With a new year underway, let’s take one last look at the biggest Hindi cinema duds of last year. Here are my picks for the worst Bollywood movies of 2016. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
I’m a little loath to include Baaghi on this list because the film is so unintentionally funny, but it’s also really, really bad, so I guess I have to.
Madaari tries to paint a guy who kidnaps and threatens to kill a little kid as a hero, thus earning it a spot on the list.
All the rest of the worst films of 2016 are problematic in the way they relate to women. Shivaay is weirdly hostile, while Sanam Re is tacky and outdated.
Ki and Ka‘s comedic approach to gender norms falls flat when its male character becomes a national role model just by doing chores. Still, Ki and Ka is positively progressive compared to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, a movie built around the stereotype that white women are sluts.
The worst film of the year is written and directed by the same man who wrote the dialogue for Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Milap Zaveri. Mastizaade is hatred masquerading as comedy, a mean-spirited attack on everyone who isn’t a straight, Indian man. Zaveri’s targets include women, addicts, and non-Indians, but he’s particularly fond of picking on people with disabilities. His characters literally point and laugh at a man in a wheelchair. This is about as loathsome as a film can be. Mastizaade‘s title as my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2016 is well deserved.
Force 2 got off to a powerful start at the North American box office, especially considering its small theatrical footprint. From November 18-20, 2016, Force 2 earned $115,762 from 46 theaters ($2,517 average). Its theater count ranks 35th out of 46 Hindi films released here this year — tied with Mastizaade — yet it performed well enough to rank 27th in terms of opening weekend gross and 17th in opening weekend average. Here’s how star John Abraham’s other 2016 releases fared in their opening weekends in North America:
Dishoom: $435,497 from 111 theaters ($3,923 average)
The sequel to the super-fun action flick Force hits Chicago area theaters on November 18, 2016. John Abraham returns for Force 2, this time teaming up with Sonakshi Sinha against a villain played by Mardaani‘s Tahir Raj Bhasin.
Rock On 2, the sequel nobody wanted. During the weekend of November 11-13, 2016, Rock On 2 earned $80,139 from 95 North American theaters ($844 average). It’s one of only two Hindi films to release in more than 75 theaters here to earn less than $100,000 it is opening weekend (the other being the year’s biggest flop, Mirzya). Considering that, over the same weekend, theaters made more showing Finding Dory — which has been out for almost six months — expect Rock On 2 to lose the majority of its theaters on Friday.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil held up well for a third weekend, earning another $261,378 from 185 theaters ($1,413 average). Its North American total stands at $4,018,980.
Also in its third weekend of release, Shivaay added another $33,284 from 27 theaters ($1,233 average), bringing its total to $681,382. That’s well behind Dishoom‘s $803,195 total, meaning Shivaay will finish its run in 17th place for the year so far.
As producer, director, and star of Shivaay, Ajay Devgn had the freedom to create exactly the film he wanted. Such a concentration of power meant there was no one to tell him when he was headed in the wrong direction. As a result, Devgn’s second directorial venture is dense and slow, with an undercurrent of hostility toward women.
Shivaay‘s titular hero is another rendition of the human instrument of divine justice Devgn regularly plays. The character’s slightly superhuman qualities are displayed in an early song sequence, with Shivaay speedily descending a mountain while lyrics proclaim that “Shiva is in all of us.” Godlike, Shivaay tells some soldiers he rescued, “I will be here whenever I am needed.”
Unlike Devgn’s iconic character — police officer Bajirao Singham, from the Singham films — Shivaay isn’t beholden to the rules of any professional organization. He defines his own morality, which conveniently allows him to destroy much of Bulgaria in his quest to free his daughter from child traffickers.
His daughter, Gaura (British child actor Abigail Eames), is the product of an affair between Shivaay and Olga (Polish actress Erika Kaar), a Bulgarian woman studying in India. They fall in love on one of Shivaay’s Himalayan treks, for which Olga inexplicably packs short-shorts and tank tops. He saves her from an avalanche, establishing a precedent for Shivaay to rescue dozens of other women in distress before the closing credits roll.
The sequence that accompanies the song “Darkhaast” had the potential to be an interesting take on traditional romantic numbers. Shivaay and Olga make love in a precariously positioned tent as they await rescue after the avalanche. Olga is frightened as the tent falls to a ledge below, but the song continues, as do Shivaay’s romantic overtures, assured as he is of their divine protection. The problem is that Olga has a broken leg. Ain’t no way she gonna be rollin’ about and climbing on him with a broken leg!
Olga convalesces at Shivaay’s house, reminding him that she has to return to Bulgaria soon because her mother and sister depend on her financially. When Olga accidentally gets pregnant, Shivaay ignores her pleas not to be forced to carry a child she doesn’t want and can’t afford to care for. “Please give me this child…and you go,” he tells her. She caves to his emotional blackmail and births Gaura, but returns to Bulgaria without so much as looking at her daughter. Gaura grows up, inheriting her mother’s fair complexion and her father’s love for mountain climbing.
Casting Eames is a mistake for a couple of reasons. In order to work around Eames’ British accent and presumable inability to speak Hindi, Gaura is mute. Gaura is also supposed to be eight years old, yet Eames was twelve when Shivaay was filmed and looks very much her age. The miscasting is particularly distracting when Gaura throws violent tantrums that would be considered immature enough for an actual eight-year-old, much less a tween.
