Badrinath Ki Dulhania held up really well in its second weekend in the face of monstrous competition from Beauty and the Beast, even adding four theaters in the United States. From March 17-19, 2017, Badrinath Ki Dulhania earned $413,488 from 174 theaters ($2,376 average; adjusted average of $2,651 from 156 theaters*). That’s a hold-over of 48% from its first weekend, the best of the year so far for a Bollywood film in North America, just ahead of Jolly LLB 2‘s 46% retention rate. If it follows Jolly LLB 2‘s trajectory and manages to earn 2.2 times its first weekend earnings over the course of its theatrical run, Badrinath Ki Dulhania could finish with a total of nearly $2 million. Its total earnings presently stand at $1,581,270.
Other Hindi movies showing in North America over the weekend:
The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 5: $2,825 from seven theaters; $404 average; $767,634 total
MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 2; $762 from one theater; $3,430 total
Jolly LLB 2: Week 6; $745 from one theater; $1,641,082 total
Commando 2: Week 3; $244 from two theaters; $122 average; $76,133 total
Rangoon: Week 4; $171 from two theaters; $86 average; $503,610 total
*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first two weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania posted the second best opening weekend of the year for a Bollywood movie in North America. From March 10-12, 2017, the romantic-comedy earned $858,623 from 170 theaters for a per-theater average of $5,051 (also second best for the year). That total is just $23,720 less than what Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania — the first film in the Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt franchise — earned from its entire 2014 North American theatrical run ($882,343)!
Before I move on from Badrinath Ki Dulhania, I’ll address in more detail something regarding theater counts that I plan on adding as an addendum to weekly box office posts from here on. My main source for box office information is Rentrak, a company that independently collects information from theaters across the country. Access to Rentrak’s raw data is expensive, so I rely on the Rentrak data as reported by Bollywood Hungama. For some reason, during a film’s first weekend of release in North America, Bollywood Hungama routinely includes Canadian theaters in the US theater count. So, when data from the two countries is added together, Canada’s theaters get counted twice. While I normally can’t verify this without direct access to the Rentrak data, I can confirm it when a film appears on Box Office Mojo, as their theater totals are always accurate. However, I can’t use Box Office Mojo as my main source because they rely on individual distributors to report results to them, and as a result, only four of the thirteen Hindi films released here this year are listed at Box Office Mojo. So, even though I am reasonably sure that Bollywood Hungama misreports theater information in a film’s opening weekend, using their information gives me a complete and consistent data set, enabling me to compare movies fairly. This is my long way of saying that Badrinath Ki Dulhania‘s true theater count is 152, making for a per-theater average of $5,649.
Only one of last weekend’s two new releases stuck around for a second weekend (and it wasn’t Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai). Commando 2 earned $4,172 from 13 theaters ($321 average), bringing its total North American earnings to $75,355. Despite Commando 2‘s business dropping about 90% from its first weekend to its second, its total earnings are close to double the amount it earned is its opening weekend, meaning that the film fared really well from Monday, March 6 – Thursday, March 9. That’s not reason enough to keep it around for a third weekend, mind you, so see it while you can, if you’re interested. The same can be said for the other Hindi films showing in North America:
Rangoon: Week 3; $5,815 from 15 theaters; $388 average; $502,014 total
The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 4; $4,836 from 11 theaters; $440 average: $762,917 total
Hind Ka Napak Ko Jawab — MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 1; $1,862 from one theater; $1,862 total
The weekend of March 3-5, 2017, provided two more cautionary tales of the difficult path to North American box office success for Bollywood movies without A-list stars. The action sequel Commando 2 fared the better of the new releases, earning $40,611 from 49 theaters ($829 average). The romantic drama Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai had the worst opening weekend of the year so far for a Hindi film in North America, earning just $6,539 from 42 theaters ($156 average).
