Despite opening to dismal collections of just $105,865 from seventy-four U.S. theaters, Joker gets a second week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. For comparison’s sake, the Tamil film Mugamoodi earned $55,501 from just twenty-two screens in its U.S. debut last weekend.
I’m sad to report that the streaming video service Mela is shutting down on September 15. I updated my article on the best ways to stream Bollywood movies on the iPad to reflect the news.
In the days that Mela remains active, I recommend using it to watch the exceptional documentary Supermen of Malegoan. If you’re a masochist, check out the Hindi horror film Ghost, the current leader in the race for my worst Bollywood film of 2012. Other movies I’ve reviewed via Mela include Hate Story, Bumboo, Chaurahen, and The Forest.
Hate Story is a distressing allegory about revenge. In an attempt to create an erotic thriller with an empowered female lead character, writer-producer Vikram Bhatt instead reinforces a belief system that blames women for the sexual violence committed against them.
The story begins as up-and-coming newspaper reporter Kaavya (Paoli Dam) is tipped off to a secret meeting between a judge and the CEO of a construction firm. The tip comes at dinnertime, and Kaavya’s mom is miffed that her adult daughter won’t be able to help set the table. That Kaavya’s parents treat her job as a cute hobby and not the profession it is indicates where Hate Story falls on the gender-equity continuum.
Kaavya breaks the bribery scandal with the help of her male photographer/best friend Vicky (Nikhil Dwivedi). The son of the construction firm’s owner, Sid (Gulshan Devaiya), offers Kaavya a job in order to keep her from reporting such stories in the future. Kaavya chucks her journalistic ethics and takes the job.
A lot of stuff happens in the first forty minutes of the film. Kaavya falls for Sid and sleeps with him, only to learn that the job and romance were a ruse. Sid fires Kaavya, shoves her to the ground, and points a gun at her, telling her, “I fuck the people who fuck with me.” Kaavya learns that she’s pregnant and tells Sid she’ll get half his money anyway. So he has her kidnapped and taken to an illicit country clinic for an abortion. For good measure, Sid has the doctor permanently sterilize her.
Kaavya’s natural response to this horrific violation is to want revenge. Gelding Sid seems like the most equivalent form of retribution, but it’s never mentioned. Neither is murder. Instead, Kaavya wants to ruin Sid’s business. Somehow, that doesn’t seem comparable to being raped, impregnated, and forcibly sterilized.
Even stupider is Kaavya’s plan to ruin Sid by becoming Delhi’s most sought-after prostitute. Wouldn’t her skills as a journalist be more valuable than her ability to turn tricks? Given that she directly tells a couple of male characters, “I’m sleeping with you to get info to use against Sid,” only for them to have sex with her and give her the info anyway, maybe it’s not such a dumb plan after all.
What the plan highlights is the appalling idea that a woman who’s been sexually assaulted is damaged goods, only useful for yet more sexual acts. Bhatt tries to write a few lines to explain that this was Kaavya’s choice, but I don’t buy it. First of all, the plot moves along too quickly for any meaningful character development that could explain Kaavya’s abrupt transition from innocent young woman to jaded sex worker.
More importantly, Kaavya doesn’t have any other options. After nearly dying as a result of the forced abortion, her parents disown her and leave town to avoid their gossipy neighbors. Even Vicky blames Kaavya for the rape, since she did fall in love with Sid. Vicky, who loves Kaavya, never offers to marry her and build a new life with her.
The theme of Hate Story is that revenge is a dangerous game, but the counterpart of revenge is justice. There’s never any mention of Sid going to jail for his crimes against Kaavya, and no one pursues justice on her behalf. If revenge isn’t an option either, how is Kaavya supposed to respond to her sexual assault? I’d like to know Vikram Bhatt’s response.
I enjoy watching movies about making movies, especially those that are able to remind us of why we like going to the cinema in the first place. Supermen of Malegaon is one of those films.
The documentary follows small-time filmmaker Shaikh Nasir as he creates a localized spoof titled “Malegaon Ka Superman” (“Superman of Malegaon”). Nasir doesn’t consider himself an artist, rather a hobbyist who enjoys making low-budget versions of big-budget films for the enjoyment of the cash-strapped residents of Malegaon. His ultimate dream is to earn enough money to reopen his own video hall, which famously once ran James Cameron’s The Abyss for two months.
Nasir’s versions of blockbusters like Sholay rely heavily on local references and dialect and utilize local talent. Teen boys relish the anticipated boost to their social status just for appearing in the background of “Malegaon Ka Superman.”
Superman himself is played by a skinny guy named Shafique, who takes time off from his job working a power loom to star in the film. Shafique’s other film duties include organizing props and shopping for makeup with Nasir.
What makes the story especially interesting is that “Malegaon Ka Superman” actually looks entertaining. It’s not a ripoff but a comical remake. Malegaon’s Superman spends more time being saved than he does saving people. He can’t swim, so he floats around the lake on a rubber tire. If he flies too high, air pollution inflames his asthma.
The documentary’s director, Faiza Ahmad Khan, never makes fun of Nasir, Shafique, or the other crew members. One of my problems with another excellent documentary about a low-budget filmmaker, American Movie, is that the documentary director sometimes seems to poke fun at the men being filmed. Supermen of Malegoan doesn’t do that. The circumstances of making “Malegaon Ka Superman” are funny, but the men themselves are not.
