I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the Hindi sports drama Penalty, as well as the return of about two dozen Viacom 18 films that had expired from the service over the last several months. Here’s what’s back:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two additions to the catalog. The 2014 comedy Sulemani Keeda is now available for streaming, as is 2007’s Water, which returns to the service after a prolonged absence. Another Hindi title just expired from the catalog, and it’s a doozy: Queen.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with a big change: there are no more Bollywood movies on Hulu! With the expiration of Entertainment and Hunterrr, Hulu’s Indian collection is reduced to a handful of documentaries and about a dozen Bengali movies by Satyajit Ray. Hulu’s been shedding Hindi films over the last year, so we knew this was coming, but it still feels weird to see the plan completed.
Neerja debuted with superb numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 19-21, 2016, the biopic earned $619,185 from 88 theaters in the United States and Canada for a terrific per-screen average of $7,036. The first quarter of the year is prime time for female-led dramas, with Neerja following in the footsteps of past successes like: NH10, which opened in March, 2015, with $143,209 from 46 theaters ($3,113 average); Queen — March, 2014, opened with $161,998 from 39 theaters ($4,154 average); and Kahaani — March, 2012, opened with $263,011 from 45 theaters ($5,845 average). Credit to the team behind Neerja for recognizing that there is an appetite for these kinds of films, and that the money and effort spent on promoting them can yield big results from a growing number of theaters.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the weekend’s other new release, Loveshhuda, which is a textbook case for how not to release a movie internationally. Loveshhuda released with absolutely no fanfare in eight theaters in the US and Canada and earned $1,399. That’s an average of $175 per screen (thanks to generous rounding up on my part). There are several lessons to reiterate here. 1) Don’t release a movie starring a couple of nugus — I could stop there — on the same weekend as a buzz-heavy release with an established star. 2) Let people know in advance that you are planning to release the movie, don’t just drop into theaters with no warning. 3) If you don’t think the movie can carry at least 30 theaters in the US and Canada, don’t bother.
Fitoor‘s business fell 86% in its second weekend, taking in $45,157 from 60 theaters ($753 average). Its total stands at $503,316.
In its third weekend, Ghayal Once Again added another $3,761 from five theaters ($752 average) to bring its total to $292,340. The fascinating thing about that total is that nearly half of it — $136,795 — comes from Canada, despite the fact that it never played on more than 13 theaters there. It opened in 67 theaters in the US. Never let anyone question Canada’s devotion to Sunny Deol.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
Airlift: Week 5; $19,569 from 12 theaters; $1,631 average; $1,843,074 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 10; $1,207 from two theaters; $604 average; $6,563,317 total
Wazir (“Queen,” as in the chess piece) opens with a bang but fails to earn its too-tidy ending.
The setup of Wazir is not to be missed. A montage of happy moments introduces anti-terrorism officer Daanish (Farhan Akhtar), loving husband of Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and doting father of little Noorie. While running errands with his family in Delhi, Daanish spots a high-profile terrorist who was thought to be out of the country. Daanish pursues him, with catastrophic results. The sequence is fast, intense, and jaw-dropping.
Suspended from the force and guilt-stricken, Daanish befriends Noorie’s chess teacher, Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan). From his motorized wheelchair, Panditji teaches chess to children, all of whom outclass Daanish. Panditji informs his new student that the point of studying chess isn’t necessarily to win but to learn how to learn.
Panditji has an ulterior motive in befriending Daanish. One year earlier, Panditji’s adult daughter, Nina, died under mysterious circumstances in the home of the nation’s Welfare Minister, Izaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Qureshi says that Nina accidentally fell down a flight of stairs, but Panditji claims that he could tell from the look in Qureshi’s eyes that Nina was murdered.
A look in the eye is not much to go on. While the movie presents reasons to be suspicious of Qureshi, Panditji and Daanish don’t have access to the same evidence that the audience does. All the characters have to go on is Panditji’s gut feeling.
It’s hard to believe that Daanish would risk his life and career on the hunch of a man he only recently met. Even harder to accept is the participation of Daanish’s ranking officer (played in a cameo by John Abraham) in a crazy scheme that should result in his and Daanish’s court-martial at best, their deaths at worst.
The only reason that Daanish can take such risks based on so little information is that the story refuses to impose consequences on him. After brilliantly setting up Daanish as a man struggling with the consequences of a rash action, by movie’s end, he’s free to do whatever he wants in the name of what he considers justice. Never mind that he and John Abraham maim and possibly kill innocent people in the process.
In the course of the unsatisfying climax, the truth about Nina’s death is revealed in a way that feels too convenient. It doesn’t feel earned.
That said, the performances in the film are generally good, especially by Bachchan, who looks physically broken and world-weary. Akhtar is solid, but his character’s emotional range is limited by the plot (same for Hydari’s character). Abraham is good in his cameo, as is Anjum Sharma, who plays Daanish’s reliable friend and coworker, Sartaj.
Another selling point is Wazir‘s efficient runtime of just over one hundred minutes. The movie is exactly as long as it should be to sustain tension.
While imperfect as a whole, Wazir‘s thrilling opening action sequence is almost good enough to merit a trip to the theater. Almost.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix to include one exciting new addition to the catalog. Queen is finally available for streaming! I adored this movie when it came out last year, and I’m so excited to watch it again. For Bollywood newbies who may find a full-on Shahrukh Khan musical melodrama a bit much, Queen is a great starter Hindi film. It’s just a great film, period.
