With a new year underway, let’s take one last look at the biggest Hindi cinema duds of last year. Here are my picks for the worst Bollywood movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
I’m a little loath to include Baaghi on this list because the film is so unintentionally funny, but it’s also really, really bad, so I guess I have to.
Madaari tries to paint a guy who kidnaps and threatens to kill a little kid as a hero, thus earning it a spot on the list.
All the rest of the worst films of 2016 are problematic in the way they relate to women. Shivaay is weirdly hostile, while Sanam Re is tacky and outdated.
Ki and Ka‘s comedic approach to gender norms falls flat when its male character becomes a national role model just by doing chores. Still, Ki and Ka is positively progressive compared to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, a movie built around the stereotype that white women are sluts.
The worst film of the year is written and directed by the same man who wrote the dialogue for Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Milap Zaveri. Mastizaade is hatred masquerading as comedy, a mean-spirited attack on everyone who isn’t a straight, Indian man. Zaveri’s targets include women, addicts, and non-Indians, but he’s particularly fond of picking on people with disabilities. His characters literally point and laugh at a man in a wheelchair. This is about as loathsome as a film can be. Mastizaade‘s title as my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2016 is well deserved.
Hindi films were in a holding pattern over the weekend, biding time until the release of Mohenjo Daro and Rustom on August 12. Of the Bollywood movies still in North American theaters from August 5-7, 2016, Dishoom led the pack with $117,601 from 73 theaters ($1,611 average). That brings its total to $742,108 after its second weekend.
In its fifth weekend, Sultan took in $28,174 from twenty theaters ($1,409 average), bringing its total earnings to $6,180,930. Madaari completed its third weekend in North America with $1,592 from four theaters ($398 average) to bring its total to $163,408.
One new release of interest to fans of Indian cinema is Bazodee, a musical romance about an NRI in Trinidad and Tobago who falls for a handsome rasta singer. Bazodee stars Bollywood veteran Kabir Bedi and opens locally at the Cantera 17, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.
Madaari carries over for a second week at MovieMax and Cantera, but with limited showings at both theaters. Sultan gets a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:
Madaari quietly performed to expectations in North America on a weekend overshadowed by the titan Rajinikanth. From July 22-24, 2016, Madaari earned $94,268 from 61 theaters ($1,545 average) in the United States and Canada. That’s pretty good considering the competition: Rajinikanth’s Tamil/Telugu film Kabali, which took in nearly $4 million in its first four days.
The cannibalization of screenspace by Kabali and Hollywood blockbusters greatly reduced Sultan‘s footprint, throttling the film’s performance in its third weekend in North American theaters. Sultan earned $298,753 from 114 theaters ($2,621 average), bringing its total to $5,897,836.
Sultan‘s competition further increases this Friday with the release of the Varun Dhawan-John Abraham action flick Dishoom, so it looks as though my projections for Sultan were a bit on the high side last week. A $7 million total seems much less likely now, especially with Sultan poised to lose half of its remaining theaters on Friday. It could still surpass the $6.53 million made by 3 Idiots in 2009, but even that’s not a given.
Madaari (“The Puppetmaster“) is phony populism at its worst. The entire story hinges on unrealistic assumptions presented in an annoying manner.
Man-on-the-street footage is among the laziest of filmmaking cliches because it serves as a form of storytelling peer pressure. The audience is shown that they must feel a certain way because that’s how these hundreds of random, nameless characters feel. It removes the burden from the filmmaker to craft a convincing narrative while simultaneously assuming that the audience wouldn’t be able to understand a convincing narrative even if they saw one.
Without man-on-the-street footage, Madaari wouldn’t exist. Time and again, we are presented with montages of nobodies telling the audience how to feel, gathered around screens and nodding in unison. It’s irritating.
Take the opening of the film. News channels report that the son of Home Minister Prashant Goswami (Tushar Dalvi) has been kidnapped. An anonymous citizen is so shocked that he nearly drives into oncoming traffic. Cut to a shot of a teenage daughter telling her father that he must have misheard the news, since it would be simply too shocking if the home minister’s son was really kidnapped.
WE GET IT! The kidnapping of a politician’s child is a big deal. We’d understand that just as clearly if the information was presented to us with a shot the minister himself receiving the news that his son was kidnapped. Also, this news has no direct impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, so why do they react so dramatically? It’s not like the news was: “Zombies have taken over India! Run for your lives!”
The kidnapper in Madaari is Nirmal (Irrfan Khan), who doesn’t demand ransom but rather information about the fate of his own 7-year-old son, Apu. It’s clear from Nirmal’s choice of target that he suspects government corruption is at play.
Apparently, much of the public also considers the government corrupt since Nirmal immediately becomes a folk hero. But let’s be clear about this: Nirmal becomes a folk hero for kidnapping a little boy!
It’s not enough for the movie to imply that the home minister had it coming (twisted as that would be). The story blames 8-year-old Rohan (Vishesh Bansal) for his own kidnapping because he’s insufficiently Indian. He eschews traditional street food in favor of french fries and drinks bottled water because local tap water makes him sick. As if kidnapping a “foreign” kid is somehow morally justifiable.
Let’s reiterate: Rohan is eight. He’s eight! He’s entirely a product of his upbringing and his environment, neither of which he has any control over because he’s a little kid.
This is important because, even though Rohan is not in mortal danger early on, Nirmal eventually threatens the boy’s life. Yet that doesn’t change Nirmal’s folk hero status. How is it heroic to threaten to kill a kid?
And why should it matter what the public thinks of this guy anyway? Director Nishikant Kamat and writers Ritesh Shah and Shailja Kejriwal overestimate the public’s ability to influence operational decisions in a case like this, pushing the story in a direction that is absurd and stupid.
Lead investigator Nachiket (Jimmy Shergill) adopts a wait-and-see strategy as his rescue plan, since the members of Prashant’s party are most concerned about the optics of the situation. “If he can’t protect his own son, how can he protect the nation?” This doesn’t leave much for Shergill to do, an unfortunate victim of the film’s pathologically boring tendencies.
When given the opportunity, Khan shows all the skills in his acting arsenal. He’s grounded in his depiction of Nirmal, portraying him as a man shattered but functional. Nirmal’s post-traumatic flashback scenes are more informative and emotionally effective than the news footage Kamat uses as filler.
The climax of Madaari is not only unrealistic, it doesn’t satisfy the hunger for social justice the story so desperately tries to stoke. Madaari isn’t even substantial enough to qualify as populist junk food.
Thanks to Kabali taking over every screen at MovieMax and construction work shuttering several screens at the South Barrington 30, the social drama Madaari is getting a very limited release in the Chicago area on Friday, July 22, 2016. The only local theater carrying the Irrfan Khan-starrer is the Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 14 min.
With so many screens either out of commission or devoted to Hollywood summer blockbusters, Sultan is set to lose a lot of local theaters come Friday. It gets a third weekend at the Cantera 17, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and one show per day at the Regal Round Lake Beach 18 in Round Lake Beach. That’s down from the nine theaters that carried Sultan during its first two weeks.