Tag Archives: Sajid Khan

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2014

While I felt that there were more good Bollywood movies than bad released in 2014, the year did produce some truly awful Hindi films. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Some primarily suffered from poor story construction. In Jai Ho, Salman Khan inexplicably goes on a violent rampage when people fail to embrace his “pay it forward” scheme, resulting in Suniel Shetty plowing through traffic in a tank. Another Khan film — Kick — makes even less sense, as Khan transforms from a dopey slacker into Robin Hood overnight, and none of the supposedly intelligent characters in the film realize it’s him. Koyelaanchal‘s disorganized plot is a problem, but not as big a problem as its multiple flashbacks from the perspective of a baby.

I often write about gender issues in my reviews, so it’s no surprise that many of the worst movies of the year portrayed women negatively. The Xpose is essentially a morality lecture for women delivered by writer-actor-composer Himesh Reshammiya. According to Super Nani, a woman’s only real asset is her beauty, even if she’s old enough to be a grandmother.

A few lousy 2014 movies actually fancy themselves as socially progressive, even though they aren’t. Kaanchi inaccurately characterizes the heroine’s personal revenge as representative of a youth uprising against systemic corruption. The hero of Heropanti denounces arranged marriage while simultaneously affirming a father’s right to choose his daughter’s husband. Daawat-e-Ishq — the most disappointing Hindi film of 2014, given the quality of its cast and crew — depicts men as the real victims of dowry tradition.

The delightfully inept Karle Pyaar Karle could have been a perfect “so bad, it’s good” movie, were it not for a racist subplot. The movie’s heroine is threatened with forced marriage to a dark-skinned African man, a character introduced solely to represent the worst fate imaginable for an Indian woman. The hero and heroine use racial slurs, and the heroine’s mother proposes suicide for herself and her daughter as a way to avoid the marriage. It’s an offensive and frustrating end to an otherwise unintentionally hilarious movie.

The absolute worst Hindi movie of 2014 combines the shortcomings of the other films on the list and multiplies them exponentially. That film is the loud and tacky Humshakals. Offensive jokes are aimed at almost every group except straight Indian men, with director Sajid Khan’s preferred target being overweight women. As one can infer from the female characters Khan wrote for the movie, his ideal woman is a brainless sex object.

Unlike Karle Pyaar Karle, there’s nothing funny about Humshakals, intentional or unintentional. It’s a cynical film, pandering to the basest prejudices of the lowest common denominator. Sajid Khan writes the mean-spirited jokes he does because he thinks he can get away with them. It’s time for not only the audience but members of the industry to tell him that we deserve better.

Worst Hindi Movies of 2014

  1. Humshakals — Buy at Amazon
  2. Karle Pyaar Karle
  3. Kick — Buy at Amazon
  4. Koyelaanchal — Buy at Amazon
  5. Heropanti — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Jai Ho — Buy at Amazon
  7. Daawat-e-Ishq — Buy at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Super Nani — Buy/rent at iTunes
  9. The Xpose — Buy at Amazon
  10. Kaanchi: The Unbreakable — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes

Previous Worst Movies Lists

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Movie Review: Humshakals (2014)

Humshakals_poster0 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

How does a filmmaker who goes out of his way to set a low bar for himself still fail to make a movie that’s even slightly funny or appropriate? Director Sajid Khan achieves that feat with Humshakals (“Lookalikes“), his worst film yet in a career full of horrible films.

Khan opens Humshakals with an allegedly humorous director’s note about having forgotten something important a wise man once told him. Then he introduces his main character, Ashok (Saif Ali Khan), a millionaire moonlighting as a terrible standup comedian. Later, Ashok and his best friend, Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh), are tortured by being forced to watch Khan’s awful 2013 film Himmatwala.

Ashok’s bad jokes are pertinent because they set up a theme that runs through all of Khan’s movies: a lack of respect for women. Even if Khan doesn’t personally feel that way, he panders to the segment of the audience that does.

Ashok’s jokes are straight out of my 8-year-old nephew’s joke book, yet TV presenter Shanaya (Tamannaah Bhatia) finds them unironically hilarious. Beautiful and stupid: Khan’s ideal woman.

Shanaya’s not the only mental lightweight in the movie. Ashok and Kumar are imprisoned in a mental asylum by Ashok’s evil uncle, Mamaji (Ram Kapoor), alongside a pair of identical lookalikes, also named Ashok (Saif) and Kumar (Riteish), only the lookalikes have the mental capacity of children.

