Tag Archives: Shah Rukh Khan

Movie Review: Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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

Jab Harry Met Sejal (“When Harry Met Sejal“) feels like a movie constructed in reverse, only concerned with where the characters wind up, but not how or why they reach their destination. A lack of motivating factors makes it hard to invest in the characters, regardless of our affection for the actors playing them.

Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) finances his itinerant womanizing as a tour guide in Europe, bouncing from city to city on the run from memories that ultimately aren’t traumatic enough to warrant their blue-filtered flashbacks.

Before Harry can leave the airport after waving farewell to his latest batch of tourists, one member of the group flags him down, in need of help. Sejal (Anushka Sharma) lost her engagement ring, and she won’t return to India until she finds it. She’s sure she lost it in Amsterdam. Or was it Prague?

The first red flag in Jab Harry Met Sejal is that, despite having spent the last month leading Sejal, her fiance, and their families across Europe, Harry has to ask her name. Did he not learn it during the previous thirty days they spent in each other’s proximity? Not even by accident?

It’s suspicious that Sejal appears to have made no impression whatsoever on Harry, in spite of her undeniable beauty and his reputation as a guy who notices beautiful women. There is an uncomfortable subplot about Sejal’s insecurity about her sex appeal and her specific desire for Harry to find her sexy — a desire that manifests early in their ring-hunting adventure, well before Sejal develops any attraction to Harry (who evidently made as little an impression on her during her family vacation as she did on him).

If the point of Sejal’s engagement-ring-wild-goose-chase isn’t for her to create an opportunity to act upon a preexisting attraction to Harry, then what the hell is she doing? She blackmails Harry into working for her, threatening to falsely report him for sexual misconduct if he doesn’t. Sejal is sort of trying to live it up before her marriage to a guy named Rupen, but we don’t know enough about Sejal, Rupen, or their relationship to understand what’s really driving her actions.

During the course of her journey with Harry, Sejal declares herself his temporary girlfriend, complete with spooning benefits — but only until she finds her ring, she warns, cautioning him not to fall for her. The fake molestation threat plus her (kind of) leading him on gives the whole story an icky Men’s Rights vibe, made worse by Sejal’s classist assumption that she can buy an infinite amount of Harry’s time for the right price.

The temporary girlfriend idea is too stupid a conceit for people of the characters’ ages and intelligence levels — Sejal is a lawyer, for Pete’s sake — to concoct on their own. Writer-director Imtiaz Ali doesn’t seem to care why the characters get together, just that they do. He trusts that the audience’s desire to see characters played by Khan and Sharma get together — as they did in the delightful Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi — will trump their desire for narrative authenticity.

Khan looks amazing, smouldering and magnetic as ever. Sharma is goofy and adorable, especially during an awkward dance scene in a night club. Their performances are darned good, even while playing characters who don’t feel like real people. Ali is a much more talented filmmaker than this. Relying on his actors to shoulder the weight of an entire movie without a solid story to support them isn’t fair.

Links

Advertisements

Bollywood Box Office: January 27-29, 2017

There was a decisive winner in the first Bollywood box office battle of 2017. Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees bested the collections of Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil in North America by a factor of 3:1. During the weekend of January 27-29, 2017, Raees earned $1,742,565 from 289 theaters* ($6,030 average). Including collections from Wednesday and Thursday — both films opened on January 25 — Raees‘s total stands at $2,313,656.

Kaabil‘s total earnings since Wednesday are $781,064, with $631,923 of that coming from 253 theaters ($2,498 average) over the weekend.

The problem for Roshan isn’t that Kaabil failed to match Raees‘s earnings. It’s that this is the second consecutive box office showdown he’s lost. Last year, Roshan’s Mohenjo Daro finished second to Akshay Kumar’s Rustom despite opening in over 100 more theaters than Kumar’s film. In fact, Kaabil‘s opening weekend per-theater average of $2,498 is worse than Mohenjo Daro‘s $3,073 average. Even including earnings from Wednesday and Thursday, Kaabil‘s 5-day per-theater average is just $3,087. Given that Mohenjo Daro was widely derided as a flop, what does that make Kaabil?

Kaabil is going to earn more than $1 million here in the United States and Canada, which is good, but each battle lost diminishes Roshan’s perceived star-power. He’s not on the same level as the Three Khans, and last year’s battle shows him to be less popular here than Kumar at the moment. Even though Kaabil fared better in India relative to Raees, it still finished second. The scheduled Christmas, 2018 box office rematch between Roshan and Khan seems like another battle Roshan is destined to lose.

