DVDs and Indian movies

Something that bothers me one heck of a lot is that probably, I will never get to see an Indian movie in its complete form.

Note 1: I do not mean every Indian movie. I am not crazy.
Note 2: Some Indian movies are exempt from the generalisation. Reasons below.

When I am in the theater, there will be some Great Soul spewing rot behind me, because he doesn’t like the movie and he thinks no one else would. Some Happy Family sits right next to my seat, and the Happy Kids decide not to be happy anymore. Popcorn packets are mauled. Cellphones ring. Somebody is sneezing in a corner of the theater. People say “excuse me” and shuffle to the toilet, wander into the theater half an hour late and try out their torchlight-enhanced cellphones, and of course, there’s always someone who opens the theater door to let the air (and the light) in.

I admit I am guilty of indulging in some of the above perversions above. But I am not blaming anybody. A nation of clueless non-queuers cannot be expected to behave themselves in a movie theatre ( ooh, sanctimonious moi!), and so I sigh exasperatedly, and forgive my movie-going brethren their transgressions. Unless it’s a Karan Johar movie, in which case, I become the Great Soul That Spews Rot for the guy sitting in front of me.

So, I want to see a Movie properly, and I can’t be expected to see it in a theatre. What to do, oh, where to go?


A year ago, I would have said VCDs. But times have changed, and my computer needs have been fulfilled. Glorious 5.1 sound. 720*480 resolution pictures ( vcd is only 320*240, blah!) And so DVD it is, one shiny platter where it would have been two. Two discs in case of Special editions.

Now waitaminit. Special Editions? Indian movies and Special editions?

The guy who runs the neighbourhood DVD-renting shop tells me he has got a special DVD. “Which movie?”, I ask. “Lagaan”, he says. “So what is special about it?” “You have Lagaan, Mela and Gadar on a DVD. Imagine, THREE movies in one DVD.”, he says, and smirks. He is very pleased because he has given his customer value for money. Or, as I look at it, bang for the buck.

You get those “special” DVDs for 300 rupees each in the streets of Koti, prices negotiable, so if you buy them once, you get them for 50 rupees less the next time. “5.1 Dalby(sic) Digital Experience”, claims the cover. Bombay was the movie I was looking for, in case you’re interested. Nobody seemed to have it, until this guy showed me a copy of Bombay and Roja together, a special CD with two special movies. Of course I bought it, after negotiating the prices to a very reasonable level. Watched movies, enjoyed whole-heartedly. Mani-sir is God and all that.

And a month later, the freakin’ thing stopped working. It didn’t even get detected by the drive.

“To hell with it”, I thought. “I am going legit.”. So off I went, to buy a legitimate DVD of Bombay at Music World. And it said FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE RUPEES for a single movie.

Now, hold on.

International DVDs are priced between rupees 499 and 999. Among other things, they include a Director’s commentary, special features like cast interviews, alternate endings, enhanced content for PC users, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers – the works. And what do Indian DVDs have in their “special features”? 5.1 Surround Sound ( which is effectively the same as saying that it makes 5.1 special because we’re pointing it out to you) . Multiple subtitles, it says. Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and even *gasp* English! Every DVD has CHAPTER-BASED ACCESS, just to tell you how easy it is to start watching the movie again after your power blows in the middle of an important scene. And yes, the most important feature – individual song-access. Wow. Boggles the mind. We buy a movie DVD and get access to ANY song at the press of a button. I need to pay four hundred and ninety five rupees for it. If the packaging is really bad, I need to pay 350 rupees only. Whee. Song-based access needs cash, so pay up, eh?

IF you’re wondering about my continuous rant about the high price, let me assure you – I am perfectly willing to pay four hundred and ninety five rupees for a Bombay DVD that gives me bang for my buck. If they include scenes that were deleted from the movie during the theatrical release. If the crew and cast prepare a commentary. If the DVD includes the audiostreams in which the movie was released – namely Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Newspaper/TV articles that point out the controversy Bombay had to suffer before, and after it was released. Maybe a semi-documentary that illustrates the history of why the Bombay riots happened.

