I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the Hindi sports drama Penalty, as well as the return of about two dozen Viacom 18 films that had expired from the service over the last several months. Here’s what’s back:
Khoobsurat continued its box office dominance in North America for a second week. During the weekend of September 26-28, 2014, it added an additional $173,022 from 60 theaters to bring its total to $621,318. The Disney romantic comedy’s business fell a mere 48% from its debut weekend. Its per-screen average earnings of $2,884 were fourth highest among second weekend averages this year, behind juggernauts like The Lunchbox, Queen, and 2 States.
In a repeat of last weekend, Daawat-e-Ishq fared poorly compared to Khoobsurat. Daawat-e-Ishq earned $82,764 from 77 theaters ($1,075 average), a 60% drop from its opening weekend. Its total North American earnings stand at $354,875.
Other Hindi movies showing in the United States and Canada over the weekend:
Finding Fanny: Week 3; $25,151 from 41 theaters; $613 average; $793,309 total
The Lunchbox: Week 31; $1,232 from three theaters; $411 average; $4,048,317 total
Mary Kom: Week 4; $910 from three theaters; $330 average; $632,832 total
In the battle of the romantic comedies, Khoobsurat emerged the clear victor over Daawat-e-Ishq. During the weekend of September 19-21, 2014, Disney/UTV’s Khoobsurat earned $332,486 from 69 theaters in North America. It averaged an impressive $4,819 per screen.
By contrast, Yash Raj Films’ Daawat-e-Ishq earned $204,950 from 113 theaters for a per-screen average of $1,814.
2014 has been a dud of a year for Yash Raj Films in North America. Following the release of 2013’s massively successful Dhoom 3 — which earned $8,090,250 in North America — all of the Hindi films YRF has released since have looked comparatively anemic:
Gunday: $887,675 total gross; widest release: 150 theaters
Mardaani: $393,619 total gross; widest release: 86 theaters
Given that Daawat-e-Ishq opened in 113 theaters in the United States and Canada, YRF clearly expected it to perform far better than it did. YRF still has Kill Dil to release in November, but it looks too wacky to attract a wide audience. YRF’s other 2014 release —Titli — will likely be relegated to the festival circuit in North America (including three showings at the Chicago International Film Festival in October).
Other Hindi movies still in U.S. and Canadian theaters:
Finding Fanny: Week 2; $124,165 from 114 theaters; $1,089 average; $739,370 total
Mary Kom: Week 3; $12,210 from 17 theaters; $718 average; $629,322 total
The Lunchbox: Week 30; $772 from two theaters; $336 average; $4,046,834 total
Mardaani: Week 5; $59 from one theater; $393,619 total
Director Homi Adajania’s English-language comedy Finding Fanny performed very well in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. From September 12-14, Finding Fanny earned $515,393 from 121 theaters for an average of $4,259 per screen. Every Bollywood film that has earned more than $500,000 in its opening weekend in North America this year has gone on to earn at least $850,000, so total earnings in excess of $1 million are not out of the question for Finding Fanny.
Indian films with predominantly English dialogue are rare, but they tend to do well at the North American box office. The 2011 comedy Delhi Belly earned $581,943 in its opening weekend, going on to post total earnings of $1,532,594. In 2006, Adajania’s first English film — Being Cyrus — opened in just two theaters in North America but earned $40,744. That’s an astounding per-screen average of $20,372!
In its second weekend in theaters, Mary Kom added another $119,460 to its tally, bringing its North American total to $590,165.
Other Hindi movies showing in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend:
Mardaani: Week 4; $6,560 from 12 theaters; $547 average; $391,931 total
The Lunchbox: Week 29; $3,302 from three theaters; $$1,101 average; $4,043,411 total
Singham Returns: Week 5; $1,612 from six theaters; $269 average; $1,231,550 total
With multiple world championships and an Olympic bronze medal to her name, Mary Kom can now add a Bollywood biopic to her impressive resume. Priyanka Chopra plays the title character in Mary Kom, an enjoyable chronicle of the Indian boxing superstar’s rise to the top.
Kom’s depiction in the film is flattering. Eager to find a better outlet for her hair-trigger temper, teenage Mary dedicates herself to boxing. With a natural aptitude for fighting, she faces little opposition in the ring. Her greatest obstacle is her father, who worries that no man will want to marry a woman who perpetually sports a black eye.
Dad needn’t have worried, as a local soccer player — Onler (Darshan Kumaar) — takes a shine to Mary and her shiners. After dating for several years, Onler proposes the night before a critical bout. Giddy and distracted, Mary nearly falters in the ring, leading her coach (Sunil Thapa) to question her commitment to the sport that defines her.
The second half of the film focuses on Mary’s return to boxing after giving birth to twin sons. The movie shows the challenges of leading a normal family life while training as an elite athlete, and the sheer impossibility of the task without the aid of a partner as devoted as Onler.
While the movie portrays Mary as a worthy national hero, it doesn’t shy away from her massive ego. Such extreme self-confidence is a necessary characteristic for any athlete who competes at an elite level. It’s not a characteristic most regular folks can relate to, but it’s a vital part of who she is.
The movie’s climactic fight scene is worth the price of admission, paralleling a personal crisis with a critical moment in Mary’s professional career. All of the film’s fight scenes and training montages are well done.
Director Omung Kumar shortchanges other aspects of the story that should’ve been shown, rather than just talked about. Mary complains about the substandard training conditions she and her fellow athletes are subjected to, but we don’t see her experiencing them.
Other scenes of great visual impact aren’t fully explained. Mary loses or has her passport stolen the night before her first international fight, and in response, she shaves her head. This is an act of great significance for a woman, yet it’s not made clear why she does it. It’s also unclear how she gets her passport back. All we see is a photo of her triumphant after the match.
The film’s biggest problem for international audiences is its failure to explain why Mary feels discriminated against because she hails from Manipur, a state in northeast India that shares a border with Myanmar.
My understanding of the issue — which admittedly mostly comes from Chak De India — is that Indians from the northeast who may have more Burmese or East Asian facial features are frequently accused being “less Indian” than those from central India. Given that Priyanka doesn’t especially resemble Mary, the film needs to make it clearer why Mary feels discriminated against.
Ultimately, Mary Kom does its job, entertaining and raising awareness of an important athlete in Indian sports history. There’s a good chance Mary’s story isn’t finished just yet. As noted at the end of the film, Magnificent Mary hopes to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016.