Other Hindi films still in North American theaters:

  • Dangal: Week 6; $77,817 from 30 theaters; $2,594 average; $12,255,617 total
  • OK Jaanu: Week 3; $131 from one theater; $351,054 total

*In the event that Bollywood Hungama’s North American theater figure actually counts Canadian theaters twice (as has happened in the past), the revised averages are $6,576 at 265 theaters for Raees and $2,772 at 228 theaters for Kaabil.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Raees (2017)

raees2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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

Raees (“Wealthy“) stars one of Bollywood’s most charismatic actors, a fact that the screenplay takes for granted. The story of a gangster’s rise to power lacks emotional depth, relying on the audience’s familiarity with Shah Rukh Khan’s dashing heroes of the past to fill in the blanks.

Raees (Khan) spent his childhood running liquor for Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni), a dangerous job given that Gujarat is officially an alcohol-free state. As a young man, Raees wants to branch out into his own boozy enterprise with his best friend, Sadiq (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), much to Jairaj’s resentment. A Mumbai don named Musa (Narendra Jha) helps Raees start his business after witnessing the Gujarati beat up a warehouse full of men while using a severed goat’s head as a weapon, all because someone dared to call the bespectacled Raees “four-eyes.”

As Raees’s illegal empire expands, he draws the attention of a straitlaced cop, Inspector Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who makes it his mission to put Raees out of business. This sets up a cat-and-mouse game that is never quite as clever as one hopes.

The nature of the criminal operations in Gujarat and Mumbai makes it difficult for Raees to keep his promise to his mother that no one should ever be harmed for the sake of business. Granted, most of the people Raees kills tried to kill him first, but he willingly puts his employees in danger during one fiery political protest. There’s some retroactive rephrasing to imply that what Mom really meant was that no innocents should be harmed, but that’s not what she said (at least according to the English subtitles).

This distinction is important, because Raees goes from emphatically rejecting violence to shooting up a room full of crooks without batting an eye. Raees himself doesn’t seem bothered by the morality of his actions, and no one holds him to task. It’s as though writer-director Rahul Dholakia expects Khan’s ardent fans to see him in the role of Raees and thus assume that his character’s actions are justified, no matter what they are.

In many gangster dramas, the role of the protagonist’s conscience often goes to his love interest, but Raees’s wife Aasiya (Mahira Khan) is a willing bootlegger. Mahira Khan is something special, teasing Raees with an irresistible smirk. She’s one of the film’s highlights, and she does a fine job in her musical numbers.

The movie’s showpiece song sequence to the tune of “Laila Main Laila” is eye-catching, juxtaposing Raees’s brutality against Sunny Leone’s shimmying. The best dancing in Raees, however, is Siddiqui’s Michael Jackson impersonation, a scene that is far, far too brief.

Khan, Siddiqui, and Ayyub are all good in Raees, but they could have been even better with a script that did more to develop their characters.

Links

Movie Review: Dear Zindagi (2016)

dearzindagi3 Stars (out of 4)

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

Dear Zindagi (“Dear Life“) is one of those movies that’s terrific through the climax, only to close with a denouement that undercuts much of the good that came before. Its unfortunate ending contradicts the primary life lessons learned by a young commitment-phobe over the course of the film.

Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is at that point where the biologically ingrained self-centeredness of the teens and early twenties must, by necessity, make way for a more empathetic means of interacting with the world. In short, she’s stuck.

Already an accomplished cinematographer with dozens of commercials and music videos to her credit, Kaira wants to finally shoot her own feature film. The perfect opportunity comes her way via a handsome producer, Raghu (Kunal Kapoor), with whom she’s been cheating on her handsome restaurateur boyfriend, Sid (Angad Bedi).

Raghu offers Kaira the chance to be the lead cinematographer on a film he’s producing in New York City. To address any awkwardness in advance, he warns Kaira that his ex-girlfriend is also working on the project. Kaira seizes on this minor complication as a reason to blow up her budding romance with Raghu and her chance to make the film.

When a new renting rule gets Kaira booted from her apartment, she has no choice but to embark on a visit to her parents’ house in Goa. Her relationship with her folks is icy at best, though only from her end. Mom offers to make Kaira’s favorite foods, and Dad happily boasts about her professional accomplishments. There has to be a reason for Kaira’s attitude, even if we don’t know what it is.

