One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving as a kid was the annual “Turkey Day” marathon on Comedy Central, featuring back-to-back episodes of my favorite show: Mystery Science Theater 3000. The marathon’s name referred to not only the traditional Thanksgiving turkey we all dined on, but also to the awful movies — “turkeys” — the guys from MST3K skewered each episode.
Though the old Comedy Central event featured lousy films, it got me thinking about how I would organize a Thanksgiving marathon of good Bollywood movies, using only titles available on Netflix. I’ve posted my list below, complete with a fictionalized account of what the day would be like if I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my family (which will never happen, BTW).
I’d love to know what your Thanksgiving Bollywood-on-Netflix marathon would be. Here are the rules:
List them in the order you want them to be shown (sure, you could follow Guzaarish with Humshakals, but that’s just mean)
Make sure to limit your movies to those on this Netflix list. This isn’t your ideal Bollywood marathon, just a Netflix marathon. Post your lineup in the comment section below. Happy Turkey Day!
Kathy’s 2015 Bollywood-on-Netflix Turkey Day Marathon
9 a.m. — Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Gotta start out strong. The catchy tunes are perfect background music for early morning prep. (My review | Netflix link) 11:30 a.m. — Kill Dil. By this point, my brother and his wife have come over to help cook. Kill Dil is quirky enough to appeal to my brother, and Ali Zafar can be the eye candy for my sister-in-law. (My review | Netflix link) 2 p.m. — Dhoom 2. The great thing about Dhoom 2 is that it’s just as entertaining (and makes just as much sense) if you come in halfway through the movie as it is if you watch it from the beginning. Perfect for the time period when most of the guests will arrive. (My review | Netflix link) 4:30 p.m. — Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The main course. Dancing, crying, family reunions… This has “Thanksgiving” written all over it. (My review | Netflix link) 7 p.m. — Hawaizaada. How about some kid-friendly fare to go with my Aunt Mary’s pumpkin pie? (My review | Netflix link) 9:30 p.m. — Aurangzeb. My cousins Lara and Jill have taken their kids home, so any adults still lingering are subject to my whims. That means a soap opera about twins separated at birth swapping places to take down their gangster father. Good times. (My review | Netflix link)
This is probably my favorite sports movie ever. Shahrukh Khan plays the coach of the talented but underestimated Indian national women’s field hockey team. It’s a great film for families, and especially for girls. Its pro-diversity message also makes it one of the most patriotic Bollywood films out there.
Three cricket-loving young men find their hopes for the future dashed by an earthquake and a wave of political and religious violence. Kai Po Che is worth watching for performances by some of Bollywood’s hottest young stars.
Three single friends go on one last road trip, challenging themselves with extreme sports like sky diving along the way. A fun movie with a super cast. My favorite part of ZNMD is the song “Señorita,” sung by the movie’s stars: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol.
With no new Hindi movies opening in the U.S. or Canada on Friday, May 2, 2014, old favorites continued to pull in crowds at the North American box office. The Lunchbox — now in its tenth week — earned $255,736 from 141 screens ($1,814 average), bringing its total earnings to $2,968,497 so far.
2 States also held up well in its third week. It earned $167,377 from ninety-one screens ($1,839 average) to bring its total North American earnings to $1,978,594.
With The Lunchbox set to pass $3 million in North American earnings this week and 2 States about to the clear the $2 million mark, it’s worth noting the significance of these achievements. Both movies are romantic dramas, as opposed to action-packed spectacles. Neither film features A-list superstars (industry and audience respect for Irrfan Khan notwithstanding).
A look at the last five years of box office receipts reveals similarities among the sixteen Hindi films that managed to earn more than $2 million in North America during that period (five in 2013, five in 2012, two in 2011, one in 2010, and two in 2009). Four films are action sequels: Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Dabangg 2, and Don 2. A small list of actors show up in multiple movies on the list:
Hrithik Roshan: Krrish 3 and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
[Somebody in Bollywood needs to cash in by bringing back Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan for Ra.Two, featuring Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as the villains.]
The Lunchbox continues to earn big, thanks to its partnership with a Hollywood distributor — Sony Pictures Classics — which has dramatically expanded its potential audience compared to a typical Hindi film. Though movie adaptations of popular books are far rarer in India than in Hollywood, the success of 2 States should start to change that.
The only other Hindi movie showing in the U.S. the weekend of May 2-4 was Queen. Now in its ninth week, it earned $190 from one theater, bringing its total earnings to $1,417,405.
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.
2006’s Don was the first Hindi movie I saw in a theater, so it has a special place in my heart. It is a fun thriller with a sense of humor. Don 2 doesn’t do its predecessor justice.
In fact, Don 2 hardly even acknowledges the movie that spawned it. Sure, the international supervillain/anti-hero Don (Shahrukh Khan) is back, as is his archrival, Vardhaan (Boman Irani), and the cops Malik (Om Puri) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra). But five years have passed since the audience last saw this group together.
A few lines of dialog explaining Roma’s desire for justice — in the last movie, Don tricked her into falling in love with him after killing her brother — would’ve been helpful reminders for the audience. The movie’s few indirect references to past events are meaningless to anyone who missed the first movie.
Don 2 opens with a European drug kingpin putting a hit on Don. This sets up a huge fight scene in Thailand, but the storyline is subsequently dropped until the very end of the film. Surely, there must have been a way to trigger a fight scene in a way that relates to the rest of the plot.
The story truly begins when Don gets himself thrown into a Malaysian jail in order to help the imprisoned Vardhaan escape. Don wants to steal some money-printing plates from a bank in Germany, and Vardhaan has information that can be used to blackmail one of the head bankers. The former enemies put aside their mutual hatred and work together.
The story of the heist is amusing enough, and the cast members act their parts well. But the whole affair feels underwhelming, due primarily to the film being presented in 3D.
3D has the effect of dimming the images on screen, so Don 2 lacks the vibrancy of recent Excel Entertainment productions like Game and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It’s a shame not to be able to see Thailand, Switzerland and Germany in their usual splendor. The 3D also dims the tiny English subtitles to near illegibility.
Apart from one exciting car chase through Berlin, there aren’t enough scenes that warrant the addition of 3D. Fight scenes in close quarters feel muddled by the effect, and the gimmick doesn’t enhance the story.
More disappointing than the lackluster visuals is the lackluster story, specifically Roma’s role in it. The film emphasizes a lingering romantic tension between Roma and Don but drops the ball in regard to her real reason for being in the film: she’s foremost a police officer intent on catching a notorious criminal. As she’s written, she’s not a very good police officer.
Roma is not only a step behind Don at all times, she’s a step behind the audience. She struggles to discern the identity of a man in a police sketch so accurate it might as well have the guy’s name written on it. The two times she manages to “capture” Don, it’s not a result of her police work. The first time, he turns himself in. Later, he’s ratted out by a co-conspirator.
It’s a real disservice to Chopra that her character is so poorly written. In Chopra’s hands, Roma is tenacious yet likeable, and handy in a fight. Lara Dutta’s moll character, Ayesha, similarly could’ve been better developed.
The experience of watching Don 2 isn’t entirely unpleasant. It’s a mostly-competent heist movie that gives a nod to earlier films in the genre, particularly in terms of its evocative musical score. But it could have — and should have — been so much more.
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
Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan have been established Bollywood stars for years, but this has been something of a breakout summer for both of them. Kaif scored big at the box office with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Khan showed serious comedy chops in Delhi Belly.
Headlining Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (“My Brother’s Bride”), Kaif and Khan seem their most at ease in front of the camera. Not only do they share a charming chemistry, but they give two of their strongest individual performances to date.
Khan anchors Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD, henceforth) as Kush, an aspiring director in India who gets an odd request from his brother in London, Luv (Ali Zafar). Having broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Piali (Tara D’Souza), Luv decides to entrust his romantic future to Kush. Luv asks his younger brother to find a nice Indian girl for him to marry.
Kush enlists his parents and friends to scour Dehradun for a bride for Luv. The ideal candidate turns out to be a reformed party girl named Dimple (Kaif), whom Kush met years earlier during her wilder days. She describes her qualifications thusly: “I am correctly beautiful and appropriately sexy.” She gets the gig.
Predictably, Kush and Dimple fall for each other as they make wedding preparations. Only after Luv arrives do they acknowledge the problem: she’s about to marry the wrong brother.
The fact that MBKD feels a bit like something we’ve seen before is actually its strength. Debutant filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar (who’s not the Ali Zafar who plays Luv) clearly set out to make a feel-good romantic comedy, and he achieved his goal.
To play up the familiarity, the opening dance number pays homage to some famous Bollywood routines of the recent past. There are plenty of dance numbers, and all of them are entertaining and well-integrated into the plot.
A few slightly unexpected tweaks to the formula are a nice surprise. While Kush is the film’s main character, Dimple does more to drive the story forward. She’s not a passive damsel in distress, but rather an impatient problem solver whose impulsiveness gets her into trouble.
In another unexpected twist, MBKD doesn’t have a villain. I kept waiting for Luv to reveal himself to be an oaf, or for Piala to turn into a “crazy ex-girlfriend,” but all of the characters are nice people. The situation — not the characters — provides the conflict. It’s tricky to pull off, but Abbas Zafar handles it well.
The advantage of this approach is that the story doesn’t get bogged down in maudlin montages of Kush and Dimple staring forlornly into the rain as a singer laments the cruelty of fate. Rather, the lovebirds recognize a problem and set about fixing it.
The lone complaint I have about the movie is that several jokes depend on cultural references that American audiences likely don’t share. There are repeated references to Complan, which I learned after the movie is a British nutritional supplement. (See Ricky’s comment below for a more complete explanation of the Complan references.) This isn’t a reason to avoid the film, but American moviegoers should know in advance that they won’t get all the jokes.
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.