I don’t know why Ujda Chaman — the Hindi remake of the Kannada film Ondu Motteya Kathe (which is on Netflix) — is opening in Chicago area theaters on November 1, 2019. Housefull 4 ate Saand Ki Aankh‘s and Made in China‘s lunch last weekend. This isn’t going to go well.
It’s no surprise that Housefull 4 came out on top among this year’s trio of Diwali releases. From October 25-27, 2019, the comedy sequel earned $904,808 from 315 theaters ($2,872 average) in North America, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s not a particularly robust per-theater average, so we’re probably looking at a final total short of $3 million.
The other two new releases wilted against the competition. Saand Ki Aankh earned $101,900 from 204 theaters ($500 average), according to Bollywood Hungama. Made in China was just behind with $72,349 from 95 theaters ($762 average).
War still raged in its fourth weekend of release, earning $80,866 from 59 theaters ($1,371 average), bringing its total to $4,566,986.
Other Hindi and multilingual releases still in North American theaters:
The Sky Is Pink: Week 3; $10,741 from 14 theaters; $767 average; $713,682 total
Dream Girl: Week 7; $5,786 from seven theaters; $827 average; $2,332,417 total
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy: Week 4; $924 from four theaters; $231 average; $2,622,634 total
The real-life women who inspired Saand Ki Aankh (“Bull’s Eye“) are extraordinary, but the film about their lives is less so, because the actresses who play them are miscast. That isn’t to say that thirty-somethings Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar are bad in their roles. They’re just not convincing playing women in their sixties.
The main factor that keeps the movie from being immersive is that the “old lady” makeup and hair coloring applied to Pannu and Pednekar throughout looks absurd. It’s impossible not to notice it. Their temporary gray hair dye isn’t applied realistically and seems like something that you’d find at a Halloween store, meant to be sprayed on in the morning and washed out at night (if it hasn’t all flaked off by then). The same dye looks especially bad when painted onto Pednekar’s eyebrows. The texture of their face makeup might be passable for a stage performance, but it doesn’t holdup under the gaze of a movie camera.
Pannu and Pednekar play Prakashi and Chandro Tomar, respectively, two sisters-in-law living in a village in Uttar Pradesh in 1999. Their crowded household is shared by their husbands, children, and grandchildren, and governed by their husband’s older brother, Rattan Singh Tomar (Prakash Jha), along with his own wife and offspring.
All of the other performers in Saand Ki Aankh play characters their own age, with Rattan and his brothers played by younger actors in the film’s few flashbacks. Pannu and Pednekar are the only constants, further drawing attention to the age difference between the actresses and their characters. Given how brief the flashbacks are, there’s no logical explanation for why actresses aged closer to sixty weren’t cast in these roles.
Prakashi and Chandro have toiled for decades on behalf of their family: cooking, cleaning, stacking bricks, and each birthing eight children while their husbands lounge about. When Dr. Yashpal (Vineet Kumar Singh) opens a shooting range, promising government jobs to those who excel, the boys in the Tomar family scoff at the notion of working for a living. But Prakashi and Chandro recognize a chance for their granddaughters to break out of the stifling patriarchal system and chart their own destinies.
Secretly, Chandro brings her granddaughter Shefali (Sara Arjun) to the range, while Prakashi accompanies her daughter Seema (Pritha Bakshi). To encourage the two girls, the older ladies take their turns firing, only to discover that they are naturals. Dr. Yashpal convinces Chandro and Prakashi to enter a shooting tournament for seniors. In order to compete, they have to trick their husbands and brother-in-law into letting them travel to the city — no easy feat since Rattan’s strict rules for women includes veiling their faces even inside the house. The ladies pull off the ruse and win the tournament, starting their careers as clandestine sharpshooters.
For all its faults, Saand Ki Aankh is very clear about who Chandro and Prakashi are and what motivates them. They are housewives, and even after they taste success, they don’t expect more from life. When the husband of a fellow shooter talks about how proud he is of is wife, the sisters-in-law can barely understand how that’s possible. They accept that there is nothing they could accomplish that would make their husbands feel proud of them. They can only meet expectations or face potential violence for failing to do so.
It’s refreshing that, even though the story is inspiring, inspiration was never the goal of the characters. Everything Chandro and Prakashi do is for the betterment of the lives of their daughters and granddaughters.
Saand Ki Aankh‘s structuring is awkward, which is unfortunate, since this is the directorial debut of experienced screenwriter Tushar Hiranandani. Though Hiranandani didn’t write this script (which is credited to Balwinder Singh Janjua), perhaps he could have given it a final polish to reorganize it a bit. The film’s opening sequence — which repeats after about an hour when the story catches up to it chronologically — is overly long and not attention-grabbing enough to warrant a double take. Shefali serves as the off-screen narrator for a few random scenes, so it would’ve made more sense to open with her narration and use it consistently throughout. Trimming at least half-an-hour off the overall runtime would’ve helped, too.
The Tomar sisters-in-law have certainly lived lives worth making into a movie. I just wish this one was a little better.
Diwali weekend brings a trio of new Hindi films to Chicago area theaters on October 25, 2019. The widest release of the three goes to the latest entry in the Housefull movie franchise: Housefull 4 — noteworthy because the average age difference between the film’s male leads and their female love interests is 18.67 years.
Next up is the biographical drama Saand Ki Aankh (“Bull’s Eye“), in which Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu play sexagenarian sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar, respectively.
Saand Ki Aankh opens Friday at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Marcus Addison, Cantera, Woodridge 18, and AMC Niles 12 in Niles. It has runtime of 2 hrs. 26 min. Saand Ki Aankh‘s streaming partner is Zee5.
Finally, we have the comedy Made in China, starring Rajkummar Rao, Mouni Roy, and Boman Irani.
Made in China opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera, and Woodridge 18. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min. It’s heading to JioCinema after its theatrical run ends.
War carries over for a fourth week at the Regal Round Lake Beach, South Barrington 24, Cantera, and Woodridge 18.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend (all films have English subtitles):