I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with more than fifty Indian titles that are now available for streaming. Most of the new films are in Hindi (23 titles), Punjabi (22), or Tamil (7), with one new addition each in Marathi and Bengali (as well as one Urdu movie from Pakistan). The full list of titles is available in the “Newly Added” section at the top of my Netflix page. Here are all of the Bollywood films that were just added:
Katti Batti opened with an average box office performance in the United States. From September 18-20, 2015, it earned $191,361 from 127 theaters ($1,507 average). Given the bad word of mouth surrounding the film — it has a 4.5 user rating at IMDb — its potential for growth is limited.
Welcome Back came in second place for the weekend, earning another $53,836 from 58 theaters ($928 average). Its three-week North American total stands at $1,350,174.
Hero‘s earnings took a nose dive in its second week of release, falling nearly 90% from its opening weekend total. In its second weekend, it earned a mere $6,641 from 19 theaters, an average of just $350 per screen. The romantic drama has earned a total of $83,973 in the US and Canada.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
It’s hard to launch new Bollywood stars abroad, as confirmed by the opening weekend returns of Hero. During the weekend of September 11-13, 2015, Hero earned $57,407 from 52 US and Canadian theaters ($1,104 average).
The most direct comparison for the debuts of Sooraj “Son of Aditya” Pancholi and Athiya “Daughter of Suniel” Shetty is last year’s Heropanti, which launched Tiger “Son of Jackie” Shroff. Heropanti‘s launch was more modest, opening in just 20 theaters, from which it earned $31,556. Its $1,578 average is quite a bit better than Hero‘s, especially considering that Salman Khan was heavily involved in Hero‘s marketing.
The weekend’s other new release of note in the States, Meet the Patels, got off to a monstrous start. From five theaters, it earned $75,597, for a per-screen average of $15,119. It will expand into more theaters in the coming weeks.
Welcome Back‘s continued success reminds us that the reason there are so many sequels in Bollywood (and Hollywood) is because they make money. In its second weekend in North American theaters, the followup to 2007’s Welcome earned another $222,273 from 125 theaters ($1,778 average). Its total earnings of $1,234,179 rank it fifth for the year. Of the three Bollywood sequels to release here in 2015, ABCD 2 is presently the lowest ranked at sixth place.
Phantom has all but disappeared from the charts, earning just $9,973 from 18 theaters ($554 average) in its third weekend of release. Its total North American earnings stand at $487,978.
In its ninth weekend, Bajrangi Bhaijaan earned $6,261 from six theaters ($1,044 average), bringing its total to $8,110,964. Drishyam took in another $1,701 from three theaters ($567 average), bringing its seven-week total to $739,005.
Two new movies of interest to Bollywood fans hit Chicago area theaters on September 11, 2015. The Salman Khan production Hero features the big screen debuts of star kids Sooraj Pancholi (son of Aditya Pancholi) and Athiya Shetty (daughter of Suniel Shetty).
The weekend’s other new release is the hilarious documentary Meet the Patels. It follows actor Ravi Patel as his parents try to find him a suitable potential bride. I really, really like this movie.
Meet the Patels opens on Friday at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago and the South Barrington 30. As added incentive, the Patel parents will be holding in-person Q&A sessions after the Friday evening show at the Music Box and the Saturday evening show at the South Barrington 30. Meet the Patels opens in more and more theaters over the coming weeks, so click here for a list of locations and release dates. The movie has a runtime of 1 hr. 28 min. Seriously, go see it.
The big success of Welcome Back in North America taught me to never underestimate the importance of two things: long holiday weekends and Canadians. From September 4-6, 2015, Welcome Back earned $702,290 from 149 theaters ($4,713 average).
More than 20% of Welcome Back‘s earnings came from just 14 Canadian theaters. The per-screen average in that country was $10,600, compared to $4,103 per screen in the US. Both countries celebrated Labor Day on Monday, September 7, significantly boosting Sunday’s returns. Box Office Mojo lists Welcome Back‘s four-day total as $891,435.