Gaura finds evidence that her mother is not dead — as she’d been told — and she demands to meet Olga. Father and daughter travel to Bulgaria and immediately stumble upon a child trafficking ring. Shivaay liberates a little boy and exposes the criminals, who kidnap Gaura in retaliation. By this point, there’s been an avalanche, a love affair, childhood montages, and an international trip, and the movie is barely an hour into its two-and-a-half hour runtime.
The quest to rescue Gaura triggers several chase sequences that would be more exciting if they were half as long. Also, with Devgn in charge of everything, perhaps no one felt comfortable addressing his rigid, sluggish running form. Many members of the audience at my showing headed to the restroom or concession stand during the action sequences, which is a worse condemnation than anything I can write.
Years spent raising Gaura haven’t tempered Shivaay’s anger at Olga, and he unleashes a torrent of abuse at her when she comes forward to help find Gaura. Nevermind that Shivaay didn’t even try to contact Olga before heading to Bulgaria, which would’ve avoided this whole problem in the first place, yet again placing his own desires before hers.
Shivaay’s hostility toward Olga is part of a weird undercurrent in the film that seems to question women’s ability to love children. Note the absence of mothers from the movie. Shivaay himself grew up without a mother, as did Gaura. When Shivaay frees another woman from forced prostitution, she doesn’t mention her mom, only wondering why her father didn’t come to save her.
Then there’s Anu (Sayesha Saigal), an Indian embassy worker who lives with her elderly father (she’s motherless, too, apparently). When Anu tells Shivaay to stop acting like a criminal, he takes her hostage, all the while questioning her patriotism for daring to tell an Indian man what he can’t do. Anu’s father sides with Shivaay, explaining that he simply did what any father would do to save his child, and that Anu can’t possibly understand. By that logic, doesn’t that then obligate Anu’s dad to attack Shivaay for trying to harm Anu?
All the hostility toward women, combined with bad pacing and monotonous action scenes, make Shivaay a slog. The most amusing moment in the film is when a hacker played by Vir Das yells, “I’m being double hacked!” But that line’s not actually supposed to be funny. Give Shivaay a miss.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil dominated the North American box office for a second consecutive weekend. From November 4-6, 2016, ADHM earned $772,956 from 325 theaters ($2,378 average), bringing its total earnings after ten days to $3,516,129.
After opening to disappointing numbers, Shivaay held over reasonably well in its second weekend, retaining 42% of its first-weekend business. It earned $140,347 from 87 theaters ($1,613 average), bringing its ten-day total to $599,932.
Even with three big Hollywood films releasing on November 4, 2016 — Doctor Strange, Trolls, and Hacksaw Ridge — Ae Dil Hai Mushkil carries over in all eleven of the Chicago theaters in which it opened last weekend.
Last weekend’s other new release — Shivaay — didn’t fare as well as ADHM at the box office, thus it carries over in just three of its original five theaters: MovieMax, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17.
Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters:
Two big Diwali releases met very different fates at the North American box office during the weekend of October 28-30, 2016. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was a resounding success, taking in $2,091,290 from 331 theaters ($6,318 average). That’s already good enough for fourth place in North America for the year. Though Sultan‘s chart-topping $6 million total is out of reach, lifetime earnings in excess of $5 million are possible for ADHM if interest remains high. Even if business drops off quickly, $4 million is doable.
Moviegoers gave the cold shoulder to Ajay Devgn’s mountaineering thriller Shivaay, the weekend’s other new film. Opening in fewer than half as many theaters as ADHM — 143, to be exact — Shivaay earned just $332,423 ($2,325 average). That’s only the year’s 18th best opening weekend gross, despite Shivaay releasing into the ninth highest number of theaters (the same number of theaters as Baar Baar Dekho, which earned more than $600,000 its first weekend).
Karan Johar romantic dramas are as sure a bet in the United States and Canada as you’ll find. North America contributed almost 20% of ADHM‘s $11+ million worldwide total. In contrast, the US and Canada accounted for about 5% of Shivaay‘s $6 million global total. Knowing how much attention ADHM was going to get here, would it have been advisable to employ Hollywood’s international release strategy to Shivaay, preponing or postponing its North American release by a week? Heck, even opening it on Wednesday might have earned another $100,000. I don’t know if such a strategy would be feasible — though I reject piracy as a reason, since those people wouldn’t pay to go to the theater anyway — but it would certainly have allowed Shivaay to save face, if nothing else.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
M.S. Dhoni: Week 5; $3,153 from six theaters; $526 average; $1,823,682 total
Pink: Week 7; $702 from one theater; $1,248,883 total
31st October: Week 2; $261 from two theaters; $131 average; $8,490 total
The Diwali releases are here to save what has been a lackluster October at the North American box office. Director Karan Johar’s romance, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (“This Heart is Complicated“) — starring Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Fawad Khan — gets the wider release of the two new Bollywood films opening in the Chicago area on October 28, 2016.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil — which has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 38 min. — opens on Friday in eleven local theaters (two more theaters than Fan or Sultan):