Just one month after its theatrical debut, R… Rajkumar is already available on Eros Now. I’m not sure it’s worth the $3.99 rental cost, but it’s there if you want it. Krrish 3 was also recently added to the service, and it’s the better option.
This is the sixth “worst movies of the year” post I’ve written, and every year the worst movies share the same problems: bad plot construction, unintentionally unlikable protagonists, and the reprehensible treatment of female characters. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Most of this year’s crop of bad movies have the standard problems, but I give credit to Zila Ghaziabad for making it onto the list for a whole new reason: failure to appreciate the strength of the Censor Board’s opposition to smoking.
While all Indian filmmakers know that scenes in which a character smokes are likely to be tagged with an onscreen warning that reads, “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health,” director Anand Kumar refused to capitulate in Zila Ghaziabad. As a result, the warning appears onscreen for nearly half of the movie. It’s so distracting that I’m almost convinced it was deliberate and that the whole movie is Kumar’s dig at the Censor Board.
Among movies that stunk in more conventional fashion, Bajatey Raho, Bullett Raja, and Fukrey were full of plot holes that never should’ve made it out of a first draft, let alone into a finished project. Fukrey wins bonus points for a racist scene in which a character refers to a group of black bodyguards as the “Chicago Bulls.”
I, Me aur Main and Ramaiya Vastavaiya were hampered by really, really unlikeable lead characters. Not to be outdone, Grand Masti featured not one, but three total jerks in leading roles. I’m awarding bonus points to Grand Masti for racism, sexism, and making a joke about gang rape.
Grand Masti wasn’t the only movie to try to make light of rape or treat it as a plot device. The threat of rape was used to provoke the male leads in R… Rajkumar and Himmatwala. Both movies try to make that case that a woman’s only defense against rape is a strong male family member or boyfriend.
As patronizing as that idea is, it’s still not as abhorrent as the violently sexist message of my worst film of 2013: 3G. This poorly written horror movie cites pornography as the primary reason romantic relationships fail, but never suggests that the problem lies with those who view porn. Instead, it explicitly blames the women who perform in porn (and implicitly blames any woman with a sex drive). Want to get rid of porn? Kill all the porn stars!
At the same time that the movie blames sexually active women for provoking the violence committed against them, directors Shantanu & Sheershak go out of their way to portray actress Sonal Chauhan as a sex object. The camera ogles her breasts and buttocks while she writhes around on the beach and on a kitchen island (something I’m guessing she doesn’t do for fun when she’s at home alone).
Shantanu & Sheershak fail to recognize their own hypocrisy. Who’s more responsible for Chauhan’s depiction as a sex object: Chauhan — a paid performer — or the men who told her what to do and how to pose, filmed her, paid her, and then counted on others to pay to watch what they filmed?
Worst Bollywood Movies of 2013
- 3G — Buy at Amazon
- Grand Masti — Buy at Amazon
- Himmatwala — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Fukrey — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Bullett Raja — Buy at Amazon
- R… Rajkumar — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Ramaiya Vastavaiya — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Zila Ghaziabad — Buy at Amazon
- I, Me aur Main — Buy at Amazon
- Bajatey Raho — Buy at Amazon
Previous Worst Movies Lists
Faced with last week’s release of R… Rajkumar and next Friday’s release of Dhoom 3, distributors have elected not to open any new Hindi movies in the Chicago area on Friday, December 13, 2013. This may be a good thing, since my friend Keyur Seta at The Common Man Speaks writes to me that the new movie Lucky Kabootar is, “Easily one of the worst films I have ever seen.” Still, I’m a little bummed I won’t get to see Jackpot, the newest movie from Kaizad Gustad, mastermind behind the unintentionally hilarious Boom.
The only Bollywood films carrying over in theaters this weekend are R… Rajkumar — at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville — and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, at the South Barrington 30. Ram-Leela‘s total U.S. earnings in its first four weeks stand at $2,674,134.
Eros International has to be disappointed by R… Rajkumar‘s opening weekend U.S. box office performance. It collected $124,669 from 91 screens. That’s worse than Singh Saab the Great‘s opening weekend totals of $138,127 just three weeks earlier, and that film only opened on 37 fewer screens. R… Rajkumar‘s opening weekend totals were less than half of what Shahid Kapoor’s Phata Poster Nikla Hero opened to — $260,188 from 94 screens — back in September.
Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Tamil films Ivan Veramathiri and Kalyana Samayal Saadham, Philips and the Monkey Pen (Malayalam), and the Telugu flicks Second Hand and Venkatadri Express.
Director Prabhu Deva’s schizophrenic style strikes again. In R… Rajkumar, he derails an enjoyable action rom-com with a casual treatment of violence against women.
The double shame is that the character who suffers most from this misogyny, Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha), is a strong female character. Yet the script reduces her to a plot device, beaten and threatened with rape just to inspire the heroic deeds of the title character, Romeo Rajkumar (Shahid Kapoor).
Romeo, a hired thug, comes to town to join a gang headed by Shivraj (Sonu Sood), a drug lord at war with a rival opium dealer, Parmar (Ashish Vidyarthi). He falls in love with Chanda at first sight, becoming so lovestruck that it hampers his ability to carry out his duties on behalf of Shivraj.
Romeo’s love-induced impairment repeatedly endangers the life of his fellow henchmen and best friend, an apparently unnamed goon played by Mukul Dev. Their playfully antagonistic friendship is the highlight of the movie, even though it mostly disappears in the second half of the film.
The humor in Romeo’s friendship and in his pursuit of Chanda are hard to reconcile in the context of a movie that treats violence against women as a given. Chanda is brutally lashed with a belt a dozen times by her uncle, who objects to her romance with Romeo. In the very next scene, the same uncle is seen clowning around with his underlings, accompanied by a flatulence sound effect.
Is the audience supposed to ignore the beating the uncle administered to his niece just seconds earlier? Is he supposed to be a source of comic relief or a monster? It’s one thing for the uncle to abuse his underlings; they signed up for the job. Chanda is beaten because she is a woman.
In another scene, Shivraj threatens Chanda in order to provoke Romeo: “I’ll tie her up and rape her in front of you.” However, in the English subtitles, the word “rape” is censored, written as “r**e.” So rape is too vile a word to read, but not too vile an act to depict onscreen or use as a threat?
It’s so frustrating because R… Rajkumar is otherwise pretty good. Romeo and Chanda develop a sweet relationship over the course of the film. Kapoor shows a wide range in his performance, and his dancing is top-notch, as always. Sinha is brave and resolute while enduring all the abuse the script throws at her.
I wish I could recommend R… Rajkumar, but I just can’t. It portrays violence against women as a social norm, something a woman can only escape if she has a boyfriend with superhuman strength to defend her. Why couldn’t this just be a fun movie and not a regressive piece of social commentary?
The action flick R… Rajkumar hits Chicago area theaters on December 6, 2013. Given that it’s directed by Prabhu Deva, if it has even a hint of plot continuity, I’m going to be impressed.
R… Rajkumar opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 26 min.
Bullett Raja carries over for a second weekend at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17, despite a weak opening weekend at the U.S. box office. Its $175,727 only beat Ram-Leela by $5,000, and Ram-Leela‘s been out for three weeks.
With total U.S. earnings of $325,885 so far, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein gets a third week at the South Barrington 30.
For better or worse, Besharam is the main game in town for the foreseeable future. For the weekend beginning Friday, October 4, 2013, Besharam continues its run at all seven of the Chicago area theaters in which it opened on Wednesday.
The only other Hindi movie playing locally is the surprisingly funny Phata Poster Nikla Hero, which has earned $390,207 in the U.S. so far. It gets a third week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Sadly, Warning gets tossed overboard after just one week.
With upcoming star-studded films timing there releases around major holidays in India (and trying to avoid competing with one another), we’ve likely entered a cycle in the Chicago area in which only one new Hindi movie will open theatrically every other week, as opposed the usual schedule of at least one new movie per week. Apart from a brief flurry of big-time releases in mid-November, the intervening weeks are peppered with the releases of low-budget films from smaller studios featuring no major stars. Those movies may get sizable releases in India, but they aren’t likely to command screenspace in U.S. theaters.
Here’s the schedule of films likely to open in the Chicago area for the remainder of 2013, based on the release dates posted at Bollywood Hungama. (Keep in mind that release dates may change, and we could be surprised with some limited openings of smaller films.)
The trailer for R… Rajkumar — formerly known as Rambo Rajkumar — is out, in advance of the film’s release on December 6. If you’re a fan of bottles breaking over people’s heads, this is the movie for you.
I asked, and I received! Here’s an updated trailer for Bullett Raja with English subtitles. Now that I know what the heck everyone is saying, this movie looks pretty funny. Looking forward to its release on November 29.