Despite the big opening weekend numbers, I have doubts about Welcome Back‘s longevity. As of the Tuesday afternoon after its release, it has fewer than 1,200 user ratings at IMDb. At this website, my review of Welcome Back has garnered less attention than my reviews of All Is Well or Bangistan did at similar stages of release, and those were flops. Welcome Back was likely just a way to pass the time during the last long weekend of summer. Expect its business to drop significantly next weekend.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters include:
Phantom: Week 2; $82,713 from 83 theaters; $997 average; $441,509 total
Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Week 8; $14,970 from eight theaters; $1,871 average; $8,098,675 total
Drishyam: Week 6; $5,585 from three theaters; $1,862 average; $735,432 total
Brothers: Week 4; $2,482 from three theaters; $827 average; $673,854 total
Phantom turned in a fine opening weekend in North America. From August 28-30, 2015, it earned $260,712 from 107 theaters ($2,437 average). It opened in the eleventh highest number of theaters for a Bollywood film this year and earned the twelfth largest opening weekend gross, so there you go.
Other Hindi films still showing in North American theaters:
Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Week 7; $27,399 from 19 theaters; $1,442 average; $8,069,305 total
All Is Well: Week 2; $13,392 from 25 theaters; $536 average; $124,567 total
Brothers: Week 3; $11,442 from 18 theaters; $636 average; $662,749 total
Drishyam: Week 5; $10,672 from eight theaters; $1,334 average; $726,706 total
Baahubali (Hindi-dubbed): Week 6; $6,434 from six theaters; $1,072 average; $583,354 total
Phantom is a revenge fantasy inspired by the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. As political wish-fulfillment, the movie is entertaining enough, but it isn’t truly satisfying.
Phantom opens with a short primer on the attacks that includes harrowing actual news footage. Then the film’s hero, “Jude” (Saif Ali Khan), makes his entrance in unheroic fashion. He engages in a road rage car chase through Chicago that ends in him punching a man who falls to his death in the Chicago River.
“Jude” is an alias of Daniyal Khan, a dishonorably discharged Indian Army officer on a secret mission to assassinate the four masterminds of the 26/11 attacks. His mission first takes him to London, where he meets his contact, Nawaz (Katrina Kaif).
Nawaz has a complicated job description. She works for the not-so-subtly-named US military contractor Dark Water, coordinating security for refugee camps run by Medicine International, who she may also work for.
Daniyal kills the man Nawaz is hired to identify — a high-ranking terrorist trainer — and she is furious for being dragged into his deadly scheme. Still, when she gets a coded phone call from Daniyal, she agrees to help him in his next mission: exterminate David Coleman Headley in jail in Chicago.
While Daniyal receives off-the-record assistance from India’s intelligence agency, their counterparts in Pakistan conclude that the deaths of such prominent terrorists are connected. The Pakistani agents try to identify the man responsible, but Daniyal is always one step ahead of them.
Phantom has an apt tagline: “A story you wish were true.” The notion of one man, freed from political constraints, taking out not one, but four of the most wanted terrorists in the world is immensely appealing. Getting to join him for the ride — with all its accompanying car chases, fist fights, and espionage — makes it even better.
Still, there’s a nagging feeling throughout the film: it couldn’t happen like this. It took ten years and a whole team of US special forces soldiers to kill Osama Bin Laden. One guy with no advanced military training taking out four terrorists in the span of a few months?
It all comes too easy for Daniyal. His most perilous moments consist of him bobbling something in his hand and being delayed by a stalled auto-rickshaw. There’s no one on the ground tracking him; the Pakistani agents gather their information on him remotely. As a result, the movie lacks tension.
Director Kabir Khan wisely resists forcing a love story into the narrative. Daniyal has bigger fish to fry, and Nawaz is rightfully wary of him. Focusing on the two leads as professionals, not lovers, also frees Khan and Kaif to give grounded performances.
One other performance needs special acknowledgement. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays the Indian intelligence officer who masterminds the mission, deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award for persevering in the face of nonsense. This time, he’s forced to give a corny speech, urging Indian naval officers to pluck up their courage and buck orders for the sake of this one man — this one man! — who was willing to risk his life for India.
Ayyub’s speech is part of a third act that is cheesier than the rest of the film. Fortunately, Director Khan ends Phantom on a contemplative note that befits the seriousness of the events that inspired it. We can wish for an easy path to justice, but we can never take it lightly.