For that matter, I am willing to shell out a lot more for a Director’s cut of Sholay, that features the lost alternate ending in which Sanjeev Kumar ends up killing Gabbar Singh. And deleted scenes, of course, and interviews. A proper version of Lagaan, with additional scenes from the cricket match and Satyajit Bhatkal’s documentary The Making of Lagaan included. Heck, even Santosh Sivan’s Asoka, if it comes with all the uncut footage ( which made its appearance in the TV series Asoka). Boxed sets of the Ramgopal Verma movies – with Director’s commentary and Production insights and scriptwriters explaining their modus operandi.

Wait, I need to rinse the drool out.

I know I am asking for too much. With the exception of Dil Chahta Hai – the only two-disc DVD package available in the Indian market right now, and oh, Farhan Akhtar, how I love you – there is nothing that remotely comes close to what one expects from a DVD. It’s almost as if the filmmaker washes his hands off his creation once it’s out and he’s made whatever money he expected to make. Obviously no one from the film is involved in the DVD-creation process, hence you get badly mastered film/sound, cheap packaging, and inflated prices. Which means, as of now, it’s more lucrative to stick to your neighbourhood “special” DVDs with 3-movies-in-one, because the legitimate one is going to be equally bad, so why bother?

The only positive thing I can think of, with regards to all this, is that Lagaan hasn’t come out yet in a legitimate VCD/DVD format. When it does, I suspect ( and hope ) Aamir Khan and co. will rock my socks off. Fingers crossed.


52 thoughts on “DVDs and Indian movies

    • Re: Quantifying your ‘bang’

      That’s actually a very nice counterargument.

      And yes, most of them leave you glowing and braindead by the end, so you wouldn’t be in the mood for extras.

      Hmm. I need an urgent rethink.

  1. Make a trip abroad. Rejuvenate yourself…get some fresh air and go watch a Hindi movie in peace, where you might be the only one in the entire theatre. Yes, that happens sometimes too!!

    • The only snag is that I don’t have a passport yet.

      The second snag is that if I do go abroad, there is narry a soul that can tear me away from the comicbook shops.

      Part of me likes it when a Verma movie flops, so when I go for a repeat show on Thursday, the theatre is completely empty.

    • Is the DVD stocked in your DVD store a region-free DVD?

      Even amazon stocks Region-1 DVDs of Lagaan and Asoka. I think overseas releases of Indian DVDs are made pretty early to prevent piracy. Ayngaran ( that I know of) released all the Tamil movies from London.

      Hold on, I just checked amazon, and this is what the DVD features section says:
      DVD Features:

      * Available subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
      * Available Audio Tracks: English and Hindi (Dolby Digital 2.0)
      * Deleted scenes
      * Weblink
      * Widescreen anamorphic format

      Deleted scenes! Waaaah.

      But I remember reading somewhere, most probably in Spirit of Lagaan:The Making of The Movie, that Aamir will be delaying the DVD release until Bhatkal’s documentary is complete. Most probably he meant the Indian release.

    • u liked Asoka dood??? SRK’s Asoka??? co-starring Kareena *bleh* K???
      or was it just a despo comparison??? if it wasnt im -ditto-ing the above statement n will release Zatoichi on ur arse !

      • I liked Asoka. It was Santosh Sivan’s Asoka, and not SRK’s, for a change.

        You know me, I love any movie that has a well-choreographed swordfight. I had my own name for that sequence where Asoka (note that I didn’t say SRK) fights off the prince’s would-be assassins in the forest. I even had my own name for the sequence. I called it “Blood in the Mist”.

        Har har har. My corniness knows no bounds.

    • Asoka. I liked it. Parts of it. Cinematographically perfect, so for once I can ignore Monsieur Khan’s eyebrows. Mostly I loved the comic-book nature of the movie, the retelling of the story as a love-leads-to-redemption story.

      C’mon, man, even you should love that movie! That sword SRK carried was awesome!

    • eeks? :-P

      Even the Dil Chahta Hai 2-disc DVD has been released by Sony.

      By “it’s quite good”, do you mean the audio/video quality? Any additional features?

      Hmm, I found out yesterday that even Baghban has come out in a slick package, with liner notes and cast/crew interviews. Is this the changing phase for Indian DVDs?

        • Re: eeks? :-P

          Yes. 50 rupees per DVD.