With time on her hands, Kaira takes the opportunity to explore her failed romantic relationships by meeting with an unconventional therapist, Jehangir “Jug” Khan (Shah Rukh Khan). He pushes her to consider why she’s so concerned about what other people think about her–and what, if anything, it has to do with her parents. To paraphrase Jug, Kaira is letting her past blackmail her present at the expense of her future.

Dear Zindagi deftly destigmatizes mental illness and therapy. Kaira is not conventionally “crazy,” but she repeats patterns of behavior that make her and those around her unhappy. She also lacks the conviction that her life choices are valid, regardless of what others say. Solving those problems is a lot easier with help, and the film depicts a recognizable version of cognitive behavioral therapy, flavored with a liberal dose of Shah Rukh Khan charisma.

Kaira is a refreshing character, the flip side of the more common cinematic man-child forced into adulthood by the love of a good woman. The whole point of Kaira’s journey is that she has to do it for herself, not for anyone else. Bhatt’s appeal makes her a wonderful choice for the role. She shines during a lengthy monologue in which she recounts the source of her enmity with her parents. Director Gauri Shinde wisely keeps Khan offscreen while Bhatt speaks, the camera alternating between Kaira in Jug’s office in the present day and flashbacks to her as a young girl. It’s a credit to the director’s faith in Bhatt as a lead performer that she doesn’t rely on Khan’s presence as a crutch.

Shinde — who also wrote the film — makes a couple of decisions that do a disservice to her complicated, intriguing protagonist. A small complaint is that, in addition to all of Kaira’s more interesting flaws, she is also clumsy. After Twilight, clumsy heroines are a bore. Sure, there are a few lines about Jug’s ability to repair broken things and broken people, but they didn’t need to be visualized so literally.

More problematic is an ending sequence that brings back Kaira’s ex-boyfriends for her moment of triumph. It’s mostly an act of fanservice to give the audience a last glimpse of Kapoor, Bedi, and Ali Zafar, who plays Kaira’s handsome Goa fling. Without getting into specifics, what transpires in this sequence undermines much of Kaira’s self-actualization.

Challenging female characters are a rare breed in film, and Shinde wrote a really good one. That’s why it’s so frustrating to be forced to ultimately view Kaira through a male lens, instead of being able to regard her as she is, unfiltered. Dear Zindagi is a step in the right direction, but it stumbles just before the finish line.

Links

Bollywood Box Office: April 15-17

Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan was the first movie of 2016 to earn more than $1 million in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. From April 15-17, 2016, Fan earned $1,338,753 from 308 theaters ($4,347 average).

The caveat to the celebrations is that, of the 13 films starring Khan that have released in North America in the last decade, Fan‘s opening weekend only ranks tenth. Additionally, Fan‘s opening weekend average is the worst of all Khan’s movies going back to 1999. Granted, Fan opened in 18 more theaters than Khan’s previous widest release, Dilwale, but that increase isn’t enough to explain such a low average. Musicals are Khan’s bread and butter, whereas Fan doesn’t have a single dance number.

That said, any movie starring Shah Rukh Khan makes a ton of money for theaters here. Among films showing in more than 100 theaters in North America over the weekend, Fan‘s per-screen average would rank third, behind new releases The Jungle Book and Barbershop: The Next Cut.

Ki and Ka closed out its third weekend with $34,175 from 38 theaters ($899 average), bringing its total to $892,159.

In its fifth weekend, Kapoor & Sons earned another $28,377 from 36 theaters ($788 average). Its North American total stands at $2,624,277.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening December 12: Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Yash Raj Films production Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi opens this Friday, December 12, in theaters across the United States. In the Chicago area, you can catch RNBDJ at the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and the AMC South Barrington 30. Check AMC’s website for showtimes.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi reunites Shah Rukh Khan with the director of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Aditya Chopra. Can Chopra recreate the success of DDLJ, or will Shah Rukh’s nerdy moustache prove too distracting?

Movie Review: Om Shanti Om (2007)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Even death can’t stop B-movie actor Om (Shah Rukh Khan) from proving his love for superstar Shanti (Deepika Padukone). The beautiful sets, extravagant dance numbers and dozens of cameos make this film both a love letter to Bollywood and a great example of the genre. Thanks to writer/director Farah Khan’s commitment to her vision and Shah Rukh Khan’s comedic skills, Om Shanti Om is perfect for new Bollywood-goers, yet rewarding for longtime fans.

No Rating (violence); 160 minutes

This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on November 16, 2007