Tag Archives: Movie

Best Bollywood Movies of 2016

2016 was a darned good year for Hindi films, with positive reviews outnumbering negative reviews 26-22 at this site. Here’s my list of the Best Bollywood Movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

I should start by noting that Dhanak — which released theatrically in the United States and India in June, 2016 — would have made the list had it not already appeared on my Best of 2015 list. I watched it as part of the 2015 Chicago South Asian Film Festival.

As for the ten films that did make the 2016 list, two stood out for employing narrative structures that reflect their subject matter. Pink begins with the aftermath of a sexual assault, and not until the ending credits do we see the events as they really happened, echoing the “he said, she said” nature of many sexual assault cases. Waiting isn’t afraid to show its characters being bored, a feeling anyone who’s spent time in a hospital can relate to.

Neerja and Aligarh were emotional true stories featuring riveting performances by their lead actors: Sonam Kapoor and Manoj Bajpayee, respectively. Parched also earned a nod for the stellar performances by its four female co-leads.

Two films mastered genres with spotty track records in Bollywood: superhero movies and sex comedies. A Flying Jatt was a welcome nod to the colorful, optimistic type of superhero flick that has fallen out of favor in Hollywood in recent years, featuring an ordinary protagonist who discovers his inner hero (with a little divine assistance, providing a compelling subplot about religious identity). Unlike the two worst Bollywood movies of 2016 — the mean-spirited sex comedies Mastizaade and Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3Brahman Naman is raunchy and hilarious, aiming most of its jokes at its hapless leading man.

South Korean films have inspired a number of Hindi thrillers in recent years (Rocky Handsome and Jazbaa, for instance), but the chilling Raman Raghav 2.0 is totally Indian, especially in regard to the way director Anurag Kashyap uses music to guide the audience through emotional moments.

The two films at the top of this year’s list earn their spots by tackling tough subjects in otherwise very commercial fare. Udta Punjab harnessed the star-power of Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, and Diljit Dosanjh to deftly address Punjab’s drug crisis and make it relevant to people not directly affected by it.

My favorite film of the year also featured a top-notch cast, including Alia Bhatt (again), Rishi Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Rajat Kapoor, and Ratna Pathak. Kapoor & Sons bravely examines the secrets that family members keep from one another and the resentment that builds because of it, addressing issues like infidelity, parental favoritism, and homosexuality with sensitivity and compassion. That Kapoor & Sons also manages to be lots of fun just further cements it as my Best Bollywood Movie of 2016.

Check my Netflix list to see which of these films are available for streaming in the United States.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2016

  1. Kapoor & Sons — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Udta Punjab — Buy at Amazon
  3. Aligarh — Buy at Amazon
  4. Parched — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  5. Brahman Naman
  6. Raman Raghav 2.0 — Buy at Amazon
  7. A Flying Jatt
  8. Neerja — Buy at Amazon
  9. Waiting — Buy at Amazon
  10. Pink — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists

Streaming Video News: January 20, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with an exciting new addition to the catalog. The 2016 courtroom thriller Pink is now available for streaming. I liked it a lot. Other new additions this week include director Mira Nair’s 1996 film Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and the 2015 Marathi movie Twisted Trunk, Big Fat Body, starring Bollywood’s go-to child actor, Naman Jain. For everything else new on Netflix, check Instant Watcher.

I also made a couple of additions to my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime. While I don’t think these titles are new, I just found two more movies available for free with Prime (thanks for the frustrating catalog organization and limited search capabilities, Amazon!): the 2007 English film Partition — starring Smallville‘s Kristen Kreuk, of all people — and the documentary Despite the Gods, a terrific chronicling of the drama behind the making of Hisss.

In Theaters: January 20, 2017

With two big movies coming out January 25 — Raees and Kaabil — there are no new Hindi films opening in Chicago area theaters on Friday, January 20, 2017. At the time of this writing, the only theaters with confirmed Wednesday showtimes for Raees and Kaabil are MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, though certainly that will change in the coming days.

Last weekend’s unpopular new release, OK Jaanu, sticks around at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Tuesday is the last day for OK Jaanu at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17, and it shifts to one showing per day — at 11:15 p.m. — at MovieMax starting Wednesday.

Dangal carries over for a fifth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Bollywood Box Office: January 13-15, 2017

Let’s hope that the lackluster performance of Bollywood’s first 2017 release in North America isn’t an ill omen for the rest of the year. From January 13-15, OK Jaanu earned $211,660 from 136 theaters ($1,556 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Box Office Mojo reports the number of theaters as 121, which only improves the per-theater average slightly to $1,749. Any opening weekend average of less than $2,000 is bad. Sure, OK Jaanu was up against several new South Indian releases, but Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday should’ve boosted overall theater attendance, especially on Sunday.

