Our source of Hindi movies apart from the Bollywood theater in Houston is the local desi store where we can buy/rent (pirated?) DVDs. It is virtually a gamble hoping for a good print since we cannot check it in-store. Moreover, the declining quality of popular Hindi movies has turned us away even more. And the independent small-budget movies that draw critical acclaim rarely reach this small college town as the desi store owner prefers Salman-Govinda movies rather than Vishal Baradwaj movies. This makes us look for options online.
The reliability of online Bollywood (Hindi) movies is extremely low. I have long bemoaned the lack of legal options to purchase and view digital Indian content, be it entertainment or otherwise in spite of the fact that there is a burgeoning market all over the world. I’m not even talking about the music market.
Rajshri Films, the producer for Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, has finally leveraged this market demand and is now offering digital downloads and streaming options for Hindi movies. Filmoholic has an excellent post looking at various options in digital distribution of Indian movies. Rajshri has an interesting model. If you choose to stream the movie online, it is free. On the other hand, if you wish to download the movie to watch later, you have to pay anything from $4.99 to $9.99 for standard quality movies. Rajshri also pioneered the experiment of released a movie online simultaneously with its theatrical release. The movie, Vivah although was panned by critics and audiences, managed to sell over 6,500 downloads all over the world. Their catalog currently contains around 600 movies, 200,000 audio tracks, 10,000 music videos, and 3000 ringtones apart from TV shows and channels.
Apart from movies from the Rajshri stables like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Maine Pyaar Kiya, etc. they have other classics like Amar Akbar Anthony, Chit Chor, Abhimaan, Bombay to Goa, Abhimaan, and many more. The choice of movies ranges from old B&W classics like Dosti to the latest, Manorama Six Feet Under. Considering that even ordering from Netflix takes at least 4-5 days if not more, streaming a movie online would be a better option. I checked the quality and it seems acceptable. Of course, you cannot watch it full-screen but there is no such thing as a free lunch. You can purchase a download and watch it full-screen.
I just don’t agree with their download policy. We can watch the movie over a three-day period after which the movie will ‘expire’. And you can’t burn a copy on DVD either. Now if I have purchased a movie, I wish to have complete control over it. I wouldn’t want my purchased DVD to self-destruct after couple of days. If they are afraid of piracy, I’m sure they can encode each download with an identifier which they can track to the consumer if need be. But I guess, in an age of limited options, this is a decent start. I’m sure with increased demand, Rajshri will offer DRM-free downloads. Until then, we have to suffice with watching movies online on our computer screens.