” status with Veronica as a contract, a shield from future emotional attachment. Khan is very good in the scenes when Gautam finally realizes that this is not the case.
Padukone is likewise captivating when Veronica finally appreciates the hollowness of her party lifestyle. “I know what everyone thinks of me,” she says, heartbreakingly. Veronica fights dirty for the life she thinks she wants, a life that seems destined for Meera but not her. As misguided as she is, Veronica is very relatable.
Debutant actor Penty jumps into the deep end with Cocktail. Khan and Padukone are talented and sexy and have an established rapport, having worked together as romantic leads in Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal. Even Hooda, Irani, and Kapadia are superb in their supporting roles. Penty’s performance isn’t quite as nuanced as those of her fellow cast members — she needs to learn to emote with her eyes and work on her dance moves — but she’s not a distraction. Meera isn’t as flashy as Veronica or Gautam, and Penty’s restrained performance suits her character.
The few complaints I have about the movie have to do with the sound design. There’s a paucity of background music in the first half, making it feel as though the scenes lack a connective thread. Also, the music that is there gets mixed very loud relative to the dialog, like when television commercials are significantly louder than the shows they interrupt.
If you watch enough movies, it becomes easy to predict how a plot will progress. With about thirty minutes remaining in Cocktail, I wrote the note: “How will this end?” It’s a lot of fun to be taken along for the ride for a change.
The trailer for Rockstar presented the movie as a typical rom-com in which a dork melts an ice queen’s heart before the interval, only to have obstacles to their love thrown in their path for the second half of the movie. Rockstar is less conventional than that. At times, it’s an extended music video, at others a hypnotic tale of passion. It’s not always successful, but director Imtiaz Ali deserves credit for trying something different.
As in Ali’s two previous hits — Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal — Rockstar features a hero unable to articulate his feelings for his beloved, even if it means losing her to another man. This time the tongue-tied protagonist is Janardhan (Ranbir Kapoor), a dorky college kid with superstar ambitions.
Cafeteria-owner Khatana (Kumud Mishra) tells Janardhan that his life has been too easy, and that all musicians must suffer for their art. Janardhan’s real problem is a lack of charisma and a fondness for unflattering sweater vests, but that’s not much of a movie set-up.
Janardhan humiliates himself in a clumsy effort to woo the most popular girl in school, Heer (Nargis Fakhri), who’s already engaged to a rich guy from Prague. The two become pals, and she gives him the stage name “Jordan.” She also gives him an opportunity to express his feelings for her and perhaps forestall her marriage. He doesn’t take it, and Heer heads to Prague.
To this point — about the first hour of a 2-hour 40-minute movie — the story is laid out rather predictably: the kids have fun in seedy back alleys and amidst beautiful scenery in Kashmir, the setting for Heer’s wedding. The snowy mountain passes and gorgeous costumes are a real highlight.
Things veer from the expected during the film’s second hour. It begins not chronologically, but rather with a reporter investigating Jordan’s early career. It’s two years after Heer’s wedding, and Khatana recounts the emotion collapse that preceded Jordan’s rise to Indian rock stardom. An international music competition brings Jordan to Prague where he and Heer rekindle their interrupted romance, despite her now-married status.
Much of this storyline unfolds through A.R. Rahman’s incredible soundtrack. The second hour of Rockstar is primarily a string of music videos, the lyrics of Jordan’s music (voiced by Mohit Chauhan) providing insight into his emotional growth in way he can’t express in conversation. Thankfully, the lyrics are translated really well, allowing the story to unfold in an intriguing way.
Kapoor and Fakhri are terrific together. Their love scenes are sexy and passionate. Fakhri’s big screen debut is a promising one, as she plays Heer with the right mix of vulnerability and strength.
It’s unfortunate, then, that the movie ends the way that it does. While the movie’s main character is clearly Jordan, the second hour of the film gives equal weight to the choices both he and Heer must make. As the movie shifts into its third and final timeframe, Heer’s choices are taken from her, reducing her from a lead character to a mere catalyst for Jordan’s emotional growth.
That disservice to Heer’s character — along with an awkward bridge between the final shot of the movie and the closing credits, made up of scenes of Jordan and Heer in happier times — left me with mixed feelings about the movie. It’s uneven (and too long, of course), but the solid performances, beautiful scenery and intriguing story-telling mechanism make it worth a trip to the theater.
