Bonus for those of you racing to catch Rocky Handsome before it departs on the 17th: Shah Shahid and I recorded a podcast episode comparing Rocky Handsome to the movie it’s based on, The Man From Nowhere. Spoiler: the girl in Rocky Handsome may have driven me a little crazy. [Update: Rocky Handsome is already gone. Thanks to reader Ryan G for noticing!]
Access Bollywood turns ten today! I can hardly believe it. The site’s come a long way since I posted my first review on September 13, 2008 — Salman Khan’s God Tussi Great Ho.
I’m blown away by how much the site has grown over the years. In its first full year of operation (2009), the site was viewed 3,719 times. Fast forward to 2017, we finally hit the milestone of 1 million views in a year, ending the year with 1,057,499 hits. I’m proud to say that we surpassed last year’s view total on September 1, with over 1.1 million hits so far in 2018. We had our busiest day ever on September 8 — with 8,749 views in a single day!
Access Bollywood originated offline as a newspaper column in 2007. I spotted the Naperville Sun’s movie critic at the time, Josh Larsen, at an event and pitched him an idea: “No Chicago newspapers review Hindi movies. Can I do it?” Josh and his editor, Wendy Fox Weber, kindly agreed, and Access Bollywood was born (Josh came up with the name). I took my reviews online before the column wrapped in late 2008, and the rest is history.
The site has been a great vehicle to share my enthusiasm for Hindi films and hopefully help longtime fans and newcomers find movies they’d be interested in, whether in theaters or on streaming. It’s also connected me with so many lovely people who share my interests, many of whom have become good friends — be they across the world like Parth and Keyur in India and Sammy in New Zealand, or close to home like Melanie, who lives a few miles away.
One of the greatest gifts the site has given me is my friendship with Shah Shahid. What began with us trading comments on each other’s websites developed into the Split Screen Podcast, where Shah allows me to vent about things I don’t like, including the girl in Rocky Handsome and the kid in Little Boy. More importantly, Shah’s been a kind, funny, and wonderful friend, and I’m lucky to know him.
The unsung hero behind Access Bollywood is my husband, Greg. He pitches in as the site’s editor, graphic designer, tech expert, and occasional photographer. More importantly, he’s the one with a job that has health insurance and a steady paycheck, stuff that makes my life possible. He’s the best husband anyone could ask for.
And thanks to all of you who’ve visited the site over the years, whether you’ve left a comment, tweeted to me, or even if you’ve just dropped in to see what’s new on the Netflix list. We’re exploring new ideas for the site, including the possibility of page sponsorships in place of ads, so stay tuned.
Ki and Ka held up better than expected in its second weekend at the North American box office, with business dropping only 55% from its opening weekend. From April 8-10, 2016, it earned $197,537 from 118 theaters ($1,674 average), bringing its total earnings to $786,024 in the United States and Canada.
Likewise, Kapoor & Sons continued its strong run into its fourth weekend of release, earning another $122,267 from 79 theaters ($1,548 average). Its total of $2,558,005 currently stands atop the 2016 leaderboard, but Shahrukh Khan’s Fan — which releases Friday — will almost certainly take over the top spot in short order.
Other Hindi movies still showing in US theaters:
Rocky Handsome: Week 3; $1,110 from four theaters; $278 average; $132,858 total
Neerja: Week 8; $578 from one theater; $1,707,911 total
The Split Screen Podcast is back! In Episode 12, show host Shah Shahid and I initially try to view Rocky Handsome through the eyes of someone who’s never seen the South Korean movie on which it’s based, but the gloves come off once we start comparing Rocky to The Man From Nowhere, one of my favorite action films. As our pal Parth Gandhi tweeted: “Won Bin >>>> John Abraham.”
Ki and Ka debuted to decent numbers in North America that nevertheless fell short of expectations. From April 1-3, 2016, Ki and Ka earned $432,533 from 145 theaters ($2,983 average). That’s the fifth best opening weekend for a Bollywood film in the United States and Canada this year, but Ki and Ka opened in the third most theaters. Among the movies at the top of the list, Ki and Ka‘s opening weekend has more in common with that of Fitoor ($2,082 average from 163 theaters) than it does Kapoor & Sons ($6,013 average from 162 theaters).
Another thing that Ki and Ka has in common with Fitoor is a lackluster IMDb rating. Ki and Ka currently hovers at 5.9, just slightly better than Fitoor‘s 5.7. (By contrast, other big releases like Kapoor & Sons, Neerja, and Airlift all rate above 8.) With no new Hindi films likely to release in North America this coming weekend, Ki and Ka should be spared Fitoor‘s 85% drop in business from Week 1 to Week 2, but a 75% drop seems plausible.
Speaking of dramatic drops in business, Rocky Handsome‘s second weekend earnings fell by about 85% from its first. It took in $11,769 from 30 theaters ($392 average) to bring its total to $128,868.
Kapoor & Sons was still going strong in its third weekend, adding another $257,068 from 140 theaters ($1,836 average). Its total earnings stand at $2,359,775.
Neerja ran for a seventh weekend in just two theaters, earning $1,067 ($534 average) to bring its total to $1,706,830.
New release Rocky Handsome failed to make an impact at the North American box office. From March 25-27, 2016, it earned $85,625 from 74 theaters ($1,157 average). As with many Bollywood action movies, Rocky Handsome was disproportionately more popular in Canada than the United States. The 11 Canadian theaters carrying the film — 15% of the total theaters — accounted for nearly a third of the total collections. The per-screen average in the Canadian theaters was $2,504, compared to $922 in the US. Rocky Handsome will be lucky to carry over in 30 theaters for a second week and will likely finish its North American run with earnings south of $150,000.
Kapoor & Sons, on the other hand, had a phenomenal second weekend in North America. After adding 11 theaters to bring its total count to 173, it earned another $587,085 ($3,394 average). That’s the best second-weekend performance of the year by over $100,000. Its total stands at $1,914,238, already overtaking Airlift for the top earner of 2016.
Neerja hung around for a sixth weekend in seven theaters, earning $2,927 ($418 average) to bring its total to $1,704,386.
The weekend’s best performer was the new Telugu release Oopiri, which debuted with earnings of $880,335 from 90 theaters ($9,782 average). Phenomenal!
When reviewing a remake, comparison to the original can be unavoidable. One can’t very well unsee a movie just to be able to evaluate its remake without preconceptions. The question then becomes: had I not seen the original, how do I think I would feel about the remake?
Had I seen Rocky Handsome first, I presume that I would have found it convoluted but interesting, especially in regard to its brutal violence and dark thematic elements. However, having already seen The Man From Nowhere — the South Korean film on which Rocky Handsome is based — the Hindi remake doesn’t hold a candle to the original.
Rocky Handsome‘s story is virtually identical to The Man From Nowhere, though the action shifts from Seoul to Goa. A solitary pawn shop owner (John Abraham) nicknamed “Handsome” by his neighbors goes on a killing spree when gangsters kidnap Naomi (Diya Chalwad), a neglected little girl who lives in his building. As Handsome tracks down Naomi, the cops and gangsters pursuing him learn the truth about this mysterious assassin.
Structural changes by director Nishikant Kamat and writer Ritesh Shah make the early parts of Rocky Handsome confusing. Apart from an opening credits musical flashback to Handsome’s romance with Rukshida (Shruti Haasan), the first twenty minutes focus on his tenuous friendship with Naomi, with only a glimpse of the girl’s drug-addicted mother, Anna (Nathalia Kaur). There’s no setup for an intense scene when Naomi discovers her mother being tortured by gangsters in their apartment.
A flashback explains that, one month earlier, Anna stole some heroin without realizing it belonged to notorious mafia brothers Kevin (director Nishikant Kamat) and Luke (Teddy Maurya) Fereira. In The Man From Nowhere, the theft is the opening scene. The audience knows that there will be hell to pay, but not how or when, thus building tension, if not dread.
Also during the flashback, the local police present a rapid-fire montage of the main players in the Goa drug trade, as if it’s possible for the audience to remember so many characters and relationships introduced in such a short span of time.
The selling point in the trailer for Rocky Handsome is the movie’s violence, which is handled well. It’s bloody and cruel, and John Abraham successfully pulls off everything from shootouts to knife fights. A dilapidated church is an eerie staging ground for a climactic battle.
Abraham is less successful in his characterization. As a man grieving his dead wife, he seems more emo than haunted. He first appears on screen slouching under a hoodie like a sullen teen.
Characterization is the biggest problem in Rocky Handsome. Naomi is too chipper, especially compared to her world-weary prototype from The Man from Nowhere, So-Mi. The brothers’ Thai assassin Attila (Kazu Patrick Tang) is flat and has no impact on the narrative, unlike the vitally important Rowan from the original.
Worst of all is Maurya, who turns eccentric Luke into an impotent joke. There’s nothing frightening to Luke’s antics, and he becomes increasingly annoying the longer he’s on screen.
Truth be told, there are few tense moments in Rocky Handsome. Bollywood doesn’t do menace particularly well, though Kamat and Shah had a perfect template to work from. Though there’s plenty of gore, they shy away from the best opportunities to scare the audience.
As I wrote at the outset, if I hadn’t seen The Man From Nowhere, I’d probably have been more entertained by Rocky Handsome. If entertaining is good enough, then by all means, buy a ticket for Rocky Handsome. But if you want greatness, skip it and watch The Man From Nowhere on Netflix instead.