I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a ton of great Hindi films are set to expire from the service on August 1, as a result of the end of two-year contract with UTV Motion Pictures. Netflix could renew the contract in the near future, or the package of films could migrate to another streaming service. UTV is owned at least in part by Disney, so Hotstar is a likely destination. We’ll have to wait and see where they end up. Until then, here are the titles to catch on Netflix while you can:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-two new additions to the catalog! About half of these titles were on Netflix years ago, but the rest — films like Highway, Mohenjo Daro, and PK — are available on the service for the first time. I’m excited that three more of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have joined the catalog. Here are all the titles added today:
After reviewing my lists of the best Hindi movies for 2008 and 2009, I’m convinced that 2010 was Bollywood’s best year among the three. Of the approximately fifty Hindi movies I reviewed this year, here are my picks for the top films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Some movies are worth seeing just for the stunning visuals, like the updated epic Raavan — which takes place primarily outdoors amid stunning natural beauty — and Guzaarish, which paints a personal struggle in super-saturated blues.
Another romance, The Japanese Wife, deserves an honorable mention. It tells the story of two pen pals — one a Japanese woman and the other a man from Bengal — who fall in love through letters written in beginner’s English. Because it’s not in Hindi, it’s not in the running for best Bollywood movie, but I heartily recommend it.
The two best Hindi movies of 2010 defy easy classification. Part drama, part comedy, part romance and part adventure, they represent cinematic storytelling at its most complete. Both movies are less than two-hours long, emphasizing that it’s the quality of the story, not the length of its runtime, that makes a fulfilling cinematic experience.
Ishqiya features memorable performances by Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah as a widow and a pair of petty thieves trying to pull off a heist. The story is simple but compelling, and the performances make it shine. It’s a remarkable effort from debutant director Abhishek Chaubey.
The movie that has stuck with me more than any other is Road, Movie. After playing at international festivals in 2009, it opened in limited release in the U.S. in May of 2010. I caught it during its short run on On Demand. It tells the story of a city guy who drives a dilapidated truck across the desert, meeting strange companions along the way and learning the secret history of the truck: it was once a mobile movie theater.
Road, Movie is so charming and engaging that it briefly made me believe that I could make a career of driving a truck though rural India, projecting old movies onto the sides of buildings for grateful villagers (never mind that there are few things in the world I’m less qualified to do, and the need for the service is shrinking). The film embodies the escapism that cinema provides and inspires us to dream improbable dreams.
Road, Movie isn’t the easiest film to find in the U.S. — it’s not yet available on Netflix or Amazon (though my local public library has three copies) — so seize the chance to watch it when you can. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
Two new Hindi movies debut in the Chicago area this weekend, though in a limited number of theaters. Red Alert: The War Within stars Sunil Shetty as a farmer driven by poverty to work for a militant communist organization. It opens at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles on Friday, July 7.
The second new release is Milenge Milenge, a romantic comedy starring Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor that’s been in production since 2004. It opens at the Golf Glen 5 and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. Milenge Milenge has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.
Other Indian movies showing near Chicago include the Rain Man remake Alexander The Great (Malayalam) and Bheemili Kabaddi Jatu (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5 and Raavanan (Tamil) and Vedam (Telugu) at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.
After posting respectable opening weekend earnings of $480,703 in the United States, Raavan sticks around for a second week in Chicago area theaters. I wonder if the simultaneous opening of Tamil and Telugu versions of Raavan hurt attendance for the Hindi version.
There are no new Hindi movies opening the weekend starting Friday, June 25, 2010. Political drama Raajneeti gets another week at the Pipers Alley 4, South Barrington 30 and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville.
Other Indian movies showing around Chicago this weekend include the Tamil and Telugu versions of Raavan — Raavanan and Villain — at the Golf Glen 5, which is also showing Pappu (Telugu) and Mummy & Me (Malayalam). Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also showing Raavanan.
Friday’s new Hindi release is a big one: filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, a reimagining of the ancient epic poem the Ramayana. Ratnam filmed a Tamil version of the movie titled Raavanan simultaneously with some of the same cast, then dubbed that into Telugu (Villain). All three movies open worldwide on June 18, 2010.
