I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with 35 Indian movies that were just added to the streaming catalog. Three Tamil films, two Malayalam movies, and the 2018 Punjabi drama Asees are now available, along with a trove of Hindi films released theatrically from 2006-2015. Most of the titles are new to Netflix. Here are links those I’ve previously reviewed:
Mary Kom turned in a solid opening weekend at the North American box office from September 5-7, 2014. It earned $370,277 from 139 theaters, for a per-screen average of $2,664.
While this opening weekend gross ranks tenth among Bollywood films in North America so far this year, distributors were surely hoping for more. It opened on the sixth highest number of screens, yet — of the eleven films to open in 100 or more theaters — Mary Kom‘s per-screen average was only higher than that of the disastrous Humshakals.
Mary Kom‘s performance is also underwhelming relative to another sports biopic of note: last summer’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The Farhan Akhtar racing flick opened in 140 theaters in the United States and Canada, earning $647,112 ($4,622 average) in its first weekend. Given that Priyanka Chopra has a higher international profile than Akhtar and considering Mary Kom’s more current relevance — she competed in the Olympics just two years ago, whereas Milkha Singh last competed in the 1960s — one would’ve hoped for a more comparable performance from Mary Kom.
Mardaani held up well through its third weekend in theaters. It earned $28,232 from 26 theaters ($1,086 average), bringing its North American total to $377,327.
Raja Natwarlal‘s business fell nearly 90% in its second week. From 30 theaters, it earned just $10,846 ($362 average). Its total stands at $131,105.
Singham Returns closed its fourth weekend with $9,677, bringing its total to $1,226,581. (The theater count of 127 supplied to Box Office Mojo seems incredibly high. Bollywood Hungama reports the movie as showing in 17 theaters, which is more realistic.)
In its 28th week in theaters, The Lunchbox added another $1,319 to its total earnings of $4,039,660.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Rabhasa (Telugu) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax, which also carries Powar (Kannada), Boochamma Boochodu (Telugu), Kiraak (Telugu), Peruchazhi (Malayalam), and Run Raja Run (Telugu).
The heist film Raja Natwarlal didn’t set the North American box office on fire during its opening weekend, but its performance was typical for an Emraan Hashmi film in the United States and Canada. From August 29-31, 2014, Raja Natwarlal earned $83,669 from 73 theaters, an average of $1,146 per screen. Including its earnings from Monday’s Labor Day holiday in the U.S., Raja Natwarlal‘s total North American earnings stand at $102,314.
That total is decent for a Hashmi film. However, the per screen average is low thanks to it comparatively wide release. Take a look at the opening weekend earnings and screen counts for some recent Hashmi releases, along with the films’ total North American earnings:
Ghanchakkar: $143,616 from 89 screens ($1,614 avg); $203,044 total
Ek Thi Dayaan: $65,857 from 48 screens ($1,372 avg); $112,135 total
Raaz 3: $95,301 from 28 screens ($3,404 avg); $150,716 total
Shanghai: $107,565 from 37 screens ($2,907 avg); $183,748 total
Jannat 2: $45,000 from 19 screens ($2,368 avg); $54,148 total
Given that Hashmi’s films typically gross less than $200,000 in North America, I’m not sure there’s much need to open them in more than 50 theaters. Even his highest profile film — The Dirty Picture — opened in just 52 theaters here. Expanding the screen count for his films seems to dilute their per-theater returns without significantly increasing overall gross.
Mardaani held up well in its second weekend, earning $77,252 from 48 theaters ($1,609 average). The total gross for the Rani Mukerji thriller stands at $308,601.
Singham Returns likewise continued its strong run, adding $51,485 over the course of its third weekend. Its total earnings through Labor Day are $1,209,663.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
The Lunchbox: Week 27; $1,302 from two theaters ($651 average); $4,037,755 total
Kick: Week 6; $14 from one theater; $2,403,553 total
One of a movie’s most precious resources is time. Filmmakers have a matter of minutes to establish characters and set up the plot, and then only an hour or two to resolve the story in a satisfying way. RajaNatwarlal allocates far too much time to a romance that needs no explanation and too little time on a complicated heist that does.
Director Kunal Deshmukh and writer Parveez Sheikh rely heavily on genre shorthand. Emraan Hashmi plays Raja, a small-time con artist with a heart of gold. When a heist goes wrong, he turns to a mentor — Yogi (Paresh Rawal) — who gives him two rules: don’t question my orders, and don’t fall in love.
The second rule is a problem because Raja has a girlfriend, an exotic dancer named Ziya (Humaima Malik). We know that Ziya is the most important thing in Raja’s life because the film devotes four song-and-dance numbers to their relationship, plus a fifth during the closing credits.
So much time is wasted on Raja and Ziya dancing in the club, in the rain, and on a tour of Cape Town that the details of the big heist Raja and Yogi are trying to pull off get glossed over.
Raja and Yogi both want revenge against wealthy, corrupt cricket enthusiast Varda Yadav (Kay Kay Menon). They concoct a plan to steal Yadav’s money by tricking him into thinking he’s buying a cricket team.
Yogi gathers a crew of three or four sidekicks who get barely any introduction and virtually no lines of dialogue. This isn’t Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job. This is just Raja, Yogi, and some other guys.
By the end of the con, the crew has mysteriously ballooned to more than a dozen guys. There’s no explanation of who they are or how they are recruited, apart from a hitman played by the shamefully underutilized Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. Predictably, one of the anonymous new guys is a mop-topped teenage computer hacker.
With so many heist film clichés in play and without any sense of how the con is unfolding as it’s happening, it never feels like Raja is any danger. Every event seems like it’s either part of a master plan or confirmation of Yogi’s fear that love really has turned Raja into a mush-brained schmuck.
It doesn’t help that Yadav isn’t a threatening villain. He only gets one scene of violence. A corrupt police officer named Singh is more menacing, but his integration into the plot is weak.
Scenes with Officer Singh highlight another problem: how do all the characters seem to know so much about Raja’s schemes? When Raja and his initial partner, Raghav (Deepak Tijori), mistakenly steal a bunch of cash from Yadav early on, Yadav and the cops find out about it almost immediately. How?
They probably found out while Raja was singing and dancing with Ziya in the strip club for the second time, which is actually the film’s third dance number in the opening twenty minutes (Raja gets a solo number as well). That’s an awful lot of time wasted on dancing that could’ve been spent on plot development.
The Emraan Hashmi heist flick Raja Natwarlal opens in Chicago area theaters on August 29, 2014. The title roughly translates to “King Con,” so why on earth did they not use that title instead? It’s short, alliterative, and plays on the title King Kong. Movie studios: hire me.