In yet another knock against women, the asylum’s psychologist, Dr. Shivani (Esha Gupta), falls instantly in love with Stupid Ashok when he tells her she’s pretty. Shivani — a doctor — is so insecure and desperate to have her physical appearance validated that she agrees to marry the first man who compliments her, even if he has the intellectual capacity of a grade schooler.

At least twice more Khan asserts the belief that a woman’s most important quality is her appearance. Shivani, Shanaya, and Mishti (Bipasha Basu) — a doctor, a TV presenter, and Rich Ashok’s estate manager — save the day by baring their midriffs and performing a racy dance number.

The worst is what happens when hefty Mamaji’s lookalike, Johnny (Ram), dresses in drag to help Rich Ashok and Rich Kumar. As soon as Johnny appears on screen in a dress and wig, the soundtrack is punctuated with elephant sound effects. Not when Johnny is dressed as a man of exactly the same proportions, only when he’s pretending to be a woman.

When a woman’s only value is how sexually appealing she is to straight men, there’s no greater character flaw than being overweight or unattractive. It’s such an egregious flaw that it deserves ridicule, even though an overweight man does not.

Khan really, really likes to poke fun at people he thinks are abnormal. Jokes are made at the expense of overweight women, little people, gays, Koreans, and especially the mentally ill. Everyone in the movie with a mental illness is also portrayed as being intellectually deficient.

Know who else Khan thinks are hilarious? Nazis. The asylum’s warden (played by Satish Shah) wears an SS uniform and prays to a photo of Adolf Hitler. He gives a “Heil Hitler” salute and threatens to send Ashok and Kumar to the “gas chamber.” Because there’s nothing funnier than genocide.

In addition to lacking empathy or an appropriate sense of humor, Khan is also a thief. Stupid Ashok mistakes a model of an orphanage for an “orphanage for ants,” a joke lifted from 2001’s Zoolander (I’ve included a video of the original below). Khan stole a joke from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for Himmatwala, so this is a pattern.

On top of all these offenses, Humshakals just plain sucks. Shots are out of focus. The plot moves at a snail’s pace. The songs are soulless. The choreography is lazy. The acting is bad, even though Ram Kapoor tries to humanize his characters.

With this track record of misogyny, intellectual property theft, and general disrespect for large segments of the global community, it’s time for actors to question whether appearing in a Sajid Khan film is worth the paycheck. I hope that the actors in Humshakals didn’t realize how offensive the movie was as they were making it (although Saif and Riteish should’ve known better when asked to prance around as a pair of gay stereotypes). I’m trying not let this piece of garbage tarnish my respect for them as performers, but it’s difficult.

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Bollywood Box Office: June 20-22

Despite being lambasted by critics, Humshakals performed reasonably well in its first weekend in North American theaters. From June 20-22, 2014, Humshakals earned $262,502 from 165 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,591.

That $262,502 gross isn’t exceptional, but it’s in keeping with the total earnings of several Hindi comedies released in 2013 in North America.

Humshakals is likely to stick around for another week, so its total earnings will probably be closer to those of Besharam than Yamla Pagla Deewana 2. In 2013, a film only needed to earn upwards of $230,000 to finish in the top half of highest earning Hindi movies in the U.S. and Canada, so Humshakals is well-positioned to finish in the top half for 2014.

However, Besharam was considered a box office flop relative to expectations, so matching its total is nothing to brag about. In one crucial regard, Humshakals already lags behind. Besharam opened in an overly ambitious 217 theaters in North America, and its first weekend per-screen average was $2,323. Humshakals — whose 165-theater opening was also too ambitious — only averaged $1,591.

That’s a lower opening weekend average than director Sajid Khan’s last critically panned film: 2013’s Himmatwala, which averaged $1,998 on 99 screens in its first weekend before posting a final tally of $270,880.

While Humshakals‘ earnings aren’t horrible, they’re not great. Its performance — like the performance of Besharam — highlights the importance of correctly judging demand for your product and booking the right number of theaters accordingly.

One other Hindi movie opened in limited release in the U.S. on June 20, and its numbers are so bad that I can hardly believe they’re correct. Miss Lovely opened in three U.S. theaters, from which it earned just $558. Total. Despite a strong festival pedigree, its release wasn’t promoted in any meaningful way (unlike The Lunchbox), so potential moviegoers may not have known about it. Maybe Miss Lovely will have more success when it opens in Chicago and Austin this Friday.

Other Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada from June 20-22 included:

  • Holiday: Week 3; $48,468 from 34 theaters; $1,426 average; $806,123 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 17; $20,354 from 22 theaters; $925 average; $3,963,922 total
  • Filmistaan: Week 3; $90 from one theater; $45,013 total
  • Heropanti: Week 5; $82 from one theater; $63,172 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama.