When watching a Hindi movie, I often consider whether someone who has never seen a Bollywood movie before would enjoy it. To someone who likes romances, I’d recommend Love Aaj Kal; for a fan of family-friendly sports movies, I’d suggest Chak De India. But I think Aakrosh might have the widest appeal to American filmgoers (adults only, as there is some graphic violence).
Aakrosh‘s biggest selling point is its construction. It’s a well-paced thriller in which the lead characters — who truly grow over the course of the film — are placed in a difficult situation that becomes terrifying as the story progresses. The familiar format accommodates a few musical numbers that identify Aakrosh as distinctly Indian, though they do make the movie a tad long.
What adds to Aakrosh‘s appeal is that it deals with a topic unfamiliar to many Americans: honor killings. When honor killings make the news in the United States, they typically involve a young woman murdered by her own family for an act perceived as shameful. Aakrosh presents another side of the practice, in which suitors are killed in order to force a young woman into a political marriage approved by her family.
The story’s heroes are Siddhant (Akshaye Khanna) and Pratap (Ajay Devgan), two investigators sent to learn the whereabouts of three Delhi medical students who disappeared from a village two months earlier. Siddhant, also from Delhi, is the lead investigator who assumes this case will proceed as smoothly as his previous cases have. Pratap knows from having grown up in the area that Siddhant’s rule-of-law methods won’t work in Jhanjhar.
There’s a corrupt local system of governance built on the caste system that exists, despite Delhi edicts declaring castes obsolete. The police, politicians and business owners conspire to keep lower-caste, working-class villagers on the fringes of society. Those who aspire to rise above their station frequently disappear. When Siddhant asks the villagers how it’s possible that no one saw the three students, an old man replies, “We are alive because we are blind.”
Pratap is all too familiar with the caste-based politics that separated him from his former flame, Geeta (Bipasha Basu), many years earlier. Geeta is now married to the corrupt and uncooperative police chief, played with sleazy aplomb by Paresh Rawal. Unhappy Geeta knows better than to let her violent husband see her talking to the feds.
Siddhant and Pratap finally get a break in the case through sheer luck, since no one will help them. Their lives become more imperiled as they get closer to the truth about the missing young men. Siddhant is slow to admit that his by-the-book approach won’t work, and that Pratap’s method of hardball may be the only way to get justice.
The atmosphere in Aakrosh is intense. Siddhant and Pratap are surrounded by enemies, always under surveillance. Even those who aren’t their enemies won’t risk their lives for two outsiders, giving the movie a feeling that’s simultaneously lonely and claustrophobic.
Action scenes are refreshingly low-tech, relying more on parkour-style chases and fistfights than CGI special effects. The absence of cell phones and high-tech weaponry is appropriate for the remote setting. We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing slick gunmen in movies that a machete-wielding mob somehow seems much scarier.
Aakrosh, while both modern and foreign, will feel familiar to fans of old Hollywood thrillers. Siddhant’s feeling of futility in the face of a corrupt social order will appeal to fans of the TV series The Wire. It’s also a good chance to catch lovely Bipasha Basu before she makes her Hollywood debut in Roland Joffé’s Singularity next year.
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.
One new Hindi film opens in a couple of Chicago area theaters this weekend. Sikandar is about a football-loving boy from Kashmir who becomes a pawn in a political struggle between militants and the army. The movie has a runtime of 1 hr 50 min and will play at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.
Last week’s other new film, Life Partner, earned a disappointing $49,898 in U.S. theaters, eclipsed even by Love Aaj Kal‘s third week earnings of $85,632 (granted, Life Partner was only shown on 26 screens to Love Aaj Kal‘s 102). Life Partner sticks around for a second week at the AMC South Barrington 30.
There are several other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend. The Golf Glen 5 will show the Telugu movie Anjaneyulu and the Tamil movie Kanthaswamy, which is also showing at the theater in Telugu under the name Mallana. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove continues to program Magadheera (Telugu), as well as Pokkisham (Tamil).
The big Hindi film opening in American theaters on Friday, August 14, 2009, is Kaminey (“Scoundrels”), a dark comedy about a pair of feuding identical twins who get into trouble. Shahid Kapoor plays both twins, one of whom has a lisp while the other stutters. Priyanka Chopra plays the stutterer’s girlfriend.