These lackluster performances come two weeks after both Irada and Running Shaadi failed to earn $15,000 in their opening weekend in the United States and Canada. Given that JIKNH had the least star-power of the four films, its position at the bottom of the heap makes sense. Still, it speaks to the star-driven nature of movie attendance here that Commando 2 wasn’t able to earn more than it did. As a sequel, it had a preexisting fanbase that — while not huge — was enthusiastic for its release. With forty theaters in the US and nine in Canada, access to the film wasn’t a problem. Yet those factors weren’t enough to earn the six figures that would’ve marked the film a success. Commando 2‘s returns help to define the earning potential for Bollywood movies without A-list stars here, and that potential isn’t very high.
In its second weekend in theaters, business for Rangoon dropped nearly 80% from its opening weekend. That’s not as catastrophic as it might sound, but it’s not good, either. Rangoon earned $64,047 from 68 theaters ($942 average), bringing its total to $471,186. A few more days will push that total past $500,000, making it director Vishal Bhardwaj’s most successful film in North America to feature a female lead.
Other Bollywood movies showing in North American theaters:
The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 3; $30,118 from seventeen theaters; $1,772 average; $749,957 total
Raees: Week 6; $273 from one theater; $3,631,911 total
Two new Hindi films open in the Chicago area on March 3, 2017, including my most highly anticipated Hindi movie of the whole year. Commando 2 is the followup to the awesome 2013 action flick Commando, starring Vidyut Jammwal, Bollywood’s best action star. He’s joined in the sequel by Esha Gupta and Adah Sharma.
I have no idea why this is releasing internationally. If Running Shaadi earned less than $15,000 here with recognizable actors and the backing of a major studio, I don’t know why anyone thinks a romance starring Salman Khan’s brother is worth the effort. Maybe the timing’s better. We’ll see.
Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (god, I’m sick of typing this long-ass title already) opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 40 min.
Rangoon carries over for a second week at MovieMax, Cantera 17, and South Barrington 30, which also holds over Jolly LLB 2. MovieMax has the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack/Ghazi as well as the English-subtitled Telugu version, which also gets a third weekend at Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:
Dwaraka (Telugu w/no subtitles) at MovieMax and Seven Bridges
Rangoon opened to okay numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 24-26, 2017, the World War II drama earned $310,077 from 114 theaters, average earnings of $2,720 per theater. This is not an atypical performance for a film by director Vishal Bhardwaj here, especially when his movies center upon a female lead character as opposed to a male lead character. His two other female-led movies — 2011’s 7 Khoon Maaf and 2013’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola — posted opening weekend earnings of $164,153 and $338,726, respectively, and both finished with total earnings of less than $500,000. By contrast, Bhardwaj’s films about male lead characters — 2006’s Omkara, 2009’s Kaminey, and 2014’s Haider — all opened better ($427,400; $726,834; and $538,999, respectively) and all finished their North American runs with earnings in excess of $1 million.
The Ghazi Attack turned in the second best performance for an Indian film in North America over the weekend. In its second weekend of release, it earned $109,045 from 74 theaters ($1,474 average), bringing its total earnings to $678,013. I suspect most theaters have stopped carrying the Hindi version of the film, and that the weekend’s earnings are attributable almost exclusively to the Telugu version.
The two other Hindi films in their second weekend of release did god-awful business here. Irada earned $147 from three theaters ($49 average), bringing its total to $19,112, while Running Shaadi took in $110 from two theaters ($55 average), bringing its total to $15,428. Jeepers.
Other Bollywood movies still in North American theaters:
Jolly LLB 2: Week 3; $75,423 from 57 theaters; $1,323 average; $1,630,972 total
Raees: Week 5; $7,837 from eight theaters; $980 average; $3,629,128 total
Dangal: Week 10; $2,575 from two theaters; $1,288 average; $12,357,576 total
Kaabil: Week 5; $259 from two theaters; $130 average; $1,412,501 total
Director Vishal Bhardwaj explores the intersection of World War II and the Indian independence movement in Rangoon. The film starts strong but loses momentum and finesse as it progresses.
Aware of the potential to reach an international audience of WWII-movie buffs, Bhardwaj opens Rangoon with an efficient summary of the political climate in India in 1943, when the events of the film take place. The British still ruled India and thus employed hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers to fight the Japanese in places like Burma and Singapore. As a counter to Gandhi’s non-violent protest methods, the rebel Indian National Army (INA) allied with Japan to engage in a guerilla war against the Brits in the hopes of forcing them to relinquish control of India.