Movie Review: Himmatwala (2013)

Himmatwala0.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Can someone check director Sajid Khan to make sure his brain is still functioning? Lack of neural activity is the only way I can explain why someone would be so unaware of current events as to make a film as out of touch as Himmatwala.

Himmatwala is a remake of a hit film from 1983, a period when cultural views of gender equality were less advanced than they are today. Khan sets the events of his remake in 1983, but that doesn’t mean that every detail of the remake must be exactly the same as the original. In fact, characters make numerous references to modern life — things like swine flu and YouTube — that were obviously not part of the original.

(Further evidence that this is not a strict remake is that Khan lifts an iconic scene directly from the 1987 comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I’ve included a video of the original scene at the end of the review.)

The problematic sequences have to do with the film’s depiction of women. The film shifts from a light-hearted, Looney Tunes-inspired comedy in the first half, to a more serious story in the second, though refusing to abandon its comedic elements entirely. As a result, women’s suffering is made light of, existing only as a prompt for jokes.

The story centers on Ravi’s (Ajay Devgn) return to his hometown, which he left as a boy. His father, a respected priest, had been framed by the evil town overlord, Sher Singh (Mahesh Manjrekar), and driven to suicide. When young Ravi attacks Sher Singh, Singh’s goons burn Ravi’s house, presumably with his mother, Savitri (Zarina Wahab), and his younger sister, Padma, still inside. Upon learning that his mother and now-adult sister (played by Leena Jumani) survived, forced to live in squalor on the outskirts of town, Ravi returns.

In the process of restoring the family home, Ravi inspires the impoverished villagers to hope for a life out from under the thumb of Sher Singh. Ravi’s divinely endowed heroism wins the love of Singh’s bratty daughter, Rekha (Tamannaah), and gets her to stop being mean to the poor townsfolk.

Up to this point, the tone is relatively light. There are a few impressive dance numbers, lots of cartoonish sound effects, and direct-to camera asides from Narayan Das (played by an incredibly annoying Paresh Rawal), Singh’s brother-in-law.

The tone changes when Padma reveals that she and Narayan’s son, Shakti (Adhyayan Suman), are in love. Ravi objects to his sister’s relationship with the nephew of his arch-rival, but relents and apologizes to Shakti when he sees how unhappy Padma is. This apology is an insufficient balm for Shakti’s wounded pride, and he conspires with his father and uncle to ruin Ravi by physically and emotionally torturing Shakti after going through with a sham marriage to her.

But first, Padma is almost raped by a gang of Singh’s goons. After trapping her in an abandoned train car, the lead goon declares, “I will molest you, and then your brother will kill himself.”

Of course, Ravi shows up in time to save Padma, but his pre-fight announcement is less than reassuring. He says, “If you lose your dignity and your life, you can never get them back. I will definitely protect my sister’s dignity, but who will protect you from me?” Then he announces that women need not fear when there’s a himmatwala (“brave heart”) around to protect them.

I feel comfortable speaking for all women when I say, I don’t want a man to protect me; I don’t want to be threatened in the first place! And why, as a woman, is my virtue at stake if I get molested against my will? I didn’t do anything wrong, the man who molested me did.

After escaping the rapists, Padma marries Shakti, who whips her when she complains about being psychologically tortured by him and Narayan. She reports her miserable living conditions to Ravi. Their mother restrains her son’s justifiable urge to beat up Shakti, saying, “When a girl moves to her husband’s house, she leaves only after she dies.”

Ravi and Rekha concoct a scheme to extort Singh the same way he’s extorting Ravi. They pretend that the worst possible thing has happened to Rekha: that Ravi has gotten her pregnant out of wedlock!

While Singh begs Ravi to marry Rekha and spare him public humiliation, Ravi sets about trying to right the wrongs committed against Padma. He does so by forcing Narayan and Shakti to sweep and wash dishes (how womanly!), and then he puts a crab in Singh’s pants, causing the overlord to dance around. Hilarious, right?

So, according to Himmatwala, equivalent punishment for physically abusing a woman (not to mention the near gang rape, ostensibly sanctioned by Singh) is light housework and mild embarrassment.

With new stories of some horrific gang rape emerging from all over India seemingly every month, it’s time for moviemakers to stop treating the abuse of women as a joke. Remakes are fine, but they need to be updated to fit the times. Sajid Khan is should be ashamed of himself.

*Here’s the scene Khan stole from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, recast with Singh and Narayan. The English subtitles in Himmatwala are exactly the same as the spoken dialog in the original:

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