Fans in the U.S. are getting a gift from Bollywood on Thanksgiving. Director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullett Raja opens on Thursday, November 28, 2013, in America, a day before it opens in India. I’m pretty psyched for this black comedy, which stars Saif Ali Khan.
What a busy time of year for Bollywood movies! Two new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on November 22, 2013, fresh on the heels of two blockbuster releases. Gori Tere Pyaar Mein — a romantic comedy starring Kareena Kapoor Khan and Imran Khan — gets the wider release of the two new flicks.
All this Bollywood competition — plus competition from Hollywood fare like the sequel to The Hunger Games releasing this Friday — has dramatically shortened Krrish 3‘s lifespan in U.S. theaters. The only local theater giving it a fourth week is the South Barrington 30. The movie’s three-week U.S. box office total is $2,123,333.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Irandam Ulagam (Tamil) and Thira (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5.
Writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (henceforth referred to by the shorter, original title used by most American theaters: Ram-Leela) is a fresh update on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story may be familiar, but Bhansali’s film offers plenty of surprises.
In this rendition, Romeo and Juliet are rechristened Ram Rajadi (Ranveer Singh) and Leela Sanera (Deepika Padukone). The youngest children in their respective warring clans, they want nothing to do with the centuries-long family feud. Ram serves as village peacemaker, defusing situations by distributing pornographic DVDs.
It’s love at first sight when Ram and Leela meet at a party. They are reckless in their courtship, until deaths in both families force them to realize that they will find no peace in town. Even their elopement is foiled by friends intent on perpetuating the feud.
In Bhansali’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the two leads are much older than the original characters, meaning they have more prominent positions in their family. Both Ram and Leela eventually assume leadership roles in their clans, proving the naiveté of their assumption that they could run off and leave their families behind. It makes for an interesting examination of the public aspect of romantic relationships.
Singh and Padukone are an extremely sexy pair. Had Ram-Leela been rated by the MPAA, it would’ve been rated PG-13 or R. Keep that in mind if you’re considering bringing your kids to the theater. Adults in the audience will appreciate the chemistry between the lead couple.
Singh’s Ram is initially more fun than a traditional Romeo, but he loses his spirit as the obstacles to his romance with Leela mount. By the end of the film, he’s mostly glum and passive.
Padukone is sensational as Leela, and the character is especially well-written. Leela evolves from a bratty princess into a force within her family. She’s sexually aggressive, initiating the couple’s first kiss and telling Ram, “I want you.”
In another refreshing update, the female characters are the power players in Ram-Leela. Both Leela’s and Ram’s sisters-in-law (played by Richa Chadda and Barkha Bisht, respectively) influence the destiny of the central romance and the town as a whole. The Sanera clan is led by Leela’s mother, Dhankor (Supriya Patak Kapur), who is ruthless and terrifying.
Like all of Bhansali’s films, Ram-Leela is great looking. Major plot points occur against the backdrops of colorful festivals. The garden at the Sanera palace — the setting for the famous balcony scene — is stunning.
Bhansali also composed the music for the film, and as a result, Ram-Leela features a lot of well-integrated dance numbers. The music and dancing (especially Padukone’s) is very good, and only the movie’s lone item number — starring Priyanka Chopra — feels out-of-place.
I appreciate Bhansali’s decision to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet as an all-out Bollywood spectacle, with sequences ranging from frequent dance breaks to a slow-mo fight scene in which body-slammed victims send up volcanic plumes of dust.
Ram-Leela is great for newcomers to Hindi films. It offers the full Bollywood experience, while presenting a familiar story. The crew responsible for the English subtitles made a smart decision to subtitle the first verse and chorus of each song, but not subsequent verses. It allows those who don’t understand Hindi to get the gist of the song’s subject matter, but then be able to focus on the dancing. This should become an industry standard.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest, Ram-Leela, opens in the Chicago area on November 15, 2013. A Delhi court today ordered the title changed to Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela to avoid confusing theatergoers expecting a religious parable and getting a retelling of Romeo & Juliet instead, but American theaters are sticking with the original title in their listings.
Having earned $1,870,108 in the U.S. so far, Krrish 3 gets a third week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, Woodridge 18, and Cantera 17.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Telugu film Masala at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and the Golf Glen 5, which also carries the Tamil movies Arrambam and Pizza II: Villa. It gives me great joy just knowing that a horror sequel called Pizza 2 exists.
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.
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 Bullett Raja — which opens on November 29 — released today. Hopefully Fox Star will release a second version of the trailer with English subtitles, because I can’t discern what the plot is about based on the visuals alone, other than Saif Ali Khan shooting a bunch of people. Nevertheless, I’m excited about Bullett Raja since it’s Vidyut Jamwal’s movie since Commando.
A subtitled version of the trailer for Ram-Leela was also recently released. This is a case where the trailer itself tells such a concise rendition of the story that subtitles are hardly needed (though they are appreciated). As with any movie directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the gorgeous visuals are as much a draw as the narrative, and sexy stars like Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh just add to the visual appeal. Ram-Leela opens on November 15.