Click here for a complete list of U.S. theaters showing the movie, which has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.
The other versions of Ratnam’s movie — Raavanan (Tamil) and Villain (Telugu) — will both play at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also carrying Raavanan, with its first showing listed at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17.
Raajneeti, having earned a total of $1,287,416 in the U.S. so far, continues for a third week at the Pipers Alley 4, South Barrington 30 and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.
The only other Indian movie showing in the Chicago area is Vedam (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5.
Early in Raajneeti (“Politics”), a veteran politician worries that the hot-headed young members of his party will screw up everything that he and his allies have worked for their whole lives. And that’s exactly what happens in this political soap opera.
Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) and Veerendra (Manoj Bajpai) are rising stars in a political party headed by Veerendra’s father, Bhanu. Bhanu’s brother, Chandra (Chetan Pandit) — who’s also Prithvi’s father — is his right-hand man. Chandra’s youngest son, Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), returns from studying in New York for his uncle’s birthday party.
When Bhanu suffers a stroke on his birthday, it sets off a power struggle between Prithvi and Veerendra, who sees himself as rightful heir to lead the party, despite his villainous mustache and penchant for satin suits. Handsome Prithvi is more popular, but he’s not such a great guy either. Bhanu recovers enough to name Chandra acting president in the hopes of maintaining party unity. It doesn’t work.
Veerendru tries to consolidate his power by taking under his wing a popular local athlete interested in running for office. The jock, Sooraj (Ajay Devgan), is the adopted son of Chandra’s chauffeur — and also the secret love-child of Chandra’s wife, Bharti (Nikhila Trikha), making him Pritvi & Samar’s older half-brother.
When Veerendru and Sooraj resort to violence to achieve their ambitions, Samar steps in to help his brother (the one he knows about, not the secret half-brother). Aiding him is Bharti’s brother, Brij (Nana Patekar), who’s long been the family’s clean-up man. The violence spirals out of control, ruining the lives of everyone involved.
With so many characters, it’s hard to keep track of everyone in Raajneeti. Oops, I left out two of the women critical to the story. There’s Sarah (Sarah Thompson, who played Eve in the final season of Angel), Samar’s American girlfriend. And there’s Indu (Katrina Kaif), who loves Samar but is forced into a political married to Prithvi by her wealthy father.
The story sounds convoluted, and it is. But the filmmakers take nearly three hours to tell the story, allowing enough time to give each character depth. There are no heroes in Raajneeti, and no one’s really innocent apart from Sarah, and that’s only because she’s an outsider.
I found Sarah’s perspective invaluable in the film. Every Hindi movie I’ve seen on the topic portrays Indian politics as violent and corrupt. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to enter the field, given the high mortality rate of Bollywood politicians. It was nice to have an onscreen avatar acting as shocked by the carnage as I was.
Indu also plays an important role, giving women a voice in a male-dominated arena. While she could’ve acted a few scenes more forcefully, Kaif is competent in her portrayal of a manipulated woman. It’s an ambitious choice for Kaif, and the right one if she’s looking to branch out from comedies.
While no one character dominates the screentime, Raajneeti wouldn’t work without Patekar as Brij. His character is involved in almost every critical decision, even if peripherally. Brij is a clean-up man who never gets his own hands dirty, allowing him to remain in good standing with the constituents. Patekar plays him as cool and controlled, manipulating people with a smile.
Brij is the eye of a storm that spirals out of control in the last 30 minutes of the movie. Subtle intrigues are abandoned for an orgy of violence that strains credulity. An important rule that the old politicians adhered to is to always get someone else to pull the trigger for you. The young upstarts forget that, and an unnecessary bloodbath ensues. It might make for a good movie, but it seems like bad politics.
Here are the box office figures for Hindi movies playing in the United States the weekend of June 4-6, 2010, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
Raajneeti debuted in 11th place, earning $850,244 from 124 screens.
Kites fell to 44th place in its third week, earning $47,722 from 58 screens. Its total U.S. earnings are $1,602,466.
In its second week, Kites: The Remix earned just $1,546 from five screens. That brings its total U.S. earnings to $40,924. It’s not much, but it may cover some of the wages still owed to the American actors for their work on the film.