After enduring three weeks with no new Hindi films in North American theaters, fans turned out in large numbers for the thriller NH10. During the weekend of March 13-15, 2015, NH10 earned $143,209 from 46 theaters. Its per-screen average earnings of $3,113 are second highest for the year, behind Baby‘s $4,393 opening weekend average.
NH10‘s per-screen average is twice that of another actress-led film from 2015, January’s Dolly Ki Doli ($1,557 average). Dolly Ki Doli had the theoretical advantages of Rajkummar Rao in a supporting role and a cameo by Saif Ali Khan, but it overreached by opening in 72 theaters. Plus, NH10 is simply a better movie.
2014 featured two more direct comparisons by which to measure NH10‘s performance: Queen and Gulaab Gang. Both movies released on March 7, 2014, with Queen opening in 39 theaters in the United States and Canada and Gulaab Gang in 46. In their first weekend in theaters, Queen took in $161,998 ($4,154 average) and Gulaab Gang $60,718 ($1,320 average).
It’s hard to imagine any movie receiving the extraordinary uptick in business that propelled Queen to an eventual total in excess of $1.4 million, but NH10‘s opening weekend performance is closer to that of Queen than to other recent female-led films. With no new releases of note on the horizon for the rest of the month and a positive IMDb rating of 7.6 stars, NH10 should hold up well in the weeks to come.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Badlapur: Week 4; $6,495 from eight theaters; $812 average; 418,490 total
Roy: Week 5; $196 from one theater; $242,344 total
Shamitabh: Week 6; $52 from one theater; $299,352 total
2014 delivered a bunch of well-crafted films aimed at a savvy audience. Here are my ten best of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Films with budgets large and small took aim at social issues affecting ordinary citizens. Siddharth powerfully explores poverty through the experience of a man searching for his missing child. The divisive intersection of politics and religion is skewered both by indies — Filmistaan and Dekh Tamasha Dekh — and the year’s biggest hit, PK.
Other films put creative spins on existing formulas. Highway turns a typical damsel-in-distress scenario into a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Dedh Ishqiya features a budding romance between a middle-aged couple, played by Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Naseeruddin Shah. I thought I’d seen enough gangster movies for a lifetime until Kill Dil revitalized the genre in stylish fashion.
Ankhon Dekhi challenges the notion that a movie has to be “about” a specific theme, instead presenting itself as a movie to simply experience.
My sentimental favorite film of 2014 is Queen. Watching Kangana Ranuat as charming small-town girl Rani gallivanting about Europe on her solo honeymoon is a joyous experience. It’s a movie I look forward to revisiting.
Yet one movie stood out from the rest because of its riveting story and immaculate direction. The best Hindi movie of 2014 is Haider.
I’m a huge fan of director Vishal Bhardwaj, and even with high expectations going in, I was still blown away by Haider. It’s gorgeous, thanks both to the natural beauty of Kashmir and Bhardwaj’s use of a bold color palette against a snowy backdrop. Kudos to cinematographer Pankaj Kumar as well.
Bhardwaj — who also wrote the film’s music — maximizes the potential for song as a narrative device in a sequence in which Haider (a modern Hamlet, played by Shahid Kapoor) publicly implicates his uncle in his father’s disappearance. The scene is much more effective as a musical performance than it would have been as a speech.
Bhardwaj also deserves credit for placing his version of Hamlet in such a politically and emotionally charged environment. Notes at the end of the movie highlight how ongoing tension between India and Pakistan have cut off a beautiful place like Kashmir from the rest of the world, to the detriment of regular people simply trying to exist. Placing a 400-year-old story within the context of a modern conflict emphasizes that quelling the dangerous temptations that come with political ambition is a problem humans haven’t yet solved. Haider is a magnificent piece of visual storytelling.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania continued to captivate North American audiences over the weekend of July 18-20, 2014. In its second weekend of release, HSKD earned $201,601 from 89 theaters: a per-screen average of $2,265. Its total earnings in the U.S. and Canada stand at $727,229.
What makes this performance so impressive is that, in its second weekend, HSKD earned 53% of what it earned in its first weekend in theaters ($376,962). Hindi movies in North America virtually always lose more than 50% of their business from Week 1 to Week 2. HSKD‘s retention rate is third highest for the year, after The Lunchbox and Queen: two movies that actually increased their grosses and theater counts from Week 1 to Week 2. The fourth highest retention rate in 2014 is Hasee Toh Phasee, which held onto 45% of its first-weekend earnings in Week 2.
It will be interesting to see how HSKD fares in its third weekend when up against Salman Khan’s Kick. Based on this retention rate, I’m optimistic.
Now in its fourth week, Ek Villain earned $4,986 from nine theaters, bringing its total earnings to $766,632.
The Lunchbox added another $3,724 from five theaters to bring its total to $4,016,849.
Here’s a mystery worthy of Bobby herself. Bobby Jasoos earned $1,260 from five theaters to bring its total earnings to $212,615. Bollywood Hungama lists U.S. and Canadian earnings separately, and the share of the weekend’s profits that came from Canada was $8 from one theater.
That means that over the course of the whole weekend of July 18-20, 2014, just one Canadian went to see Bobby Jasoos in the theater. Who is this lone Canuck? I’m dying to know!