I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the Hindi sports drama Penalty, as well as the return of about two dozen Viacom 18 films that had expired from the service over the last several months. Here’s what’s back:
Netflix added two more Hindi movies to its streaming catalog, including last year’s terrific heist movie, Special 26. The film is full of great performances, mostly notably by Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, and Manoj Bajpayee.
If you can’t wait until the release of P.K. on December 19 to get your Aamir Khan fix, 1994’s Andaz Apna Apna is now available on Netflix.
A Wednesday has been recommended to me many times since its release in 2008. After enjoying writer-director Neeraj Pandey’s sophomore effort, Special 26, this seemed like the right time to finally check out his debut film.
I can see why A Wednesday — a story about a common man trying to correct the inadequacies of India’s sprawling bureaucracy — still resonates with people. It has great populist appeal. I think I would’ve enjoyed it more had I seen it before Special 26, which is more polished than A Wednesday. Nevertheless, A Wednesday is enjoyable and full of the dramatic tension that Pandey is so good at creating.
The film begins with Police Commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) reflecting on the most challenging case of his career, on the day before his retirement. I’m not sure why Pandey has Rathod specify that this is his last day on the job. It’s not important to the plot, and it draws an unwelcome parallel to Robert Duvall’s character in the 1993 common-man’s-revenge film Falling Down.
The case Rathod is referring to involves the harrowing events of a Wednesday afternoon at some point in the not-to-distant past. An anonymous caller claims to have placed bombs throughout Mumbai that will explode in about four hours unless Rathod releases four terrorists from prison. Rathod assumes that the caller — an unnamed man played brilliantly by Naseeruddin Shah — is another terrorist, but the truth is more complicated than that.
While trying to find the man behind the calls, Rathod dispatches two officers to carry out the bomber’s orders: straight-laced Jai (Aamir Bashir) and loose cannon Arif (Jimmy Shergill). Shah’s character enlists an ambitious news reporter, Naina (Deepal Shaw), to serve as his eyes on the ground. Naina feels conflicted about aiding a possible terrorist, but breaking this story will get her off the dreary local news beat.
The story is tense, as Rathod tries to connect the dots while helplessly giving in to the caller’s demands. There’s great dynamism in Pandey’s shots. Though many of the scenes take place inside the police control room, there’s a lot of movement. Rathod stalks the hallways; officers spring to life when the latest call comes in; Arif chases down a suspect who might have the final clue to the caller’s identity.
As well-paced as the story is, there are a lot of rookie directorial mistakes that detract from the film’s overall effectiveness. Fight scenes seem shoehorned into the script, and the sound effects that accompany them are cheesy. Unable to trace the phone calls, one of the police officers makes the corny declaration: “We need a hacker!” When Shah’s character finally reveals his motives, he does so in a well-delivered but long speech that stops the film’s momentum. The ending was a bit of a cop-out.
Perhaps the most distracting mistakes Pandey makes are in the inclusion of a number of ineffective red herrings that remain loose threads at the end of the film. It’s implied that Jai and Arif have a preexisting beef, but this is never explored. Jai gets several phone calls from his wife, who’s traveling with their son on a train. Though she could be in danger, Jai never warns her to stay off the train, though he does worry that she’ll be concerned for his own safety if she sees him on the news coverage of the crisis.
During his confessional speech, Shah’s character reveals a personal motivation for his actions. It seemed as though this disclosure would explain why he chose Naina to cover the story, but there’s ultimately no connection. Her selection is completely arbitrary.
While I enjoyed A Wednesday overall, these mistakes stood out because of their absence in Special 26. That’s actually a compliment, as it means that Pandey has honed his storytelling to augment his flair for narrative tension. Seeing Pandey’s professional growth between his first and second films leaves me very excited to see his third film, whenever that day comes.
Two more new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 1, 2013. The romantic drama I, Me Aur Main stars John Abraham as a pampered man-child opposite Chitrangada Singh and Prachi Desai.
Director Ram Gopal Varma’s thriller The Attacks of 26/11 also opens in area theaters on Friday. Given the relative freshness of the wounds inflicted by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, I’m curious to see if RGV will rein in some of his more eccentric directorial quirks and tell a more somber, straightforward story.