          But I want to own them, see? Because you never realise WHEN the urge to watch a Verma movie comes upon you. :)

          • Anonymous says:

            Re: eeks? :-P

            I do understand that one should own these rather than rent it. But you can always rip it to DivX format, which offers very good quality of video and audio. I suppose you can rip the audio channels in 5.1 format.

            Since Indian DVDs offer only the movie and nothing more than that and also the fact that you watch on your comp, I guess you can rent the DVDs and rip them!!

            Its as good as getting a movie for 50 bucks!!

            • Re: eeks? :-P

              Yes, but I insist. I want to own them. You can’t get autographs on DivX ripped cds. The point is, I want to own a complete version of certain movies. Complete, as in complete with everything-that-can-be-added.

              I wouldn’t have to spend 50 bucks to get the divXes, actually. :)

            • Anonymous says:

              Re: eeks? :-P

              “I wouldn’t have to spend 50 bucks to get the divXes, actually. :)”

              Now that sounds interesting!! I would be glad if you can share the source with me, i mean if it is available online.

              Even I would like to have a library of DVDs.. but till the time DVDs with extra features are available in India, we can try out DivX movies!

            • Re: eeks? :-P

              Aah, thanks a lot. Though the final line in the review
              “DVD Courtesy: Net Effect Media Inc (For USA distribution only) “

              did not exactly make my heart go bangity bang.

              About the DivXes, how about you tell me who are and I tell you where to get the free DivXes? :)

    • I think the line of reasoning was – both movies came out on the same day in the same year and were hits. So the pirate captain must have ordered the two to be put together.

      Mela was the odd one out.

      P.S I didn’t rent the DVD, so was spared of Deol-saab’s hysterionics.

  2. I agree. Most of my incentive in unwrapping a newly bought DVD is in accessing all those fabulous little nuggets. Desi DVDs, on the other hand, don’t even usually throw in the theatrical trailers. It is rather disappointing.

    But I think change is actually in the air. Ma was watching Kal Ho Na Ho yesterday and I was fiddling with the remote between songs, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a director’s commentary track. All the more surprising to see it smack dab on a Rs. 150/- disc packed with a couple of other SRK films. A wee bit of curious experimentation, and I find ‘extras’ of varying interest on all three movies.

    Of course, it still brings us back to — why would you want to listen to the how’s of choreographing Maahive?

    Then again, personally I would counter that counterargument [as I would with one word to rileen’s intelligent counter about more minutes – Kubrick.] with the fact that taste is entirely subjective, and I only buy movies that I think are fabulous on DVD. At least in shrink-wrapped, special edition form.

    A possible reason I can think of for lesser ‘stuff’ on Indian DVDs is that satellite TV gives you way too much [usually unwanted] information on the movies, et al. A few minutes watching Set MAX usually saturates you enough to not want to watch the film anymore.

    Not to mention that cast/crew commentaries would be hard to pull off seeing an A-list bollywood star does three times as many films a year and about thirty more annoying product endorsements than their phirang brothers.

    But yes, I am in total agreement with you. Would be fun to have old classics, remastered, with more to offer than just the film. And, the man you worship, Ramu’s movies with some insights from hisself. :) Preciousss.

    • Of course, it still brings us back to — why would you want to listen to the how’s of choreographing Maahive?

      I wouldn’t, but some Karan Johar fan sure would. Personally I would like to hear Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy talking about how Pretty Woman was adapted and Indianised.

      A possible reason I can think of for lesser ‘stuff’ on Indian DVDs is that satellite TV gives you way too much [usually unwanted] information on the movies, et al.

      But even Hollywood movies are hyped on the channels to saturation level and that doesn’t prevent the DVD from being choked with extra features. Even if the filmmaker used those same interviews aired on TV ( which I don’t watch anyways) they would make for a nice nostalgia trip, and the end result would be an archive worthy of repeat viewings and discoveries.

      True, most Indian films are run-of-the-mill stuff that don’t deserve to be bought, much less a commentary or value-added features. But the special movies?

      But yeah, good to see you agree. :-D

      • yes, yes.. all this talk about spesh ed. dvds made me dig out my favourite of the lot, .. Tap … aaah now thats what I call DVD value….

        *hums ‘big bottom’*


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