I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a ton of great Hindi films are set to expire from the service on August 1, as a result of the end of two-year contract with UTV Motion Pictures. Netflix could renew the contract in the near future, or the package of films could migrate to another streaming service. UTV is owned at least in part by Disney, so Hotstar is a likely destination. We’ll have to wait and see where they end up. Until then, here are the titles to catch on Netflix while you can:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-two new additions to the catalog! About half of these titles were on Netflix years ago, but the rest — films like Highway, Mohenjo Daro, and PK — are available on the service for the first time. I’m excited that three more of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have joined the catalog. Here are all the titles added today:
In 2011, Bollywood produced a number of movies that advanced the role of women in film and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling style. This post is not about those movies. This post is about the worst films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Video services like YouTube and Netflix have allowed smaller studios to bypass the theater distribution system and reach an international audience via the Internet. While the development is a welcome one, it doesn’t mean that every film available online merits viewing. Inept, low-budget stinkers like Cycle Kick, Love Express and Impatient Vivek aren’t worth it, even for free.
Neither is a showing on the big screen a guarantee of quality. Indie film I Am Singh made it into Chicago area theaters but left after just one week. Aarakshan, Thank You, Dum Maaro Dum and Mausam all had large budgets and star casts but failed to impress.
While a number of this year’s movies featured empowered female characters, Turning 30 did its best to undermine feminism. The movie — written and directed by a woman — features a lead character who spends most of the movie wallowing in self-pity after she’s dumped. Turning 30 ends with the appalling suggestion that self-respect and a happy marriage shouldn’t be as important to women as having babies.
This year’s worst Bollywood movie manages to combine all of the above offenses into one unwatchable mess. It’s sloppily made, despite having a budget large enough to pay an A-list cast. It’s sexist. As a bonus, it’s also full of racist stereotypes.
Director David Dhawan is a repeat offender, being the man responsible for my worst movie of 2009, Do Knot Disturb. Rascals — a farce about two crooks fighting for one woman’s affections — seems tailor-made for comic action set pieces. Dhawan even cast action stars Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn as the leads, but gave them little to do besides talk.
The movie’s female lead, played by Kangana Ranaut, spends the bulk of her screentime strutting around in a bikini while whining in a shrill voice: not exactly the postergirl for women’s lib.
Dhawan set Rascals in Thailand, then cast scores of blonde women to serve as gyrating backup dancers and dark-skinned African actors to play armed criminals. Were there no local Thai actors to fill those roles? Why make those casting decisions except to appeal to racist stereotypes?
All those problems aside, Dhawan’s biggest sin in Rascals is laziness. There are numerous continuity errors and bloopers that would’ve been easy to rectify, but Dhawan didn’t bother. Perhaps he thinks his target audience members — misogynists who find two men slapping each other hilarious — don’t care about stuff like a plot that makes sense. Maybe he thinks they’ll pay their money to see heroes like Dutt and Devgn on screen no matter how stupid the story.
I’d like to believe that we moviegoers are smarter than that.
This downtime is a good chance to catch up on movies from earlier this year that you may have missed. Netflix recently added Thank You to its streaming catalog, and Yamla Pagla Deewana and Chalo Dilli are now available through the rental service on DVD. YouTube has an impressive selection of free Hindi movies, including a smaller release I reviewed earlier this month: Cycle Kick.
Other Indian flicks showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Telugu films Dhada, Kandireega and Money Money More Money and the Tamil movie Rowthiram.
Two new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area the weekend beginning April 22, 2011. The Disney live-action superhero flick Zokkomon gets a limited release, opening on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.
The other new Bollywood movie opening this weekend is Dum Maaro Dum, a gangster drama set in Goa starring Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu.
After two weeks of new releases, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area this weekend. Next weekend sees the debut of Dum Maaro Dum and the Disney pic Zokkomon, both of which are candidates for a wide international release.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Mappillai (Tamil), Shakti (Telugu), Teen Maar (Telugu) and Urumi (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also carrying Teen Maar.
The more I think about Thank You, the more confused I become. The first two-thirds of the comedy are enjoyable enough, but a serious and preachy third act unravels the entire story that precedes it.
Thank You centers on the womanizing exploits of Raj (Bobby Deol), Vikram (Irrfan Khan) and Yogi (Suniel Shetty). Yogi’s already been caught cheating by his wife, Maya (Celina Jaitley). Suspicious of the other louts’ extramarital activities, Maya introduces Vikram’s wife, Shivani (Rimi Sen), and Raj’s wife, Sanjana (Sonam Kapoor), to her “best friend”: a private eye named Kishan (Akshay Kumar).
Kishan develops a crush on cute, trusting Sanjana and aims to expose her husband for the cheater he is. Raj and his buddies aren’t able to continue their deception for long, and all their secrets are revealed. Maya and Shivani are prepared to move on with their lives, but Sanjana isn’t. She wants Raj back.
Here’s where things get confusing, in retrospect. Kishan agrees to help Sanjana reunite with Raj. His plan is to make Raj jealous by pretending to be Sanjana’s new boyfriend. Presumably, Kishan’s real intention is to show Sanjana how much better he is than Raj and win her for himself.
Without giving anything away, the third act seems to indicate that a potential romance between Kishan and Sanjana was never really an option (or something that either of them even desired). The tension in the second act, at the time, appears to be whether Sanjana will pick Raj or Kishan. Without that tension, the whole second act is, in retrospect, just a big waste of time.
Perhaps sensing the shoddy construction of his parable, writer-director Anees Bazmee has Kishan explain the moral of the story with a condescending speech in the final scene. But the message as delivered by Kishan runs counter to the one that the movie had conveyed to that point. I liked the story that Bazmee actually told better than the one he apparently thought he was telling.
The real shame of Thank You‘s narrative collapse is that most of the movie is pretty funny. The set pieces are good, and the jokes translate well cross-culturally.
Particularly deserving of praise are Shetty and Sen for their performances as Yogi and Shivani, respectively. Yogi, having been previously outed as a cheater, revels in watching his two buddies get caught for the same crime. Shivani is the most put-upon wife and therefore the most eager to take revenge on her husband. Shetty and Sen take full advantage of their opportunities to ham it up.
The weakest member of the cast is Kapoor. Still a relatively new actress, everything about her performance — from her physical presence to her voice — lacks gravity. She’s pretty and stylish, but that’s not enough to make her a lead that an audience cares about.
Another new Hindi movie opens this weekend in the Chicago area. Thank You stars Akshay Kumar as a detective trailing three husbands whose wives have caught on to their womanizing ways. Kumar’s character loses his professional objectivity when he falls for one of the wives, played by Sonam Kapoor.