Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pure dross: a gripe about DVDs

The variety of DVDs available in music stores like Planet M and Musicland is much more exciting than it was a year or two ago; walk into a medium-sized store and you're sure to see a rack filled with old and contemporary "World Cinema" titles released by Palador, Shemaroo or NDTV Lumiere, along with dozens of classic American and British films. But as someone who still does the bulk of his DVD-buying in Palika Bazaar (Rs 150 per disc for "original copies" from the Criterion Collection and such), I'm confounded by two things. First, the prices in the legit stores: anywhere between Rs 400 and Rs 600 per DVD (though Shemaroo's World Cinema titles were priced at Rs 350 last I checked). Second, the absence of extras/special features on the majority of these discs. The assumption seems to be that Indian buyers, even the ones who would willingly purchase a movie made 50 years ago, are unconcerned about such things. (In this post written years ago, I mentioned my surprise that many DVD-watchers here didn't even know about Extras, or how to navigate a disc menu; I'm not sure things have significantly changed since then.)

Much incredulous head-shaking has been done over a DVD series titled "Pure Gold". It's a collection of old Hollywood movies - Singin in the Rain, Roman Holiday, North by Northwest, many others - and it's very pleasing to look at, each DVD coming with a colourful cardboard jacket. If your principal reason for buying DVDs is that they look good on a shelf, you'll want the whole lot. But you have to shell out Rs 600 - four times the Palika price - for the stylish packaging, and of course the disc itself has only the movie on it. Nothing else.

On the positive side, there was a nice "3 DVDs for Rs 500" deal for a couple of months at Planet M recently, and one sometimes discovers a "50 per cent off" tag on a DVD that people aren't queuing up to buy - Police Academy 4, for example. But our music stores clearly have a way to go before they start offering the equivalent of the round-the-year deals one sees at international stores like HMV.

P.S. I'm not sure how Enemy at the Gates fits in the Pure Gold collection, but let that pass for now.

[Other DVD-related posts and rants: bizarre subtitles, jacket typos, a tip for Palika hounds, of porn and Pasolini, in praise of pirates]


  1. Are classic movie DVDs dearer in general than recent releases? At the Delhi Airport book stall, I found Ford's Liberty Valance priced at Rs.500 while a fairly recent Clint Eastwood film cost Rs.99!

    It is very strange that the legit DVD prices in India don't even take into account differences in purchasing power parity (PPP). For instance, Ford's Liberty Valance costs about $10 on Amazon. I'm assuming that's the price in US DVD stores. And it costs roughly the same (Rs.500) in an Indian store!

    Having resolved not to download copyrighted stuff, it appears as though I'll have to stop watching movies altogether, given the way these "legit" DVDs are priced.

  2. The General by Buster Keaton and many other old titles are available but with no extras.

    There are a few classics and new dvds which ARE available with extras and is the same as those in the US but it is rare. When it is the same, the prices tend to be cheaper in India like for example Sound of Music 2 disk set or Mutiny on Bounnty (Brando) two disk set.

    I still buy most DVDs pirated but there ARE a few good deals available in planet M and Music World now. For instance, I recently bought Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Street Car Named desire.

  3. Interesting also that the newer Hindi film DVDs tend to have extras, while the Hollywood ones don't.

  4. ??!: I saw a DVD of Tropic Thunder (a fairly recent film) that had a fairly impressive list of Extras, including cast commentary.

    Pratyush: the Streetcar Named Desire DVD I have is a two-disc thing. Quite good. Wrote about it here.

    shrikanth: I saw a Liberty Valance DVD that was part of one of those "3 for Rs 499" deals. I don't think it had a single Extra though.

  5. are dvds of tv series like lost also available in palika bazaar ?

  6. Anon: yes, though I'm not sure about the prices for those.

  7. Yeah, mine is also the two disk set which is the same as available in the US. As my brother stays in the US, I tend to pile up a list of dvds (or blu-rays now) and get them once every six months. BTW I got the 'Heat' Movie blu-ray and saw the same blu-ray at a Music World not long ago.

  8. Hey, you must've spotted this one but I thought I'd mention it here nonetheless. There's this 6 movie DVD pack by Moser Baer (Andaz Apna Apna, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Bombay To Goa, Shaukeen, Rang Birangi & Padosan) just for 350 bucks. Awesome if you like these movies. :)

  9. I'm sorry, but are you freaking kidding me???!

    I know this is a bit off-topic here, and maybe you don't watch older Hindi movies, but the complaints that can be made about those dvds/vcds are legion and make the whining about no extras and prices for H'wood dvds look petty.

    Scenes missing, songs missing (and not just because the original source film is damaged), huge logos plastered across the screen...I could go on and on (and have). They may be cheap but they often aren't worth getting even for free. The pure indifference to and neglect of really wonderful old Hindi films is one of the biggest crosses that I personally bear. When Indian dvd manufacturers don't even do justice to their own rich film history and nobody seems to care, why would you expect more for western cinema?