There are few choices if you’re looking for Bollywood movies in Chicago area theaters this weekend. The movie industry planned on losing most of its local audience to Indian Premier League cricket matches and curtailed its releases accordingly. There are no new films opening on Friday, March 19, and just two older releases claim the rest of the allotted screen space.
There are fewer IPL matches scheduled for next weekend, so I expect a number of new releases to arrive in Chicago area theaters on March 26. In the meantime, the Golf Glen 5 is broadcasting IPL matches on weekends at 9:30 a.m.
Two new Hindi movies open in Chicago area theaters on Friday, February 26, 2010. Karthik Calling Karthik stars Farhan Akhtar as the shy title character who secretly loves his coworker, Shonali (Deepika Padukone). Their lives change when Karthik gets a phone call from a man also claiming to be Karthik.
I’m not sure what to expect from KCK. The official description makes it sound like a romantic comedy, while the trailer makes it look like a thriller. But Akhtar and Padukone are my two favorite actors, so I trust them to make a compelling movie.
The other movie opening this weekend is Teen Patti. The thriller stars Amitabh Bachchan, R. Madhavan and Ben Kingsley as mathematicians who find a way to win at teen patti (a card game similar to poker) and recruit some college students to help them test their equation in casinos. The premise sounds similar to that of the 2008 Hollywood film 21.
3 Idiots leaves U.S. theaters after 9 weeks, having earned $6,523,103.
Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Drona (Malayalam — not Abhishek Bachchan’s Drona), Leader (Telugu), and Vinnai Thaandi Varuvayaa (Tamil) and Ye Maya Chesave (Telugu), which are the same movie filmed at the same time, only in different languages and with different actors in key roles. Both VTV and YMC feature music by A. R. Rahman.
With My Name Is Khan dominating screen space, there are no new Hindi movies opening in Chicagoland this weekend. MNIKearned $2,264,983 in U.S. theaters during its opening weekend, which included an extra day because of Monday’s Presidents Day holiday. The movie had the highest per screen average with $18,875, beating Valentine’s Day‘s $17,227 per screen haul.
The message of My Name Is Khan is a laudable one: good and bad people are identifiable by their actions, not by characteristics like race or religion. But a laudable message can’t excuse the fact that My Name Is Khan just doesn’t work.
MNIK‘s protagonist is Rizvan Khan (Shahrukh Khan), an Indian Muslim with Asperger syndrome. Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder usually characterized by physical awkwardness and trouble forming emotional connections with other people. As a child, Rizvan’s special needs demand almost constant attention from his mother, alienating his younger brother, Zakir.
As an adult, Rizvan is forced to move to San Francisco to live with Zakir (Jimmy Shergill) after their mother dies. Zakir makes Rizvan work as a traveling cosmetics salesman, an odd assignment for a guy who doesn’t make eye contact and who’s frightened by loud noises and the color yellow. Rizvan is capable of navigating San Francisco, but he’s better at following instructions than he is at improvising.
Rizvan develops a crush on Mandira (Kajol), a divorced hairdresser with a young son named Sameer. Rizvan eventually wins over Mandira with his persistence, and they marry. They live happily for several years until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Tragedy strikes the family, and Mandira — a Hindu — tells Rizvan that she regrets marrying a Muslim man. She tells him to go away until he can convince the President of The United States that he’s not a terrorist just because his last name is Khan. Rizvan takes Mandira’s command literally and sets off to find the president.
For a number of reasons, MNIK just doesn’t work. American filmgoers won’t be able to ignore the things the movie gets wrong about America. While the non-Indian American actors in the movie are actually pretty good (most Hindi films hire terrible American actors), characters don’t speak in proper American colloquialisms. Phrases like “piss off” and “bloody Paki” are British insults, not American insults.
The movie shows footage of a turban-wearing Sikh man targeted by thugs who mistake him for an Arab, establishing correctly that many Americans can’t differentiate between people of Indian, Middle Eastern and northern African origin. But the movie later attributes a beating to the fact that the character’s last name is Khan, a Muslim surname. This defies the movie’s own conclusions about American worldliness. Most Americans don’t associate the name Khan with Islam; they associate it with Star Trek.
MNIK‘s weakest element is the romance between Rizvan and Mandira. The movie spends a long time establishing that Rizvan, despite certain competencies, isn’t able to live independently. He’s not able to be a full partner to Mandira, and she often treats him the same as she does her son. It’s hard to understand why she agreed to marry him.
But, given that they are married, it’s incomprehensible that Mandira would be so cruel as to send Rizvan on a fool’s errand by himself. That she doesn’t feel bad about it makes her heartless, and the excuses the film offers on her behalf don’t hold water.
The movie tries to explain how Rizvan is able to execute a cross-country trek that spans years, but I don’t buy it. The movie doesn’t make it clear exactly how long Rizvan’s journey takes, but it would be almost impossible for anyone to execute, let alone someone coping with Asperger’s.
My Name Is Khan is watchable, but it ultimately fails by overreaching. It might have worked as a story about a couple dealing with the challenges of one partner’s Asperger syndrome. It might have worked as a story about a man who wants to show America that not all Muslims are terrorists. But compressing both stories into one movie is an impossible task, even for superstars like SRK and Kajol.
*AMC theaters list the movie’s runtime as 2 hrs. 25 min. It’s closer to 2 hrs. 35 min., plus 10 minutes of previews. Also, the movie has an MPAA rating of PG-13, though there’s nothing in the film’s content to warrant a rating stronger than PG.
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.