In Rangoon, not every Indian is interested in taking sides. Mumbai movie producer Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) and his family have prospered by cooperating with the occupying British, particularly Major General David Harding (Richard McCabe). Staying on the Brits’ good side ensures access to rare materials like film stock, allowing Rusi build a successful studio around his mistress, gorgeous action starlet Julia (Kangana Ranaut).
However, such a dependent relationship allows for exploitation, and Harding threatens to cut Rusi off unless he sends Julia to Rangoon to perform for the troops. A last-minute bit of trickery by Rusi’s grandfather — who disapproves of his married, high-brow grandson carrying on a public affair with a low-class actress — finds Julia heading to Rangoon on her own.
Well, not entirely on her own. In addition to her acting troupe, Julia is assigned a bodyguard: gruff former prisoner of war, Officer Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor). When a Japanese attack separates Julia and Nawab from the rest of the traveling party, the bond they form over their shared survival instincts turns into a dangerous attraction.
Only under duress does Julia come to question what it means to be free, not only on a national scale but on a personal one. Rusi literally bought Julia from her mother at the age of fourteen, after watching the girl perform knife-throwing tricks on the street. He molded her into a superstar, in the process turning her sense of gratitude into one of dependence. While Julia longs for the material security and fame that Rusi can provide as a patron and potentially a husband, he makes it clear that he controls her fate so long as she is tied to him. The inequality of their relationship mirrors the exploitative relationship between Britain and India.
Major General Harding personifies Britain’s sense of inherent superiority but also its fascination with Indian culture. He prides himself on his Hindi vocabulary and uses it to assert himself — in his mind — as more Indian than native Indians. A sequence in which a kurta-clad Harding plays a harmonium and sings a classical tune is uncomfortable to watch, so effective is it at depicting cultural appropriation. McCabe is very well cast for the part.
Of course, Harding’s affinity for India only extends so far. After Julia and Nawab find their way back to the group — which now includes Rusi — the trip becomes more perilous as it heads further into INA territory. Harding and his second-in-command, Major Williams (Alex Avery), are quick to assert their race-based authority over Indian soldiers they deem suspicious, with Harding stating: “I’m white. I’m always right.”
That blunt line of dialogue exemplifies the story’s late shift from subtle character development to broad, obvious drama. Scenes are dragged out, as if hammering away at the same emotional beats will enhance their impact, even though it just slows down the film. It’s an unfortunate choice, as if the filmmaker lost faith in his audience’s attentiveness and sought to make sure they didn’t miss the climax. The result is a breaking of the spell he’d so carefully built for the first three-quarters of the movie.
With the spell broken, special effects deficiencies become impossible to ignore. The setting for the climax requires a lot of green-screening and CGI, and it’s clear that the budget didn’t allow for more seamless execution. Then again, the scale of the setting doesn’t make the ending more meaningful, so a less grand arena filled with more practical effects would have worked just as well. An early battle scene between troops in a confined area is particularly stirring, and a better example of what Bhardwaj can accomplish when he deploys his resources for maximum impact.
As always, Bhardwaj’s best asset is the music he writes for his films, and Rangoon does not disappoint in that regard. The numbers Julia performs for the troops are fun, and “Yeh Ishq Hai” perfectly suits the sexy chemistry between Kapoor and Ranaut.
Both actors are as reliable as ever, with Ranaut bringing vulnerability to a woman who is more than capable of taking care of herself. As a royal descendant himself, Khan plays an aristocrat perfectly. Satoru Kawaguchi gives a notable performance as a Japanese soldier Julia and Nawab encounter in their time in the wild.
Even though the film ends with more of a whimper than a bang, there’s a lot to enjoy about Rangoon. International audiences should appreciate the opportunity to see an aspect of World War II rarely covered by Western cinema. Given the deftness with which Bhardwaj incorporates music into his movies, Rangoon is a fine introduction to Bollywood.