The selection of Hindi films showing in the Chicago area the weekend beginning February 11, 2011, is limited to just one movie: Patiala House. The new release stars Akshay Kumar as a London shopkeeper who waits until he’s in his 30s to defy his father and pursue his dream of being a professional cricket player. The film co-stars Rishi Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area the weekend beginning January 28, 2011. The romantic comedy stars Ajay Devgan, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya as three guys searching for love.
No One Killed Jessica, which has earned $428,691 in the U.S. so far, gets a fourth week at the Pipers Alley 4. Yamla Pagla Deewana leaves area theaters on Thursday with an impressive $851,381 two-week American haul.
Writer-director Leena Yadav claims that her film, Teen Patti, is not based on the movie 21. After watching Teen Patti, I don’t believe her.
21 is a 2008 Hollywood film about some MIT students who get rich counting cards in the game of blackjack. Teen Patti is about some students from “BIT” who get rich counting cards in the game of teen patti. Ms. Yadav’s lame anti-plagiarism defense: “My film has nothing to do with blackjack.”
In a failed attempt to avoid the comparison, Yadav shifts the focus of her film from the students to their professor, Venkat (Amitabh Bachchan). Venkat develops a mathematical formula for deducing which hand will win in a given game of teen patti, a card game similar to poker. He recruits his colleague, Shantanu (R. Madhavan), and three randomly selected students to help him test his formula under real-world conditions.
The experiment proceeds with Venkat sitting at a table in a seedy gambling hall while Shantanu and the students make obvious hand signals to indicate what cards they hold. Venkat stares at each of the other players at the table while mumbling to himself, and then makes an equally obvious gesture to indicate which player at the table holds the winning hand. Then Shantanu and the students nod to confirm that they understood Venkat’s gesture, just in case it wasn’t apparent to everyone else in the gambling den that they are up to something fishy.
I’m not going to bother naming the students because they aren’t fully developed characters, nor are they even necessary to the Venkat’s experiment. The primary reason that they’re in the movie is so that a mysterious blackmailer can threaten them, forcing Venkat to keep gambling when he’d rather stop.
The other reason for the students’ presence in the script is for them to illustrate the moral danger of gambling, which can lead to flirting, minor theft and fist fights. No drugs, booze or sex, apart from an implied gang rape (another shockingly casual reference to sexual violence against women in a Hindi movie, as in Wanted and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani). The stakes are pretty low in Teen Patti.
In addition to the superfluous students, minor characters show up without introduction and disappear abruptly. A woman named Mrs. Kale brings Venkat breakfast and complains about his messy office before leaving, never to appear again. Who is she?!
The prize for most useless character in Teen Patti goes to Perci Tractenberg, played by Sir Ben Kingsley for no other reason than to promote it as a Ben Kingsley movie. His presence would’ve been more impressive had Uwe Boll not already stunt-cast Kingsley as a villain in Bloodrayne.
There are a number of factors I considered when selecting candidates for Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009. Movies featuring racist jokes, such as Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, obviously made the list. Incoherent plots brought Wanted and De Dana Dan to my attention, whereas Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna ignored traditional story structure and skipped the climax all together.
Ek — The Power of One deserves mention for its ridiculous title, which translates in English to “One — The Power of One”.
What’s Your Raashee? was easily the biggest disappointment of the year, coming from Ashutosh Gowariker, the filmmaker responsible for great flicks like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar.
2009 was a particularly bad year for Akshay Kumar. In addition to Kambakkht Ishq and De Dana Dan, he also starred in the bland supernatural thriller 8×10 Tasveer. His two other releases during the calendar year, Blue and Chandni Chowk to China, were fine but forgettable.
Because of their spectacular misunderstanding of human emotions and dubious moral messages, I thought about giving the award to either Kal Kissne Dekhaor London Dreams. Kal Kissne Dekha suggested that one’s value is dependent upon one’s ability to save lives via superhuman powers, while London Dreams excused abhorrent behavior so long as it was committed in pursuit of a selfish goal.
But the ultimate winner had to be the most annoying, most cliché-riddled movie of the year, the worst of the worst. And the winner of Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009 is: Do Knot Disturb.
Do Knot Disturb, which deserves the honor based on its stupid title alone, contains all of the bad clichés that dominate Hindi comedies at the moment. The plot is based on a series of misunderstandings which could be clarified if the characters actually had conversations with one another. The jokes are written based on volume instead of quality, under the mistaken belief that what was funny the first time is even funnier the sixth, seventh and eighth time.
Case in point, the high-pitched screaming match between characters played by Govinda and Ritesh Deshmukh. The characters get spooked by something and start shrieking in girlish voices. The gag isn’t original, but it’s not inherently annoying. But in Do Knot Disturb, the characters scream dialogue at each other in those high-pitched voices for the next ten minutes of the movie.
After one minute, the gag had already stopped being funny. After ten minutes, it was unbearable. I actually walked out of the theater and only convinced myself to return out of a sense of journalistic duty. By virtue of having watched all but one minute of the movie, I can say that Do Knot Disturb is the worst Hindi film of 2009.
Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is the next step in the transformation of Bollywood slapstick comedies into an internationally-viable form of entertainment: it’s actually funny.
Ranbir Kapoor plays Prem, president of The Happy Club, a sort of fraternity that’s a pretext for Prem and his friends to goof around, funded by money gently extorted from their parents. The club’s mission is to make people happy and unite separated lovers, and the group occasionally acts on its mission statement.
It’s during one of the attempts to unite two lovers — by way of kidnapping — that Prem meets Jenny (Katrina Kaif), a pretty girl destined to become the love of his life. There are obstacles to their union, including the fact that jobless Prem isn’t prime marriage material, nor is he the only one trying to win her heart. Plus, he’s too petrified to tell Jenny how he feels about her.
Ranbir Kapoor is the reason APKGK succeeds. Had Prem been played by frequent Hindi comedy leads Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan (who has a cameo that acknowledges his real-life romance with Kaif), Prem would get his way by slapping any friends or enemies who object to his plans. Because Kumar and Khan have muscular physiques, directors feel the need to put those muscles to use, even when it’s not funny or appropriate.
Tall and lanky, Kapoor makes Prem relatable. He gets his way by outsmarting his opponents and convincing his friends to help him; he’s not a bully. When watching comedies starring Kumar or Khan, I often wonder why their on-screen pals stick around, since they get thrashed as much as the bad guys.
APKGK relies on well-written jokes instead of crude sound effects like flatulence or slide whistles (one of my least favorite Bollywood gimmicks). By keeping the effects to a minimum, it forces the actors to make the situation funny, rather than relying on an auditory cue to alert the audience when something is supposed to be funny.
The movie has two faults that plague modern Bollywood comedies. First, it doesn’t know when to end a joke. The climactic showdown with the requisite gangsters is twice as long as it should be. Seeing someone lifted up by a jet of steam can be funny the first time; by the fourth time, it’s boring.
APKGK‘s second problem is more troubling, especially for international audiences. During a scene in which Jenny is being pressured to marry a lout named Tony, the prospective groom’s father says to Jenny, in essence, “Either you marry Tony willingly, or he’ll take you to his bedroom and make you his wife.”
Whoa! When did this stop being a comedy? Surely, the filmmakers intended only for the scene to make it clear that Prem needs to rescue Jenny ASAP, but the statement is so disgusting and out of proportion that it stops the flow of the movie completely.
While I don’t think any topic is off-limits in comedy, rape references in comedies should at least acknowledge the immorality of the act. The threat of rape is used so casually in APKGK (as it also was in Wanted) that it almost comes across as a viable way of making women compliant. International movie-goers (like me) may wonder if such threats are considered acceptable in India.
Entering their second weeks in theaters are Wake Up Sid, which earned $355,532 in U.S. theaters last weekend, and Do Knot Disturb ($124,573). Both films are showing at the South Barrington 30, Golf Glen 5 and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.
Among slightly older Bollywood releases, the South Barrington 30 is carrying over Wanted and What’s Your Raashee? ($236,926 total U.S. earnings) for another week, while the Golf Glen 5 will hold over What’s Your Raashee? and Dil Bole Hadippa!.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Telugu films Ganesh at the Golf Glen 5 and Mahatma at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.
The Diwali holiday movie season is in full swing, meaning two more Hindi films will open in Chicago area theaters this weekend.
Wake Up Sid features Ranbir Kapoor as Sid, a directionless guy who meets an attractive, motivated writer played by Konkona Sen Sharma, forcing Sid to rethink his slacker lifestyle.
In Do Knot Disturb, Govinda plays a businessman trying to cover up his affair with a model (Lara Dutta). When he hires his friend (Ritesh Deshmukh) to pose as his girlfriend’s boyfriend, identities get mixed up and comic wackiness ensues.
But those aren’t the only Hindi films showing in the Chicago area this weekend. The Golf Glen 5, Cantera 30 and South Barrington 30 are all carrying over Dil Bole Hadippa! and What’s Your Raashee?, which opened last Friday to disappointing first week earnings of only $169,005 in the United States.
The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Wanted for a third week. Salman Khan’s latest has earned $332,816 in U.S. theaters so far.
Other Indian movies playing around Chicago include the Telugu film Ganesh and the Malayalam film Loud Speaker, both at the Golf Glen 5.
Ashutosh Gowarikar’s latest film, What’s Your Raashee? (“What’s Your Sign?”) opens in theaters this weekend. It may hold special interest for Chicagoans, since parts of the film were shot in the Windy City, earlier this year.
In What’s Your Raashee?, Harman Baweja plays a guy looking for love among twelve different girls, all played by Priyanka Chopra. (In your face, Eddie Murphy!) Baweja and Chopra previously starred together in the embarrassing Love Story 2050. The runtime for their latest film is listed as 3 hrs. 12 min.
Of last weekend’s two new Hindi films, Dil Bole Hadippa! bested Wanted in U.S. earnings: $351,457 to $217,432. Both films return for a second week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. The Cantera 30 is only bringing back Dil Bole Hadippa!.
Wanted is a movie with an identity crisis. Is it a gruesome action flick? A mafia thriller? A slapstick comedy? A scathing critique of police corruption? A romantic drama? A musical?
The film contains elements of all these genres, and as a result, Wanted is a schizophrenic mess.
Salman Khan plays Radhe, an uber-cool thug who can take down a roomful of bad guys single-handedly. He’s the kind of guy to whom you’d apply a tagline like, “Every man wants to be him. Every woman wants to be with him.”
Of course Radhe’s trumped up machismo makes him completely unrelatable and unlikable, but the filmmakers go with it anyway.
Radhe works as a hired gun with no allegiance to the feuding mafia dons who hire him. He’s got three loafer buddies who conveniently show up whenever the girl of Radhe’s dreams, Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia), walks by, triggering dream sequence dance numbers.
The beautiful Jhanvi is pursued by the lecherous, corrupt police inspector Talpade, giving Radhe plenty of opportunities to come to her rescue. Jhanvi falls for Radhe until he kills about twenty guys in front of her (hey, they shot at him first!), making her question whether he’s marriage material after all.
Eventually, the biggest don around comes to town, and things get really bloody. There are rapes, kidnappings and beatings, and the police seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Jhanvi has Radhe to protect her, but is that enough when the rest of the world is falling apart?
Now, don’t let me mislead you. The plot isn’t nearly as straightforward as I’ve made it seem. There are several unnecessary dance numbers, as well as a subplot involving Jhanvi’s portly landlord, whose every entrance is announced by either a dopey musical theme or elephant sound effects.
All of this nonsense occurs amidst graphic, bloody deaths and frequent instances of sexual violence against women. Mahesh Manjrekar is exceptionally slimy as Inspector Talpade, who at one point proposes to Jhanvi’s mom an arrangement in which he gets to rape both of them at will.
Immediately following this uncomfortable scene, the inspector walks outside and finds the fat landlord trying to hide behind a tiny potted plant. The inspector punches the landlord in the eye, knocking him down. When he comes up, his eye is surrounded by a circle of black makeup — an instant, comic black eye! Then the inspector does the same to the landlord’s other eye. Goofy music plays in the background.
The juxtaposition of these two scenes highlights Wanted‘s misogyny. That the movie seems to suggest that the only way for a woman to save herself from this systematic violence is to find a muscly guy like Salman Khan to protect her just worsens the insult.
Don’t worry, ladies. At least you get to see Salman with his shirt off. That makes up for Wanted‘s cavalier attitude toward rape, right?
Two new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area this weekend. Yash Raj production Dil Bole Hadippa! (“My Heart Goes Hooray!”) stars Rani Mukerji as a woman who dresses as a man to play for an all-male cricket team, which is captained by Shahid Kapoor. It has a runtime of 2 hr. 28 min.
Wanted features Salman Khan as a mafia hitman who gets into trouble when an innocent girl falls for him. Its runtime is approximately 2 hrs. 40 min.
Note: some theater websites link to descriptions of the 2008 Angelina Jolie movie Wanted in their listings. As far as I know, that film isn’t being re-released, but you may want to verify with the theater that they are showing the Salman Khan movie of the same title.
The South Barrington 30 is carrying over Kaminey for anyone interested in a Shahid Kapoor double feature.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Tamil film Unnaipol Oruvan at the Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove. The Telugu version of the same film is showing at the Golf Glen 5 under the title Eenadu.
Also showing at the Golf Glen 5 are the Telugu films Josh and Sankham and the Malayalam movie Daddy Cool.