Sushant Singh Rajput’s final movie Dil Bechara just released on Hotstar/Disney+Hotstar across the globe. For the time being, Dil Bechara is streaming for free even if you’re not a Hotstar subscriber. Here’s where to watch it in the United States: https://www.hotstar.com/us/movies/dil-bechara/1260036017
The romance Dil Bechara is a based on John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars, about a pair of young people who’ve endured serious illnesses who undertake a search for a reclusive author. Sanjana Sanghi makes her film debut opposite Sushant, with Saif Ali Khan playing the author.
2016 was a darned good year for Hindi films, with positive reviews outnumbering negative reviews 26-22 at this site. Here’s my list of the Best Bollywood Movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
I should start by noting that Dhanak — which released theatrically in the United States and India in June, 2016 — would have made the list had it not already appeared on my Best of 2015 list. I watched it as part of the 2015 Chicago South Asian Film Festival.
As for the ten films that did make the 2016 list, two stood out for employing narrative structures that reflect their subject matter. Pink begins with the aftermath of a sexual assault, and not until the ending credits do we see the events as they really happened, echoing the “he said, she said” nature of many sexual assault cases. Waiting isn’t afraid to show its characters being bored, a feeling anyone who’s spent time in a hospital can relate to.
Neerja and Aligarh were emotional true stories featuring riveting performances by their lead actors: Sonam Kapoor and Manoj Bajpayee, respectively. Parched also earned a nod for the stellar performances by its four female co-leads.
South Korean films have inspired a number of Hindi thrillers in recent years (Rocky Handsome and Jazbaa, for instance), but the chilling Raman Raghav 2.0 is totally Indian, especially in regard to the way director Anurag Kashyap uses music to guide the audience through emotional moments.
The two films at the top of this year’s list earn their spots by tackling tough subjects in otherwise very commercial fare. Udta Punjab harnessed the star-power of Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, and Diljit Dosanjh to deftly address Punjab’s drug crisis and make it relevant to people not directly affected by it.
My favorite film of the year also featured a top-notch cast, including Alia Bhatt (again), Rishi Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Rajat Kapoor, and Ratna Pathak. Kapoor & Sons bravely examines the secrets that family members keep from one another and the resentment that builds because of it, addressing issues like infidelity, parental favoritism, and homosexuality with sensitivity and compassion. That Kapoor & Sons also manages to be lots of fun just further cements it as my Best Bollywood Movie of 2016.
Check my Netflix list to see which of these films are available for streaming in the United States.
Salman Khan’s Sultan made a ton of money in North America — so much so that it finished in tenth place overall on the domestic charts. During its opening weekend of July 8-10, 2016, it earned $2,327,779 from 309 theaters ($7,533 average). Add to that the $1,012,086 it earned from Wednesday and Thursday (Sultan released on July 6), and Sultan‘s five-day total stands at $3,339,865 in the United States and Canada. That puts its five-day average at $10,809 per theater.
Salman’s movies always do exceptionally well in Canada, and Sultan continued that trend. Even though Canadian theaters accounted for only 8% of the total number of theaters (26 of 309), they contributed 18% to the total gross ($617,134 over five days). That puts the five-day per-screen average for those Canadian theaters at $23,736, versus a $9,621 five-day average in US theaters.
So, does Sultan stand a chance of becoming the highest grossing Hindi film of all time in North America? Probably not. First of all, its five-day total was less than what PK and Dhoom 3 earned in their first three days ($3,508,980 and $3,422,590, respectively). Second, its IMDb rating (currently 7.4) falls well short of PK‘s (8.3) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘s (8.1) — though admittedly it could increase — hinting that perhaps Sultan isn’t as beloved as some other blockbusters. Both PK and Bajrangi Bhaijaan went on to triple their first-weekend earnings. I confess that I’m not exactly sure how multipliers work for Wednesday releases, but lets assume that Sultan follows suit. A tripling of its first weekend numbers would put its total at $6,983,337. Even adding in its Wednesday and Thursday earnings only puts its total at $7,995,423 — placing it behind PK ($10,550,569), Bajrangi Bhaijaan ($8,114,714), and Dhoom 3 ($8,090,250). Sultan‘s second weekend returns will give a clearer picture of its box office longevity. But c’mon. Almost $8 million would still be a freaking lot of money!
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Udta Punjab: Week 4; $12,005 from ten theaters; $1,201 average; $1,226,557 total
Housefull 3: Week 6; $83 from one theater; $1,322,753 total
Following a lovely vacation in Florida, I’m back with my weekly box office report. No new Hindi films opened in the United States or Canada on Friday, so let’s see how the films still in theaters held up during the weekend of July 1-3, 2016.
