Punjabi movie fans will be excited by the influx of new additions to Prime into what had previously been a small collection of titles. In the last few days, eleven Punjabi movies joined Prime, boosting the selection from 23 to 34 Punjabi films available for streaming. The oldest of the recent additions is from 2016, and three 2018 releases were just added today: Banjara: The Truck Driver, Bhagat Singh Di Udeek, and Punjab Singh.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a bunch of recent additions. Since the massive catalog purge at the end of last month, Prime has added more than 60 titles, including the new original series Vella Raja, available in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu in both standard and Ultra-HD. Jimmy Shergill’s 2018 theatrical release Phamous is among the recently added Bollywood movies, which also include a bunch of older titles. Here are some that I’ve reviewed:
For the full list of recent additions to the catalog, head to my Prime page and check out the “Newly Added” section at the top. (All of the Amazon links include my affiliate tag, meaning I get a portion of the proceeds from any items purchased through those links.)
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with more than twenty additions to the catalog, a mix of previously available titles and stuff brand new to the service. I’ve reviewed many of the films, including (click on the star-rating for my review):
2011 was a standout year for Bollywood in terms both experiments with storytelling style and elevating the status of women in the film industry. Here are my picks for the best movies of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
There were some good examples of familiar narratives — including the family drama Patiala House and the romantic comedy Mere Brother Ki Dulhan — but plenty of films pushed the envelope. Ra.One lead the Hindi film industry’s foray into 3D technology. Rockstar experimented with making a movie feel like an extended music video.
The most successful experiments of the year were created by Aamir Khan Productions. The company released two intriguing films — Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly — with runtimes that clocked in at under two hours long, uncharacteristically brief for Indian movies. Further, the company insisted that the films show in theaters without the standard intermission break, paving the way for future success in international markets.
Talented director Vishal Bhardwaj puts his unique stamp on this dark comedy about a black widow and her seven husbands. In the lead role, Bhardwaj cast Priyanka Chopra, an actress who’s made a point of choosing a diverse array of characters throughout her career. Chopra manages to make the serial killer Susanna calculating yet sympathetic. Better still, the movie is often quite funny as the grim tale unfolds.
7 Khoon Maaf isn’t quite like any other Hindi movie released in recent years. Look past the dance numbers and cast of Indian A-listers, and it could easily transcend the “Bollywood” label — and instead be considered a “Foreign Film” (a genre with more critical cachet here in the US).
The movie is available for streaming on Netflix, making it accessible to an audience who may have missed it in theaters early last year. If you haven’t seen 7 Khoon Maaf, I encourage you to check it out.
Fresh on the heels of a pair of new releases last weekend comes Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, opening in the Chicago area on December 9, 2011. The romantic comedy reunites Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh, who charmed audiences last year in Band Baaja Baaraat.
Of last weekend’s new releases, only The Dirty Picture gets a second week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. (So long, I Am Singh.) Desi Boyz, which has earned $984,679 in its first two weeks in U.S. theaters, gets a third week at both theaters as well.
Update: Big Cinemas’ U.S. theater sites are undergoing maintenance, so head to movietickets.com to check theater schedules. The Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles is showing Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, The Dirty Picture, Desi Boyz, Osthe (Tamil) and Panjaa (Telugu) this weekend.
2011 has been a great year for actresses in Bollywood. Relative newcomer Kalki Koechlin mesmerized in That Girl in Yellow Boots. Veteran stars Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif gave some of their best performances in 7 Khoon Maaf and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, respectively.
Now the immensely talented Vidya Balan claims the spotlight in The Dirty Picture, the story of a sexually liberated screen vamp who pays a heavy price for bucking social convention. The movie is based on the life of 1980s South Indian film star Silk Smitha, though it’s not strictly biographical.
Balan stars as Reshma, a village girl who comes to the city with dreams of movie stardom. Reshma’s voluptuous figure is regularly ogled by men, but she isn’t supermodel beautiful enough to attract the attention of casting directors.
When a movie choreographer bemoans his inability to find a proper actress to perform a raunchy dance number, Reshma seizes the opportunity. The scene — in which Reshma writhes seductively while wielding a whip — sends male audience members into a frenzy, making the movie a hit.
A filmmaker named SelvaGanesh (Rajesh Sharma) sees Reshma’s money-making potential and renames her “Silk.” SelvaGanesh casts Silk opposite the aging screen star Surya (Naseeruddin Shah), and their racy films strike box office gold. Silk’s seeming willingness to do anything is fodder for gossip columnists and irks Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director of serious, art house films.
Silk’s life is a fascinating study in the way mens’ attitudes shapes the lives of women. If Silk is going to be treated as a sex object when she’s doing something as mundane as washing dishes, why not get paid to be ogled? Why is her dignity diminished by dancing provocatively, while the men who leer at her suffer no consequences?
Of course, that’s not the way female honor is perceived in the real world. Silk is typecast as a vamp, never able to get serious roles. When she tries to expand her range, the industry shuns her. It seems that, in the eyes of audiences and the producers catering to them, Silk has only one thing they want.
Balan is great in The Dirty Picture. She plays Silk with swagger, charm and humor. She’s a canny opportunist who asserts herself before she can be victimized. Her only real weakness, besides falling for a user like Surya, is that her ego leads her to think she’s bigger than a system that favors men over women.
The story construction of The Dirty Picture betrays Silk in the same way the men in her life do. The movie is sporadically narrated by Abraham, a character who doesn’t play enough of a role in Silk’s life to merit being its narrator. He’s present at the beginning of the film, but then disappears until the final act. His box office showdown with Silk is awkwardly inserted into the story just to elevate his importance.
Surya — who’s sleazy and comical in Shah’s hands — is the most important person in Silk’s personal life, but his self-involvement precludes him from narrating her story. Likewise, Surya’s brother, Ramakanth (Tusshar Kapoor), doesn’t understand Silk well enough to be narrator, mistakenly believing he can make an “honest woman” out of her.
If Silk’s story must be framed using a man’s voice, that honor should have gone to SelvaGanesh. He’s the only man who looks at Silk without desire. Her cooperation and ingenuity is required in order for both of them to profit financially, so he treats her as a peer. He’s the only person who sees all of her potential and is willing to take a chance on her.
But I’m not sure that Silk’s story needs a narrator. I understand that it provides a point of view on a life cut short, but I think it distracts attention from the main character. Silk is larger than life. She’s both a product of male fantasy and the architect of that fantasy. A narrator just seems like another confining frame put on a spirit too big to be contained.
The Dirty Picture is available for streaming in the U.S. on Mela
The weekend beginning December 2, 2011, sees two new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area. I Am Singh — a drama about one Sikh family’s experience in the U.S. after 9/11 — gets the wider release of the two new films.
This weekend’s other new release is The Dirty Picture, based on the life of South Indian ’80s bombshell Silk Smitha. The film reunites two of the stars of Ishqiya, Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan, who plays Silk in the new film.
The Dirty Picture opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17 and Golf Glen 5, which is also carrying the movie’s Telugu-dubbed version. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 33 min.
After earning $702,325 in the U.S. over the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend, Desi Boyz gets a second week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Rockstar.