Tag Archives: The Ghazi Attack

Movie Review: Raazi (2018)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the movie at Amazon or iTunes
Buy the soundtrack at iTunes

A young Indian spy marries into a Pakistani military family in the gripping period thriller Raazi, the latest in a string of hit performances by leading lady Alia Bhatt.

Bhatt plays Sehmat, a Delhi college student in 1971 summoned home at the behest of her father, Hidayat (Rajit Kapur), to receive two shocking pieces of news. First, Hidayat reveals that he has just months to live. Second, as a spy himself, Hidayat has spent years cultivating a friendship with Pakistani Brigadier Syed (Shishir Sharma), who hinted that the military is planning an attack against India. In order to uncover the plot, Hidayat fixed Sehmat’s marriage to Syed’s son, Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal), so that she may act as a spy in her father’s stead.

The movie’s very title (“Raazi” translates to “Agree”) informs us that this isn’t an order but a plan that requires Sehmat’s consent. Hidayat’s fatherly instincts kick in, and he encourages her to go back to college just hours after his revelation. There’s also a sense from Hidayat and other characters of his generation that young people deserve to make their own choices — in contrast to their own youth when the buildup and aftermath of Partition forced them to act out of necessity.

Sehmat agrees to the marriage plan, assuring her father that she’s acting out of an inherited sense of patriotism, not obedience. She undertakes a month of training under Khalid Mir (Jaideep Ahlawat), who also wants to be sure that she’s doing this of her own volition. He’s hard on Sehmat because — even though there’s a plan in place to rescue her in case of trouble — she’ll be largely on her own, responsible for finding intel and relaying it to Mir in secret via a convoluted spy network.

It’s worth noting in relation to Mir that the film’s story — at least initially — is kind of confusing, at least for those whose history education focused on countries other than India or Pakistan. A lot of characters with secret allegiances are introduced right away, and there are mentions of separatist groups — which Mir may have been a part of, I’m not sure — that most of the audience will get, but that flew past white, American me.

After the initial information overload, the story itself and the relationships between characters simplify. Most of the action takes place at the spy training ground or in and around Sehmat’s in-laws’ house, and details of the brewing military conflict are less important than what’s happening to Sehmat. The 2017 multilingual film The Ghazi Attack deals with events in the same time period, and watching it beforehand gave me enough background information for me to walk out of Raazi feeling like I understood what happened.

Raazi is ultimately about its characters more than the military conflict. Sehmat not only faces challenges as a rookie spy but as a new bride as well, forced to integrate into a new family. Pure luck finds her married to a good man who is as surprised by their abrupt betrothal as she is. Iqbal’s compassion allows their relationship to develop naturally, and their romance adds a layer of complexity that Sehmat did not anticipate.

Every actor in this movie is terrific — from key players like Sharma as Sehmat’s kind father-in-law to the guy working at the flower stall and the sympathetic military wives — enabling Raazi to cast a spell that never breaks. Kapur and Kaushal are stellar, whether they are in the background of a scene or if they’re sobbing with the young woman they both love.

Alia Bhatt’s star power is beyond question. She effortlessly portrays Sehmat’s youthful inexperience and her fierce determination, provoking the same protective instincts from the audience that Sehmat inspires in her mentors in espionage. This is a wonderful performance by Bhatt in a thoroughly engrossing film.


Movie Review: The Ghazi Attack (2017)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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This is a review of the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack.

The novelty factor of an Indian submarine movie is plenty of reason to watch The Ghazi Attack, though the film itself is only so-so.

Set in 1971, when Bangladesh was East Pakistan, the film follows an Indian submarine as it tracks the Pakistani sub PNS Ghazi through the Bay of Bengal. The story is based on real-life events, though both countries differ on what actually happened.

Tensions are high as Pakistan cracks down on suspected Bengali militants in East Pakistan. India sends an aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal to disrupt the seaward supply route, and Pakistan dispatches the Ghazi in response. With all of its vessels otherwise occupied, the Indian Navy sends its own sub — the S21 — to investigate.

The S21 isn’t the Navy’s first choice, because its captain — Ranvijay Singh (Kay Kay Menon) — has a reputation for a hair-trigger. Singh is under orders not to fire on the Ghazi, but the admiral (played by Om Puri) doesn’t trust the captain. The admiral sends Lt. Commander Arjun Verma  (Rana Daggubati) on the mission to stop Singh from starting a war, no matter what.

Cynicism regarding institutions is expected in Hindi movies, with the government, the police, and the judiciary frequently portrayed as inept or callous, if not outright hostile to ordinary citizens. The Navy brass aren’t depicted that way in The Ghazi Attack. The admiral and his staff take a wide view of the conflict that seeks to minimize civilian casualties by avoiding war, if possible.

Captain Singh is cut from the same cloth as many Bollywood heroes: a man of action whose inherent righteousness empowers him to define morality as it suits him. He sees his only job as killing the enemy — the enemy being anyone in a Pakistani military uniform.

Singh’s sense of purpose stems from personal revenge, not any virtuous higher calling. He’s not fundamentally at odds with his military superiors — he just sees them as overly cautious — but his vendetta against Pakistan compels him to ignore the chain of command. Anyone harmed in his pursuit is collateral damage.

Verma’s presence serves not only as a check on Singh’s actions but provides an alternative moral point-of-view. Verma risks his own life to rescue two refugees from the wreckage of a merchant vessel sunk by the Ghazi: a little girl and a doctor named Ananya (Taapsee Pannu).

As debutant director Sankalp Reddy’s film progresses, Singh’s “shoot first” morality is unexpectedly endorsed as the preferred code of conduct, at least in terms of dealings between India and Pakistan. Singh is not only willing to risk the lives of the soldiers under his command in order to sink the Ghazi, he doesn’t care what happens as a result of his actions: not to himself, and not to the hundreds of thousands of civilians who would be endangered in the event of all-out war.

Things get downright silly when Indian patriotism is weaponized. The captain of the Pakistani sub (played by Rahul Singh) is driven into a blind rage just by hearing the Indian National Anthem.

Despite the movie’s questionable moral compass, The Ghazi Attack is enjoyable, thanks to compelling performances by Menon and Daggubati. Atul Kulkarni also deserves kudos as Executive Officer Devraj, a man whose personal views have more in common with those of Verma, but who trusts Singh enough to follow his dangerous orders. Pannu is wasted as a token female character who doesn’t even get to use her medical expertise when a pivotal emergency cries out for a doctor’s assistance.

It’s especially fascinating to see the kind of technology that powered Indian Naval submarines in the early 1970s. Maneuvers are executed by turning wheels and opening valves, which all looks ancient by contemporary post-digital standards (even though military submarine technology was already more than half-a-century old by the time of the events in the film). It’s a poignant reminder of the uniquely challenging conditions under which sailors wage war.


Streaming Video News: April 7, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with eight new additions to the streaming catalog. (Well, seven if you discount Yamla Pagla Deewana, which was added to the site prematurely last week and pulled down after a day or two. But now it’s back!) The new additions include Aarakshan, Horror Story, Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai, Krrish, Krrish 3, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, and Rangrezz. I found Aarakshan disorganized, and Krrish 3 was just okay.

With more than thirty Indian titles added in the last month — including a bunch of mainstream Bollywood films like those added today — it sure looks like Netflix is feeling the heat from Amazon’s new Heera channel, which just added the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack to its subscription service.

Bollywood Box Office: March 31-April 2, 2017

Naam Shabana got off to an unimpressive start at the North American box office. From March 31-April 2, 2017, the spin-off prequel earned $157,655 from 90 theaters ($1,752 average; adjusted average of $2,021 from 78 theaters*). While no one expected Naam Shabana to match the opening weekend collections of Baby ($434,951 from 99 theaters) — the 2015 Akshay Kumar action flick that spawned it — Naam Shabana‘s performance was sub-par compared to other movies that released this year with a similar theatrical footprint. It opened in three more theaters than Phillauri but earned over $100,000 less than Phillauri did in its opening weekend, despite its marketing advantage as part of a franchise. Naam Shabana‘s ultimate total will likely fall short of $300,000.

Phillauri held up reasonably well in its second weekend in theaters, retaining about 27% of its opening weekend business. It earned $71,277 from 78 theaters ($914 average; adjusted average of $1,097 from 65 theaters). Its total earning stand at $417,054.

After its fourth weekend in theaters, Badrinath Ki Dulhania is closing in on a North American total of $2 million. It added another $31,760 from 26 theaters ($1,222 average), bringing its current total to $1,966,459. (Bollywood Hungama had no US theater data for Badrinath Ki Dulhania, so I used Box Office Mojo’s figures.)

The Ghazi Attack closed out its seventh (and hopefully final) weekend, earning $10 from one theater. Its total across all languages is $770,425.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: March 24-26, 2017

Phillauri got off to a solid start in North American theaters. During the weekend of March 24-26, 2017, it earned $259,250 from 87 theaters ($2,980 average; adjusted average of $3,503 from 74 theaters*). A third of that total came from just thirteen Canadian theaters, which accounted for fewer than 20% of the total number of theaters.

As the second production from actress Anushka Sharma’s production house Clean Slate Films, Phillauri‘s performance shows the company’s fortunes trending in the right direction. Phillauri opened with almost twice the earnings of the company’s first release, NH10, which earned $143,209 when it opened on 46 screens on March 13, 2015. Granted, NH10 was a violent revenge drama with a more limited potential audience than a family friendly romantic-comedy like Phillauri. Still, Sharma is clearly producing movies that people in North America want to see, so more power to her.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania continued its strong run through a third weekend, earning $139,618 from 105 theaters ($1,330 average; adjusted average of $1,501 from 93 theaters). Its total stands at $1,888,844, putting it in second place for the year so far in North America, behind Raees.

The Ghazi Attack finished its sixth and likely last weekend with $468 from two theaters ($234 average). Its total earnings across all languages are $770,163.

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: March 17-19, 2017

Badrinath Ki Dulhania held up really well in its second weekend in the face of monstrous competition from Beauty and the Beast, even adding four theaters in the United States. From March 17-19, 2017, Badrinath Ki Dulhania earned $413,488 from 174 theaters ($2,376 average; adjusted average of $2,651 from 156 theaters*). That’s a hold-over of 48% from its first weekend, the best of the year so far for a Bollywood film in North America, just ahead of Jolly LLB 2‘s 46% retention rate. If it follows Jolly LLB 2‘s trajectory and manages to earn 2.2 times its first weekend earnings over the course of its theatrical run, Badrinath Ki Dulhania could finish with a total of nearly $2 million. Its total earnings presently stand at $1,581,270.

One note regarding Beauty and the Beast: its estimated opening weekend per-theater average of $40,380 is crazy good — 7th best all-time for a movie opening in more than 4,000 theaters in North America, according to Box Office Mojo.

Other Hindi movies showing in North America over the weekend:

  • The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 5: $2,825 from seven theaters; $404 average; $767,634 total
  • MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 2; $762 from one theater; $3,430 total
  • Jolly LLB 2: Week 6; $745 from one theater; $1,641,082 total
  • Commando 2: Week 3; $244 from two theaters; $122 average; $76,133 total
  • Rangoon: Week 4; $171 from two theaters; $86 average; $503,610 total

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first two weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

In Theaters: March 17, 2017

After a super start at the North American box office, problematic romantic-comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania carries over for a second week at the following Chicago area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

MovieMax also holds over Commando 2 and both the Hindi and Telugu versions of The Ghazi Attack. Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include Angamaly Diaries (Malayalam), Chowka (Kannada), Maa Abbayi (Telugu), Aby (Malayalam), Nagaram (Telugu), and Maanagaram (Tamil).

With no new Hindi movies opening locally this weekend, Bollywood fans may want to check out the second film by the director of The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra. The English-language drama The Sense of an Ending opens in the following Chicago area theaters on Friday, March 17: River East 21, Century Centre Cinema in Chicago, Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park, Century 12 Evanston in Evanston, Regal Lincolnshire Stadium 15 in Lincolnshire, and AMC Showplace Village Crossing 18 in Skokie. It has a runtime of 1 hr. 48 min.

Bollywood Box Office: March 10-12, 2017

Badrinath Ki Dulhania posted the second best opening weekend of the year for a Bollywood movie in North America. From March 10-12, 2017, the romantic-comedy earned $858,623 from 170 theaters for a per-theater average of $5,051 (also second best for the year). That total is just $23,720 less than what Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania — the first film in the Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt franchise — earned from its entire 2014 North American theatrical run ($882,343)!

Before I move on from Badrinath Ki Dulhania, I’ll address in more detail something regarding theater counts that I plan on adding as an addendum to weekly box office posts from here on. My main source for box office information is Rentrak, a company that independently collects information from theaters across the country. Access to Rentrak’s raw data is expensive, so I rely on the Rentrak data as reported by Bollywood Hungama. For some reason, during a film’s first weekend of release in North America, Bollywood Hungama routinely includes Canadian theaters in the US theater count. So, when data from the two countries is added together, Canada’s theaters get counted twice. While I normally can’t verify this without direct access to the Rentrak data, I can confirm it when a film appears on Box Office Mojo, as their theater totals are always accurate. However, I can’t use Box Office Mojo as my main source because they rely on individual distributors to report results to them, and as a result, only four of the thirteen Hindi films released here this year are listed at Box Office Mojo. So, even though I am reasonably sure that Bollywood Hungama misreports theater information in a film’s opening weekend, using their information gives me a complete and consistent data set, enabling me to compare movies fairly. This is my long way of saying that Badrinath Ki Dulhania‘s true theater count is 152, making for a per-theater average of $5,649.

Only one of last weekend’s two new releases stuck around for a second weekend (and it wasn’t Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai). Commando 2 earned $4,172 from 13 theaters ($321 average), bringing its total North American earnings to $75,355. Despite Commando 2‘s business dropping about 90% from its first weekend to its second, its total earnings are close to double the amount it earned is its opening weekend, meaning that the film fared really well from Monday, March 6 – Thursday, March 9. That’s not reason enough to keep it around for a third weekend, mind you, so see it while you can, if you’re interested. The same can be said for the other Hindi films showing in North America:

  • Rangoon: Week 3; $5,815 from 15 theaters; $388 average; $502,014 total
  • The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 4; $4,836 from 11 theaters; $440 average: $762,917 total
  • Hind Ka Napak Ko Jawab — MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 1; $1,862 from one theater; $1,862 total

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Opening March 10: Badrinath Ki Dulhania

One big new Hindi release opens in Chicago area theaters on March 10, 2017. Badrinath Ki Dulhania reunites Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt for the second film in the franchise that began with 2014’s Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. (Are we calling it the Dulhania franchise?)

Badrinath Ki Dulhania opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 24* in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 18 min.

Commando 2 gets a second week at the MovieMax and South Barrington 24. The Hindi and Telugu versions of The Ghazi Attack carry over at MovieMax, while the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge holds over just the Telugu version.

Other Indian movies showing at MovieMax this weekend include Aby (Malayalam), Nagaram (Telugu), Chitrangada (Telugu), Maanagaram (Malayalam), Baashha (Tamil), Kittu Unnadu Jagratha (Telugu), Kuttram 23 (Tamil), and Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol (Malayalam).

*Note that South Barrington AMC downsized to 24 screens from 30 as part of its recent upgrades. I haven’t been to the theater to see how that changes the physical layout of the theater, or if those decommissioned screens have been re-purposed for something else. South Barrington used to hang on to marginally successful Bollywood films for many weeks, but the lost screens could lead to shorter theatrical runs if space is at a premium.

Bollywood Box Office: March 3-5, 2017

The weekend of March 3-5, 2017, provided two more cautionary tales of the difficult path to North American box office success for Bollywood movies without A-list stars. The action sequel Commando 2 fared the better of the new releases, earning $40,611 from 49 theaters ($829 average). The romantic drama Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai had the worst opening weekend of the year so far for a Hindi film in North America, earning just $6,539 from 42 theaters ($156 average).

These lackluster performances come two weeks after both Irada and Running Shaadi failed to earn $15,000 in their opening weekend in the United States and Canada. Given that JIKNH had the least star-power of the four films, its position at the bottom of the heap makes sense. Still, it speaks to the star-driven nature of movie attendance here that Commando 2 wasn’t able to earn more than it did. As a sequel, it had a preexisting fanbase that — while not huge — was enthusiastic for its release. With forty theaters in the US and nine in Canada, access to the film wasn’t a problem. Yet those factors weren’t enough to earn the six figures that would’ve marked the film a success. Commando 2‘s returns help to define the earning potential for Bollywood movies without A-list stars here, and that potential isn’t very high.

In its second weekend in theaters, business for Rangoon dropped nearly 80% from its opening weekend. That’s not as catastrophic as it might sound, but it’s not good, either. Rangoon earned $64,047 from 68 theaters ($942 average), bringing its total to $471,186. A few more days will push that total past $500,000, making it director Vishal Bhardwaj’s most successful film in North America to feature a female lead.

Other Bollywood movies showing in North American theaters:

  • The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 3; $30,118 from seventeen theaters; $1,772 average; $749,957 total
  • Raees: Week 6; $273 from one theater; $3,631,911 total

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama