As I mentioned in my Best Bollywood Movies of 2017 post, I liked many more 2017 releases than I disliked. That means that fewer of the movies on this year’s “Worst of” list are ones that I absolutely couldn’t stand, compared to previous years.
Take, for example, Noor, Naam Shabana, and Running Shaadi. I gave all of them 2-Star ratings, which means I only sort of didn’t like them. I just happened to like these three the least of all the movies I also rated 2 Stars. However, the seven other titles on the list did more than enough to earn their spots.
Several films had problems with the way they depicted their female characters, particularly in the way male characters controlled women’s bodies. Kriti Sanon’s character in Raabta was treated like an object, pushed and pulled at will by the men in her life. The title character in Badrinath Ki Dulhania tossed his girlfriend in the trunk of his car before choking her. Arjun Kapoor’s character in Half Girlfriend literally wouldn’t let go of Shraddha Kapoor’s character when she tried to get away from him.
Kaabil was the most egregiously sexist movie of this bunch, creating a capable, independent female lead — played by Yami Gautam — for the sole purpose of raping and killing her as motivation for Hrithik Roshan’s character to seek revenge. It’s a classic example of the “Women in Refrigerators” trope.
Other movies on the “Worst of” list were just poorly made. Like its 2013 predecessor, Fukrey, the comedy Fukrey Returns simply wasn’t funny. Baadshaho forgot what story it was telling along the way, resulting in an abrupt ending that leaves every important question unanswered.
My pick for the Worst Bollywood Movie of 2017 was the biggest offender in terms of bad filmmaking: Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. The unfocused story tried to address every important contemporary social issue, reaching its ridiculous apex when Manjari Fadnis’ feminist activist journalist character is randomly tasked with coordinating refugee medical care in a Middle Eastern war zone. The film’s third act is supposed to take place in Manhattan but was clearly filmed in Maryland (part of it was shot in Top Chef season 6 runner-up Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurant in Frederick). There’s unintentionally hilarious dialog, as when Fadnis’ character responds to a heckler’s “Nice ass, honey,” with “Yes, we have a nice ass, and we are proud of it.”
The pièce de résistance is a song number that features Manjari Fadnis dancing in outer space:
I fear that Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai will go the way of goofy 2014 Worst Movie runner-up Karle Pyaar Karle and disappear, never to be seen again either on DVD or streaming. It’s kind of a shame, since Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai is so damned wacky, one almost has to see it to believe it. Almost.
Check my Netflix and Amazon Prime pages to see which of these movies are available for streaming in the United States.
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
Running Shaadi‘s problematic characters and convenient solutions hamper this romantic-comedy, at the expense of its likeable lead actors.
Amit Sadh plays Bharose, right-hand-man to a bridal shop owner in Amritsar. Bharose is in love with the boss’s daughter, Nimmi (Taapsee Pannu), who falls in love with him in return after he helps her out of trouble. The trouble is an unplanned pregnancy following a fling with a fellow student at her high school. Bharose takes Nimmi out of town to get an abortion, at her request.
This scene is important not only because it depicts abortion as a routine medical procedure, but because the filmmakers refrain from using it to define Nimmi’s character. Too often, movies and television shows insist on portraying female characters as torn by the decision to have an abortion, as if they’d never considered the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy before. Nimmi has the procedure and moves on with her life, and Bharose’s feelings for her don’t change because of it. Kudos to writer-director Amit Roy and his co-writer Navjot Gulati for their progressive handling of the subplot.
Throughout Running Shaadi, female characters assert control over their romantic and sexual lives. Nimmi does as well, and in doing so ditches Bharose in favor of her new, more sophisticated college classmates.
Disenchanted with romance, Bharose enlists his tech-savvy roommate Cyber (Arsh Bajwa) to create a website to assist couples wishing to elope: RunningShaadi.com. (Days before the movie’s release, a court order required the filmmaker to mute every utterance of the words “dot com,” which is hugely distracting.) They develop elaborate escape plans and enlist a lawyer to facilitate the paperwork for marriages across caste and religion.
