Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Bollywood Box Office Breakthrough

When I reviewed the Bollywood melodrama KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA (“Never Say Goodbye”) for the Boston Globe last Friday, there were no advance screenings — I attended the first show on opening day, August 14. To my surprise, the midday show was packed–everyone from twenty- and thirtysomethings skipping out of work on a beautiful day to grandparents to a two-year old who happily ran up and down the aisle for the movie’s three and a half hour (plus intermission) running time. I wasn’t the only non-Indian face in the crowd, either–many of the younger Desis sat with boyfriends, girlfriends, classmates of all colors.
Though KANK, as its distributors have nicknamed it, was playing in only a few markets on just 64 screens, it grossed $1.8 million over its first week. The film’s per screen average was $28,330–extremely high. Director Karan Johar’s previous film, the worldwide hit KABHI KHUSHI KHABHIE GHAM (“Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad” also had a big U.S. opening: $1.37 million its first week on just 73 screens. That 2001 film actually opened in sixth place–an extraordinary achievement for a foreign language film, and for any film playing on so few screens.)

No question about it, this is an event movie–and the industry’s most expensive production (budgeted at $10 million plus) and filmed mostly in and around New York City. The real draw was seeing two of Indian cinema’s biggest stars, Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee, go where Bollywood has seldom ventured: a realistic look at modern marital dischord, adultery and divorce. When the film’s romantic leads–both married to other people–actually check into a hotel for a guilty getaway, a kind of sensation rippled through the audience. Shock! They really did it (discreetly)
Even though KANK has already opened in the US, it’ll be one of the gala presentations at the Toronto Film Festival next month.
A couple of other reviews–there’s much controversy over the going-all-the-way aspect of the love story and a straight-ahead look at the way a marriage can break down, despite the best efforts of both parties. Despite all the tears and angst, this is a breakup movie without the bitter aftertaste.
Here’s Variety and the New York Times. And a report from Reuters claiming that while urban audiences are turning out for the film, “conservative heartland” Indians aren’t comfortable with the frank treatment of unhappy marriage. Is the film even playing outside of urban multiplexes? KANK may not be the across the board crowd pleaser that Johar’s lighter-than-air earlier movie was, but he’s hit upon a hot button issue, given it his trademark high gloss style and set it to a danceable beat.

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3 Responses to “Bollywood Box Office Breakthrough”

  1. IRFAN says:

    a very very bad film n far from nature n life its never be happen in life as shown in this film

  2. somadutta says:

    a great movie without being judgemental.has a realistic feel to it.basically theme on urban marital disturbance.

  3. p, basak says:

    dear all,
    I am a die hard fan of SHAHRUKH .But after watching KANK i was distressed …..Shahrukh is known as a person who gives strenghth to audiences..we laugh whn he makes us laugh…he is so refreshing in all his actions…I am requesting SHAHRUKH not to do any horryfying movie where he has to play a frustrated gentleman….Shahrukh dont do such a movie done by KARAN JOHAR even if he is a good frnd of urs……u matter a lot to us…..dont spoil it with the thinking of such a commercial director like KARAN…do good movies…..plzzzzzzzzzzzz

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon