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.