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.
Action Jackson just posted the latest in the string of lousy box office performances by Bollywood movies in North America. Since the release of Happy New Year on October 24, 2014, all but two of the newly released Hindi movies have fallen short on a key performance metric.
That metric is per-screen average: the average amount earned by individual theaters showing a particular movie in a particular weekend. In North America in 2014, the median opening weekend per-screen average of the fifty Hindi movies for which I have reliable data is $1,971.
Here are the opening weekend per-screen averages of all the movies that have released here since HNY:
Action Jackson: $1,374 ($171,795 from 125 theaters)
Kill Dil opened with a per-screen average a few dollars above the median, and Bhopal‘s average was one of the highest of the year. Granted, Bhopal was a limited release that never played in more than two theaters at once.
There’s another factor to consider that makes many of these low per-screen averages look even worse in context: theater count. The median opening weekend theater count for Hindi films in North America in 2014 is 70.5. Given their comparatively low theater counts, distributors obviously didn’t expect Super Nani and Roar to take the box office by storm (they were right).
However, distributors were clearly expecting much more from star-driven films Happy Ending and Action Jackson. Both movies fall in the upper quartile of this year’s opening weekend theater counts (123 theaters and above). You don’t open in that many theaters unless you think you’ve got a hit on your hands.
It’s worth noting that the only other film in that upper quartile to earn less than the median per-screen average in its first weekend is Humshakals, Saif Ali Khan’s only other release in 2014 besides Happy Ending. Unless he’s planning to make Love Aaj Kal 2, opening weekend theater counts of fewer than 100 seem more reasonable for Khan in North America.
It’s as though most of the Bollywood fan base in the United States and Canada decided to take Fall off and stay home until Aamir Khan’s P.K. opens on December 19. Here’s hoping that film can close out 2014 with a bang.
With its old-fashioned morality and hokey melodrama, Super Nani (“Super Grandma“) is targeted at female senior citizens. Yet, were I a woman in my golden years, I’d feel pretty damned insulted that the only roles the men who wrote and directed this film can imagine for me are that of doting mother, housekeeper, and sex object.
Rekha plays the titular Super Nani, Bharti Bhatia, whose family treats her like dirt. Her kids are sick of her meddling in their lives, and her husband, R. K. (Randhir Kapoor), is just plain mean to her. Bharti bears their insults while privately judging their life choices and accrediting their success to her prayers.
When her daughter, Gargi, announces her plan to enter a “live-in relationship,” the music swells and the camera zooms to close-up of Bharti’s face as dramatically as if Gargi had said she’d killed someone.
Bharti’s grandson, Mann (Sharman Joshi), arrives from America and can’t stand to see his grandmother go unappreciated. Against Bharti’s will — and with the help of a dreadlocked Anupam Kher — Mann goads her into becoming a model.
Let’s examine the problems here. Bharti’s independence is totally forced from outside, not generated from within. Apart from a few prayers asking God why her family isn’t nicer to her, Bharti is unwilling to demand respect for herself.
(Mann even calls shenanigans on Bharti’s piety, telling her that God doesn’t make miracles, people do. Take that, devout old ladies!)
When Mann generates his plan to help Nani get her groove back, he doesn’t draw on any of her life experience. He says, in essence, “You used to be hot. Let’s make you a model!” Cue some creepy exchanges in which Mann appears to have the hots for his grandmother.
Why not have Bharti succeed at something unrelated to her appearance? R.K. always shouts that her place is in the kitchen, so why not have her become a famous chef?
After Bharti becomes a successful model, she’s uses her Nani superpower — guilt — to shame her kids into apologizing to her. But her guilt trip isn’t strong enough on its own to convince them, and it’s totally ineffective on R.K. Again, Mann has to rescue his grandmother by shaming the rest of the family into respecting her.
So much of the movie rides Mann’s shoulders, and Joshi is just awful in the role. He shouts and overacts, heedless of tone. The only actor who doesn’t have cause to be embarrassed by her performance in this movie is Rekha. She’s tragic in a reserved way, and quite funny when she gets the chance to be. The haunted-house-old-lady makeup she sports before her model makeover is a joke.
Being grateful for the kindness of a mother (or a father) is obviously good, but Super Nani seems like a backhanded tribute.
October 31 through November 2, 2014, proved to be a dud of a weekend for new Bollywood releases in the United States and Canada. According to Bollywood Hungama, Rekha’s big-screen return, Super Nani, pulled in just $26,746 from 44 theaters ($608 average per screen).
Super Nani‘s performance is nowhere near as embarrassing as that of Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans, which grossed $4,927 from 50 theaters ($99 average). As awful at that opening weekend is, it’s still better than those of six other Hindi films that opened in North America this year: Siddharth ($4,564), Gang of Ghosts ($4,509), Karle Pyaar Karle ($3,110), Koyelaanchal ($1,762), Ya Rab ($1,404), and the big loser, Miss Lovely ($558). However, Roar opened on 28 more screens than the next biggest release in that list, Karle Pyaar Karle.
Happy New Year continued its strong performance through its second weekend, adding $693,696 from 239 theaters ($2,735 average) to bring its total to $3,184,576. It probably won’t have enough juice to bypass The Lunchbox‘s $4,050,393 total, but Happy New Year should finish its run in second place for the year by a wide margin.
In its fifth weekend of release, Bang Bang added another $3,002 from five Canadian theaters ($600 average), bringing its North American total to $2,586,394.
Knowing the titles slated for release, I would’ve bet my house that there would be no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on October 31, 2014. Instead we get two new releases, one of which looks bad in a bad way, and another that looks bad in a good way. Super Nani is the bad in a bad way one. I can’t take the ridiculous old lady makeup on 60-year-old Rekha.