Where RunningShaadi.com’s service falls apart is that it doesn’t handle the fallout from the marriages, which clearly wouldn’t require elopement if the couples’ families approved in the first place. Bharose knows that family disapproval is a huge, sometimes dangerous problem, but he’s possessed of naive confidence that he can smooth out any disagreements. Something tells me that parents willing to shoot their own children rather than see them marry partners of their own choosing aren’t interested in reconciliation.
Bharose’s naivete is tied to a personal belief that he doesn’t express to his clients: he doesn’t really approve of elopement, as evidenced by his reluctance to utilize his own company’s services when faced with his own romantic difficulties.
Most of Bharose’s romantic troubles are caused by Nimmi, who is not an easy woman to love. She repeatedly does stupid things to endanger herself, Bharose, and Cyber. She’s also not especially nice to Bharose, calling him “illiterate” to emphasize the class divide between the two of them. Pannu does what she can with Nimmi, but our sympathies always lie with Bharose, thanks to Sadh’s charming performance.
It’s hard to feel the romance between Nimmi and Bharose, because Cyber is with them all the time. Even during romantic song numbers, the couple gazes longingly into each other’s eyes as Cyber looks on in the background.
As the film progresses, the main characters take less and less of a role in solving their own problems, instead letting happenstance provide convenient solutions. In key regards like the main plot, the central romance, and the resolution, Running Shaadi is ultimately unsatisfying.
Hindi films without A-list stars always face challenges at the North American box office, but February 17-19, 2017, seemed to be an especially difficult weekend for smaller titles. Here’s how the three new releases fared during the weekend in the United States and Canada:
The Ghazi Attack [combined earnings for Hindi, Telugu, & Tamil-dubbed versions]: $394,269 from 89 theaters* ($4,430 average); total including Thursday previews = $439,772
Running Shaadi: $10,260 from 58 theaters ($177 average)
*Here’s my weekly caveat that my main source, Bollywood Hungama, often counts the Canadian theaters twice in their opening weekend totals. The correct theater counts as confirmed by Sumit Chadha (and the adjusted averages) are as follows: The Ghazi Attack — 90 theaters, $4,381 avg.; Irada — 27 theaters, $486 avg.; Running Shaadi — 51 theaters, $201 avg.
Though The Ghazi Attack fared well, the figures for Irada and Running Shaadi are unmistakably bad. However, it’s worth pointing out a couple of mitigating factors at work this weekend. First, there are presently seven Hindi films showing in the US. Here’s how the older releases fared at the box office over the weekend:
Jolly LLB 2: Week 2; $345,480 from 190 theaters; $1,818 average; (*166 theaters, $2,081 avg.); $1,408,472 total
Raees: Week 4; $38,169 from 18 theaters; $2,121 average; $3,595,707 total
Kaabil: Week 4; $10,185 from ten theaters; $1,019 average; $1,409,691 total
Dangal: Week 9; $4,840 from four theaters; $1,210 average; $12,340,930 total
Not only did the new releases face stiff competition from Jolly LLB 2 — which held on to almost half of its opening weekend earnings in its second weekend — the three oldest releases also had better per-theater average earnings than either Irada or Running Shaadi.
However, competition isn’t the whole story. According to Box Office Mojo, business at the overall North American box office was down over 20% from the previous weekend, and the share of business for Indian and Pakistani films in North America dropped by roughly the same percentage. Whether due to a hangover following high-profile Hollywood and Bollywood releases last weekend or unseasonably warm weather in big markets like New York and Chicago drawing people outdoors, this was a tough weekend for new releases across the board.
Three(!) new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on February 17, 2017. The new movie getting the widest local release is the romantic-comedy Running Shaadi, starring Amit Sadh and the omnipresent Taapsee Pannu.
Also new this weekend is the eco-thriller Irada, starring Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah. It opens Friday at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30 and has a runtime of 1 hr. 49 min.
The third new film of the weekend is the submarine drama The Ghazi Attack, which stars Taapsee Pannu (again) opposite Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon, and Atul Kulkarni. The film — alternatively titled Ghazi — was shot simultaneously in both Hindi and Telugu, and both (English subtitled) versions are showing at Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge and MovieMax, which also carries the Tamil-dubbed version of the film. The Ghazi Attack has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 3 min.