What compounds the heartache for OK Jaanu is that it earned less than Dangal, which is four weeks old! Over the weekend, Dangal added another $339,057 from 90 theaters ($3,767 average) to its astounding North American total of $11,736,636.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening January 13: OK Jaanu

The first Bollywood movie to release in Chicago area theaters in 2017 is OK Jaanu, a remake of the 2015 Tamil hit OK Kanmani (available on Netflix). The Hindi remake hits theaters on January 13 and stars Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor.

OK Jaanu opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Dangal carries over for a fourth week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, and AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

Movie Review: Mostly Sunny (2016)

mostlysunny2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes

Watching the documentary Most Sunny, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what felt off about the film. Only later did I read that the documentary’s subject, actress Sunny Leone, has all but disowned the movie, refusing to attend its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. I can’t say I blame her, because the film is a mess.

During her interview segments, Sunny comes across as warm, funny, and smart. She’s candid about not just her history in the adult film industry but about money as well, celebrating the $100,000 signing bonus she demanded to appear on the Indian reality show Bigg Boss in 2008 as a life-changing sum.

Her killer curves and salacious past distract from her most admirable quality: her business acumen. With the help of her husband and business partner, Daniel Weber, she parlayed a lucrative career in porn into a production company and eventually success in mainstream Indian movies. Sunny herself says, “One thing I was good at was turning a quarter into a dollar.”

It’s difficult to tell Sunny’s story chronologically because her extended family cut ties with her when she became Penthouse “Pet of the Year” in 2003. No one from the Sikh community in her hometown of Sarnia, Ontario — where she was raised as Karenjit Kaur Vohra — would agree to talk about her on camera. Her parents died several years ago, so the only relative to speak on her behalf is her younger brother, Sunny (whose name she stole in a panic to invent a stage name). Even though the siblings maintain a close relationship, they never appear together in the documentary.

There are hardly any interviews with people who’ve worked with Sunny in India either. Director Mahesh Bhatt says some kind words about her potential, as does the CEO of the channel that airs Bigg Boss. Sunny’s Ek Paheli Leela costar Rajneesh Duggal mentions that other actors turned down his role before him because they didn’t want to work opposite Sunny, but he doesn’t mention what it’s like to actually work with her. Sunny’s costumer and close confidant Hitesh isn’t comfortable talking on camera.

Sunny Leone’s story is about her fame and acceptance in sexually conservative India following a career in porn, but filmmaker Dilip Mehta is hung up on Sunny’s racy past. Topless shots of the actress scroll across the screen multiple times, a choice that does nothing to inform the audience about the woman herself but to capitalize on a career she acknowledges but has left behind.

Mehta makes a bizarre choice during a segment about Sunny’s adult film production house, SunLust Pictures, where she directs movies but doesn’t appear in the them. There is a shot of a movie in production featuring a full-on sex scene between a man and a woman, their genitals blurred as they engage in intercourse. What is the narrative purpose of this shot? If the point is to titillate, why bother blurring the genitals? It’s not like we can’t tell what’s happening. Mostly Sunny has no MPAA rating, but this scene alone makes otherwise PG-13 content into a hard R.

The topless shots and the sex scene ensure that any people still reluctant to embrace Sunny will never watch the movie. What is the point of Mostly Sunny if not to showcase her as an interesting, normal person? Who does Mehta think his audience is?

It’s hard to decipher Mehta’s objectives for this movie. Scene transitions frequently consist of footage of poor people shot from inside a moving car. Sunny herself isn’t in the car, so this isn’t meant to show what she sees on he way to work at a Mumbai movie studio. It neither reinforces nor juxtaposes with anything else we’re hearing and seeing. It’s just poverty porn.

The footage that runs behind the ending credits is likewise inexplicable. As patrons exit a movie theater following a film showing, they notice Mehta’s camera pointed at them and start dancing or mugging for the camera. What purpose does this serve?

As is often the case in her Bollywood movies, Sunny’s charisma transcends the mediocre quality of this film. That a documentary specifically about her lets her down is disappointing.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: January 6-8, 2017

Dangal passed PK to become the highest grossing Bollywood film in North America ever, taking just seventeen days to do so. During the weekend of January 6-8, 2017, Dangal earned another $770,084 from 226 theaters ($3,407 average), bringing its total earnings to $11,084,912.

Dangal‘s success in North America perfectly illustrates Canada’s theater dearth. The film opened in 26 theaters in Canada and 331 theaters in the United States for a total of 357 theaters, the film’s widest release. (The US figure may be in dispute, but I’m using it since it doesn’t significantly alter the point I’m trying to make). Based on those numbers, Canada accounts for 7.3% of the total theaters to ever carry Dangal in North America. Yet the film has earned $1,871,072 in Canada, accounting for 16.9% of the North American total. Dividing each country’s total earnings thus far by the highest number of theaters Dangal released in gives each of those 331 US theaters a lifetime average earnings of $27,836, versus a lifetime average of $71,964 for each of the 26 Canadian theaters!

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Dear Zindagi: Week 7; $720 from two theaters; $360 average; $2,453,270 total
  • Kahaani 2: Week 6; $348 from one theater; $489,873 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama