I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the new Netflix Original film Bulbbul, from Anushka Sharma’s production company Clean Slate Films. It’s really good, and I hope to have my review up soon. Other new additions this week include the 2020 Telugu movie Krishna and His Leela and the older Hindi releases Vivah and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (which is okay). Netflix also made changes to two films already on the service: Seven and Thackeray. Instead of one entry with a drop-down menu that allowed you to choose the language, Netflix made individual entries for each language version of the movie. Seven is available in Tamil and Telugu, and Thackeray is available in Hindi and Marathi.
Be sure to check out the Expiring Soon section of my Netflix page, as a bunch of movies and series are set to leave Netflix on July 1.
Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale closed out their third weekend in theaters, finalizing the North American box office rankings for Bollywood films released in 2015. From January 1-3, 2016, Bajirao Mastani earned $772,775 from 304 theaters ($2,542 average). During the same period, Dilwale earned $308,149 from 133 theaters ($2,317 average).
The ten highest earning Bollywood films of 2015 in North America were:
Bajrangi Bhaijaan had the best opening weekend in 2015, both in terms of total gross ($2,613,192) and per-screen average ($9,468). Bajirao Mastani has already proven to have the best longevity of any 2015 release, having nearly quadrupled its opening weekend total in just three weeks.
2015 set a new benchmark for blockbuster releases, with both Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo opening in more than 300 theaters in North America (304 and 310, respectively). Though PK (296) and Bang Bang (292) came close in 2014, it’s worth noting how rapid this increase in theater counts has been. The widest release in 2013 was Dhoom 3 on 239 screens, and 2012’s biggest release, Talaash, opened in just 172 theaters. More people than ever before can watch Bollywood films on the big screen in the United States and Canada.
It’s also worth noting that all of the films in the 2015 top ten were released between May and December. Shahrukh Khan’s Fan — scheduled for release on April 15 — should easily make it into the 2016 top ten, but it remains to be seen if any of the other Bollywood flicks opening in the first third of the year will prove to be breakout hits. Do any of the films on this list seem like contenders to you?
Director Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha gets an early release in the United States to capitalize on Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. The romance — starring Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor — opens on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, two days before it opens in India.
Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo faltered in its second weekend in North American theaters. From November 20-22, 2015, it earned $602,044 from 307 theaters ($1,961 average), bringing its total earnings in the United States and Canada to $3,929,227. [Update: Box Office Mojo’s reports weekend earnings figures for PRDP that are about $25,000 higher than those reported by Rentrak.]
PRDP‘s box office returns dropped by 74% from Weekend 1 to Weekend 2. By contrast, Khan’s second weekend returns for Bajrangi Bhaijaan fell by just 40%. The differences in the two films’ per-screen averages are telling, too. PRDP‘s opening and second weekend PSAs were $7,612 and $1,961, respectively. Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s PSAs were much better: $9,468 and $5,636.
Not only is PRDP out of the running to best Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s chart topping $8,114,714, the romantic drama will struggle to clear $5 million in North America, especially with the early release of Tamasha on Wednesday. Still, Khan must be pretty happy having the two highest earning Hindi films in North America this year.
[Note: According to MovieMax’s schedule, it looks like we’ll be getting Tamasha here in the States on Wednesday, November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. The movie opens in Indian on Friday, November 27.]
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Thoongaa Vanam (Tamil w/English subtitles) at Seven Bridges and MovieMax, which also carries Cheekati Rajyam (the Telugu version of Thoonga Vanam), Kumari 21F (Telugu), Rani Padmini (Malayalam), and Vedalam (Tamil).
Salman Khan scored another massive hit in North America with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. From November 12-15, 2015, PRDP earned $2,746,673 from 310 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Bollywood Hungama. That’s an average of $8,860 per theater over the film’s first four days. (Box Office Mojo puts the film’s four-day earnings at $2,813,018 from 287 theaters, for an average of $9,801.)
When looking at the traditional Friday-Saturday-Sunday total, PRDP‘s $2,359,703 ranks second for the year in North America, behind Salman’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan ($2,613,192). Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s opening weekend total is even more impressive considering that it opened in 34 fewer theaters than PRDP.
The next Bollywood film likely to open in North American theaters is Tamasha on November 27, giving PRDP a second weekend with no direct competition. Will that be enough for PRDP to eclipse Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s impressive North American total earnings of $8,114,714?
Two other Hindi films went largely ignored in North American theaters over the weekend:
Shaandaar: Week 4; $806 from two theaters; $403 average; $603,444 total
Devoted Salman Khan fans have expectations of movies starring their Bhai, and surely Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (“Received a Treasure Called Love“) fulfills their expectations. For moviegoers who aren’t hardcore Salman fans, the film seems too familiar.
Don’t get me wrong, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP, henceforth) is a fine enough film. It lives up to its billing as a spectacle, with colorful dance numbers and magnificent sets. The story is full of teary-eyed reunions and blossoming romance.
But this all feels like something we’ve seen before, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t seen any of Salman’s three previous collaborations with writer-director Sooraj Barjatya. Salman plays the same character he always plays these days, no matter if he’s starring in an action flick or a romantic comedy.
Prem (Salman) is a supremely righteous devotee who narrates religious plays. His best friend, Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal), is an actor who dresses in drag to perform the lead female roles in the plays. At Prem’s insistence, they donate all of the money they earn to a charity run by the beautiful Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor).
On their way to meet the princess in person for the first time, the guys are intercepted by representatives of the princess’s betrothed, Prince Vijay (also Salman). Prem looks exactly like the prince, who is presently comatose following an attempt on his life by his scheming younger brother, Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Vijay’s right-hand man, Deewan Saheb (Anupam Kher), convinces Prem to temporarily pose as the prince, giving Prem the perfect opportunity to spend time with the princess.
While posing as the prince, innocent Prem comes to learn that Vijay is kind of a jerk. Complicated family dynamics — Vijay is his father’s firstborn, Ajay was born to their father’s second wife — have strained the relationship between the brothers. Their younger half-sisters — Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia) — by their father’s mistress have turned their back on the family completely.
Worst of all, from Prem’s perspective, is that Vijay is mean to Maithili. The royal couple argues all the time, and Vijay once tried to get fresh with Maithili (a big no-no to Prem, who doesn’t even approve of kissing before marriage).
Prem takes his opportunity as Vijay to try to heal the relationship between the siblings and to make things right with Maithili. If he can’t have her himself, at least he can lay the foundation for a happy marriage to Vijay. Prem asks her to list all of Vijay’s faults, which she does in song form. Unfortunately for international fans, the song lyrics in PRDP are not subtitled.
As one would expect, Salman is almost always the focus of attention. This myopia means that the villainous machinations against Vijay take place primarily offscreen. The revelation of who was plotting what and why is abrupt and confusing.
If you’re going to cast Neil Nitin Mukesh as the villain, use him. Don’t give him fewer than thirty minutes of total screentime, especially in a movie that’s nearly three hours long.
Same goes for Deepak Dobriyal, whose character is sidelined once they get to Vijay’s palace. Dobriyal is one of those actors who has my attention whether he’s the focus of the scene or not. Again, if you’re going to cast him, use him.
Prem describes his relationship with Kanhaiya thusly: “You’re my compulsory companion.” That’s a good description of any character who plays sidekick to Salman. Salman’s characters are often written as being unconcerned by money, which means that it falls to his “compulsory companions” to pay for everything Salman’s characters buy. Since Salman’s characters are usually supposed to embody moral purity, why are they always mooches?
PRDP delivers a bunch of songs, many of which are lavish spectacles. Sonam is pretty, and Salman is heroic. Things proceed pretty much as expected. A happy ending is all but guaranteed.
I don’t know that that’s enough to make PRDP a must-see movie for its own sake. For a holiday weekend outing with family and friends, it’s reasonably entertaining (although the lengthy runtime is a challenge, especially if your theater doesn’t have an intermission break). But is it unique? Is it memorable? I’m not so sure.