The Attacks of 26/11 opens on Friday at all of the above theaters and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.
There are two new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on February 22, 2013, though, sadly, Rise of the Zombie is not one of them. Kai Po Che is a coming-of-age story about three friends trying to establish themselves in Ahmedabad in the early 2000’s.
Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” quite like a movie called Murder 3. The latest Bollywood non-sequel sequel has nothing to do with its predecessor, Murder 2, but it does have the most unintentionally hilarious publicity photo I’ve ever seen:
That’s Randeep Hooda sporting the snake, alongside Sara Loren and Aditi Rao Hydari. The film is a remake of the Colombian thriller The Hidden Face.
Murder 3 opens on Thursday, February 14, 2013, in just nine U.S. theaters, one of which happens to be the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of two hours.
If the movies have taught us anything about being a professional thief, it’s to never openly declare that you’re going to retire after “one last job.” This final job is always more risky and complicated than any previous job, and your odds of getting caught are much higher than normal. Better to take your present pilfered earnings, move to Aruba, and spend the rest of your life on the beach.
Of course, the main characters of Special 26 (also written as Special Chabbis) fail to heed the lesson of countless movie thieves before them and find themselves on the verge of retirement with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) breathing down their necks. They may be foolish, but their exploits make for an entertaining film.
Ajay (Akshay Kumar) leads a group of three other robbers — Sharma (Anupam Kher), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma), and Iqbal (Kishor Kadam) — who pose as government officials to raid the homes of corrupt politicians and businessmen. Their victims are more worried about bad publicity should news of their corruption be made public, so they never report the theft of their ill-gotten gains to the police.
Early in the film, a raid on a minister’s house is inadvertently aided by the local police, fooled into thinking that Ajay and his crew are CBI investigators. Two of the police officers — Ranveer (Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (Divya Dutta) — are fired for their part in the debacle. In order to clear his name, Ranveer gathers evidence on Ajay’s crew and turns it into the real CBI, where he works with CBI officer Waseem (Manoj Bajpai) to foil Ajay’s “one last job.”
The story, set in 1987, is based on a real-life heist. The film has cool period flavor in everything from the costumes to the musical score. Even the movie’s lone chase scene eschews modern CGI in favor of a low-tech footrace, which is plenty exciting without special effects. The film’s runtime could’ve been shortened a bit, but it’s never boring.
What really makes the movie is uniformly great acting by the whole cast. It’s nice to see Kumar drop the wacky comedy-action routine in favor of a more muted performance. Ajay doesn’t have the depth of some of the other characters, but Kumar plays him as a confident leader.
While one just expects greatness from Anupam Kher, it is still fun to watch him work. He’s terrific as Sharma, the nervous Nellie of the bunch. He projects confidence while posing as an investigator, but shrinks with worry when he’s alone with Ajay. Even the hair at his temples gets in on the act: slick and orderly while on the job, messy and pointing in all directions when he’s at home.
Rajesh Sharma and Kishor Kadam are solid as the other members of the crew, but I wish their characters would’ve been fleshed out. Same for the two female characters in the film, Shanti, and Ajay’s love interest, Priya (Kajal Agarwal). Jimmy Shergill has the most substantial supporting role as Ranveer, and he’s tremendous.
The best performance of the lot is by Manoj Bajpai. As with Kher, this isn’t a surprise, but Bajpai is more interesting to watch than just about any other actor. I would happily watch a film that was nothing but three hours of Manoj Bajpai walking toward the camera with an intense look on his face. There’s a lot of that in Special 26, so I was in heaven.
Two new Hindi movies make their way into Chicago area theaters on February 8, 2013. Special 26 (aka Special Chabbis) has the greater star power of the two, starring Akshay Kumar alongside notable character actors Anupam Kher and Manoj Bajpai.
I’m more excited for this weekend’s other new opening: ABCD (Any Body Can Dance), India’s first 3D dance film. For anyone who’s fond of Bollywood movies for their dance numbers, this should be a gold mine. The movie stars choreographer Prabhu Deva in the lead role and features So You Think You Can Dance Season 3 competitor Lauren Gottlieb.
Starting Friday, ABCD will be showing in 3D at the South Barrington 30 and AMC River East 21 in Chicago and in 2D at the Golf Glen 5. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min.