Tag Archives: Sarkar Raj

Bollywood Box Office: May 20-22

Last week, I wrote of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: “Even her lowest earning movies are average performers compared to the rest of the field.” That proved true once again with Sarbjit, which earned $130,199 from 83 theaters ($1,569 average) in North America during the weekend of May 20-22, 2016. It had the tenth best opening weekend of 2016 out of a field of 21 films.

While that opening weekend performance seems okay, by a number of metrics, it’s not. Sarbjit debuted a week after another biopic — the Emraan Hashmi-starrer Azhar — earned almost the exact same amount ($127,266) from 32 fewer theaters, with a per-screen average of $2,495. Sarbjit‘s 83 theaters represent the lowest number of opening weekend screens for one of Rai Bachchan’s movies since 2008’s Sarkar Raj opened in 70 North American theaters. More significantly, Sarbjit‘s opening weekend total is Rai Bachchan’s lowest since 2003’s Kuch Naa Kaho, and that film only released in 32 theaters.

There could be multiple contributing factors at play, such as audience fatigue from consecutive biopics, or the fact that Rai Bachchan became the face of promotions for a movie in which she doesn’t even play the title character, but there’s something more going on here. Rai Bachchan’s presence in a movie no longer guarantees a $1 million haul, the way it did during her heyday. Surely she’ll have better luck with her next project: director Karan Johar’s multi-starrer Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

In its second weekend, Azhar‘s business fell 85% from its opening weekend. Azhar earned $19,130 from 35 theaters ($547 average), bringing its total to $185,695.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Baaghi: Week 4; $3,329 from six theaters; $555 average; $435,687 total
  • Kapoor & Sons: Week 10; $748 from one theater; $2,661,188 total
  • Fan: Week 6; $630 from two theaters; $315 average; $2,302,581 total
  • 1920 London: Week 3; $40 from one theater; $24,834 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Rann (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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

It’s both sad and comforting to know that, on the other side of the world, people are as distrustful of the mainstream media as they are in America.

Rann (“Battle”) explores news organizations’ struggle for ratings supremacy and their ability to steer public opinion based on their coverage of news stories.

Amitabh Bachchan stars as Vijay Hashvardan Malik, a TV news pioneer who prides himself on truthfulness. As Vijay’s network loses advertisers to rivals that engage in tabloid journalism, his son, Jay (Sudeep), struggles to convince him to add more sensationalism to the network’s broadcasts.

With the network’s financial trouble widely known, Jay’s brother-in-law, Naveen (Rajat Kapoor), proposes to Jay a plan to save the network: favorable coverage of a shady politician named Mohan Pandey (Paresh Rawal) in exchange for advertising dollars from Naveen’s company.

Jay conveniently comes into possession of a video that tarnishes the reputation of Pandey’s main political rival. Jay convinces his father to broadcast the video in the name of truthfulness, and suddenly the network’s financial problems disappear.

A new reporter at the network, Purab (Ritesh Deshmukh), grows suspicious and investigates the politician’s story. What he discovers shakes his faith in the industry and in Vijay, the man who inspired him to become a journalist.

The collusion between the industrialists, politicians and networks is eerie and believable.  Bachchan and Deshmukh are quietly effective as a pair of idealists who come to realize that they’re playing a rigged game. Rawal is especially creepy as Pandey, who laughs off the bloodshed he inflicts as though it were a natural part of politics.

[I have a question for any Indian readers: Pandey is flanked by bodyguards who openly carry machine guns. I’ve seen this in other Hindi movies as well. Do politicians in India really travel with such visibly heavily armed guards? Just curious.]

Despite the universal appeal of the story, American audiences may struggle with poorly translated English subtitles. The subtitles also occasionally get lost against background shots of news programs with moving crawls at the bottom of the screen.

I’ve only seen two of Ram Gopal Varma’s films, but it’s clear that he’s an auteur with a distinct style and a love of filmmaking technique. In fact, I’d say he suffers from an over-reliance on camera technique. His cameras constantly swoop for dramatic effect and zoom in for close-ups of the actors’ faces. On those rare occasions when the camera is static, it’s positioned underneath a glass coffee table, or the shot is framed by an actor’s foot resting on said coffee table. Varma also inserts hilariously over-the-top musical cues to alert the audience whenever anything of import happens.

I found these directorial tics distracting in Varma’s Sarkar Raj, and they bugged me in Rann, as well. Rann‘s plot is riveting and so well acted that I wanted to focus on the story, not on the cinematography. With a story this good, we in the audience know how we’re supposed to feel without the aid of directorial gimmicks.

Rann‘s runtime is 2 hrs. 25 min.

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2008

There were plenty of movies in contention for the title of “Worst Bollywood Film of 2008.” Recent lousy offerings like Ghajini, Karzzzz, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Yuvvraaj threatened to overshadow crummy films from earlier in the year like Krazzy 4, Roadside Romeo and Summer 2007.

I decided to select the absolute worst movie of the year from films that I awarded zero stars when I reviewed them. Abhishek Bachchan starred in two of those movies: Sarkar Raj and Drona. I was tempted to give the dubious honor to Love Story 2050, if only because it suggested that we’ll all still be playing the Xbox 360 forty years from now.

But the worst movie of the year had to be the one that was most painful to watch, the one that wasn’t bad in a funny way (like Sarkar Raj, Drona and Love Story 2050), but was just bad. Based on those criteria, the Worst Bollywood Film of 2008 is Golmaal Returns. No other movie approached its level of immaturity and ineptitude. Everything about it was annoying, and if I hadn’t been reviewing it, I would’ve walked out of the theater after thirty minutes.

Congratulations, Golmaal Returns. May you never return again.

Movie Review: Sarkar Raj (2008)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

The considerable acting talents of Bollywood’s royal family, the Bachchans (Abhishek, wife Aishwarya Rai, and father Amitabh), are wasted in Sarkar Raj, a sequel to the 2005 gangster flick Sarkar. Absent a compelling script, director Ram Gopal Varma has to alert the audience when anything of even minor significance happens, using absurdly dramatic music and close-up shots of the actors’ most mundane reactions. Varma’s homage to The Godfather is as subtle as a horse head in your bed.

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on June 12, 2008