In its third weekend of release, Udta Punjab continued to lead the field. It added another $74,883 from 44 theaters ($1,702 average) to bring its North American total to $1,184,917. I find it interesting that three of the seven Hindi films to earn more than $1 million in the US and Canada this year opened in fewer than 110 theaters: Udta Punjab (107), Airlift (98), and Neerja (88). Both Airlift and Neerja added theaters in their second week of release, but their initial opening was conservative, as was Udta Punjab‘s. After years of increasing theater counts, maybe studios and distributors are realizing they can earn just as much with a smaller footprint.
Raman Raghav 2.0 ended its second weekend with $7,070 from thirteen theaters ($544 average), bringing its total to $75,515. That amount is probably in line with expectations, but I’d hoped for more given how good the movie is.
Housefull 3 earned another $4,816 from six theaters ($803 average) to bring its five-week total to $1,320,871. In its fourth week, Te3n took in $1,040 from four theaters ($260 average), bringing its total to $436,408.
Dhanak closed out its third weekend in just one theater, earning $390 and bringing its total to $12,164. This is another movie that I wish had made a bigger splash. Perhaps with better (or any) marketing campaign that used its English title, Rainbow, it could have. Dhanak is such a sweet, broadly appealing movie that I hope someday finds an audience on Netflix or another streaming service.
A man tells a woman hiding in a locked bedroom: “I can do anything to you and get away with it,.” That line is spoken not by the serial killer in Raman Raghav 2.0, but by the police officer hunting him. Being one of the “good guys” doesn’t make you a good guy.
The cop who utters the threat — Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) — is introduced not in uniform, but at a dance club, high as a kite. His sexy intensity attracts a call girl named Simmy (Sobhita Dhulipala). She waits in her car while Raghavan pays a visit to his “uncle,” a drug dealer.
Raghavan finds the man murdered, unaware that the killer — Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) — is still in the house. When a neighbor checks on the commotion, Raghavan’s un-cop-like reaction reveals that he’s not the hero type.
Each section of the film has its own chapter title, complete with dates. Following the events of the prologue (described above) and a trippy opening credits sequence, Chapter One jumps the story ahead two years. Ramanna turns himself into the police, claiming credit for multiple murders. Raghavan and his fellow officers assume the skinny, homeless fellow is lying, and they beat him and lock him in an abandoned building from which he escapes.
Raghavan is still with Simmy, though he treats her like garbage and won’t publicly acknowledge their relationship. The context that writer-director Anurag Kashyap and his co-writer, Vasan Bala, provide for Raghavan’s appalling behavior highlight the cop’s sense of entitlement. Raghavan is a violent drug addict because his powerful father is disappointed in him. Boo hoo.
On the other hand, Ramanna’s background makes his sadism seem almost inevitable. He’s a sexual abuse survivor who believes that he can communicate with the God of Death. At a young age, he turned his perverted rage outward, venting it on animals and his sister, Lakshmi (Amruta Subhash).
The entire sequence involving Ramanna and his sister is riveting in a gut-churning way. He turns up outside of her apartment, wondering why her six-year-old son doesn’t recognize his uncle. Lakshmi asks how Ramanna found her address. The retrained terror in Lakshmi’s eyes as she tries desperately not to do anything to provoke her brother is chilling. Subhash handles the role perfectly.
Fans who complained that Siddiqui was too understated in Te3n will not be disappointed by his crazy turn in Raman Raghav 2.0. Nevertheless, his character is at his most intimidating when he’s calm, the sinister content of his words at odds with the relaxed manner in which he delivers them.
Kaushal’s performance is likewise compelling. Whether it’s because of Raghavan’s job or the fact that Kaushal looks like a movie hero, we keep waiting for Raghavan to be a better man than he is. Dhulipala is a fitting match as world-weary Simmy, who diffuses Raghavan’s temper with glibness.
Raman Raghav 2.0 isn’t as soul-crushing as some of the South Korean thrillers of the last decade that have dealt with similar themes. Kashyap uses music to provide emotional distance during the most disturbing sequences. Ramanna’s most heinous crime is accompanied by a somewhat jazzy tune featuring a woman singing about what a bad guy he is.
Kashyap’s film is also less gory than other recent thrillers from elsewhere in Asia. Most of the violence in Raman Raghav 2.0 takes place out of frame. That, along with the prominent music and evocative city scenery give Kashyap’s film a real Indian identity, in contrast to recent Hindi remakes of South Korean movies that barely deviate from the original (such as Rocky Handsome).
There is one element to the Raman Raghav 2.0 that confused me. The movie opens with a note that Raman Raghav was an infamous serial killer in Mumbai in the 1960s. As the story progresses, Ramanna repeatedly states that he is Raman, and “Raman needs Raghav.” Wouldn’t that be like someone saying, “Charles needs Manson”?
That confusion aside, Raman Raghav 2.0 sews up every loose thread, answers every question. It’s not a movie for the squeamish, but it is a gripping character study about the darkness lurking in the human heart.