In fact, the experience of working on “Malegaon Ka Superman” is a stepping stone for a couple of members of the crew. With his acting, editing, directing, and musical abilities, crew member Akram knows he stands a chance of building a real movie career in Mumbai. Co-writer Farogh is also aware that his job prospects are limited in Malegaon.
Farogh gives one of my favorite interviews in the film when he talks of the pain of being a screenwriter. He laments that 80% of the film he sees in his mind won’t make it to the screen. It can’t. Farogh explains that it’s a pain all writers have to live with, and that no amount of accolades or money can relieve it.
The sentiment illustrates the truth at the heart of the film: in its purest form, filmmaking is a passion. Urged on by the need to create, a group of people make a special film on a shoestring budget and with outdated equipment. Supermen of Malegaon is as inspirational as it is fun.
Shanghai is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area the weekend beginning June 8, 2012, and it looks promising. The thriller stars two of my favorite actors — Kalki Koechlin and Abhay Deol — in a tale of politically motivated murder.
Two films make their debuts in Chicago area theaters the weekend beginning May 25, 2012. First up is Arjun: The Warrior Prince, an animated film co-produced by UTV and Disney.
Arjun opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles. The family friendly film has English subtitles and a runtime of 96 minutes.
Also new in local theaters this weekend is Married 2 America, a thriller about an Indian-America woman whose husband goes missing while investigating a dam accident in India. The film released in Indian theaters on February 17. I suspect the success of Kahaani — which has a similar premise — prompted the eventual release of Married 2 America in the States.
Married 2 America opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5 and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.
My favorite sub-genre of film is the killer animal movie. While a movie like Jaws rises to levels of brilliance, most are the formulaic gross-out fodder typically found on the Syfy channel on a Saturday night: stuff like Dinoshark or Mega Piranha. I enjoy them all.
The Forest falls somewhere in between brilliant and formulaic in terms of quality. The story is entertaining, the plot well-organized, and the scenery is gorgeous. But uneven acting and a bizarre end sequence keep The Forest from reaching its full potential.
Writer-director Ashvin Kumar creates a story born from concern about the health of Indian forests. Humans seeking land encroach upon forested areas, creating avenues by which poachers can more easily murder vulnerable animals. A result of the clash of two worlds is that 150 people are killed by tigers and leopards in India annually, according to a note at the start of the film.
The human interlopers in The Forest are a married couple: Radha (Nandana Sen) and Pritam (Ankur Vikal). Their relationship is troubled because of both his infidelity and their inability to have children. Pritam takes his wife to a wildlife reserve in the hopes that they’ll be able to work things out in a more peaceful setting.
City dwellers Pritam and Radha are clearly out of their element in the forest, emphasized by the fact that they speak English and the locals do not (at least not to each other). Most of the film’s dialog is in English, because either Pritam or Radha is in almost every scene.
In the preserve, veteran game warden Bhola Ram (Tarun Shukla) explains to Pritam that the overnight lodge is closed because of a man-eating leopard in the area. Abhishek (Javed Jaffrey) — a local cop who happens to be Radha’s ex-boyfriend — agrees to escort the couple to the lodge, along with his preteen son, Arjun (Salim Ali Zaidi). So much for the privacy Pritam was hoping for.
As the truth of the couple’s problems and Abhishek’s desire to reunite with Radha are revealed, the man-eating leopard makes its presence known.
In a scenario made for tension, the acting feels subdued. Abhishek isn’t quite menacing enough to seem like a mortal threat to Pritam, his rival. And Sen and Vikal deliver their dialog flatly until a scene in which Radha and Pritam explode in anger. There needs to be more buildup to the dynamic scenes when characters are in danger.
As I mentioned earlier, the scenery is breathtaking. The ruins of an old temple show us that man has no place here. Camera shots of wildlife are beautiful, and even the man-eating leopard is well-handled, apart from a couple of awkward CGI shots.
The results of the leopard’s attacks are pretty gnarly, but in a good way. There’s the right amount of gore to indicate that the creature is a killer, even if it’s not the biggest animal in the forest.
In fact, it is a leopard-inflicted injury that sets up a bizarre series of events that taint the movie’s conclusion. One character is wounded and bleeding profusely, yet none of the other characters attempt even the most rudimentary first aid. He bleeds out over the course of a half hour, and everyone seems to forget about him entirely whenever they leave his room. Ultimately, a voiceover attempts to explain the wounded man’s fate.
With a runtime of less than ninety minutes, there is enough time for Kumar to have provided a more satisfying conclusion and answer a few other nagging questions (big and small) the movie raises. For one: if the lodge was closed, why was some man giving Pritam a massage after he and Radha arrived there?
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — a British movie I reviewed last week — expands the number of theaters showing it on Friday as well, after earning $737,051 from just 27 theaters during its first week in the U.S.
Last weekend’s new Hindi release, Jannat 2, gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, while Vicky Donor gets a fourth week at the South Barrington 30 and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Its U.S. earnings total $466,467, driven by good word of mouth. Compare that to Tezz, which leaves area theaters after two weeks, having earned just $218,622 despite showing in twice as many U.S. theaters as Vicky Donor.
Though it’s only releasing theatrically in India on Friday, U.S. fans will be able to watch the new Hindi film The Forest on the subscription video-streaming service Mela the same day. The film about a married couple terrorized by a man-eating leopard is made by Oscar-nominated director Ashvin Kumar.
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:
Is the app easy to search and navigate?
How comprehensive is the catalog of movies available?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.