Saturday, April 15, 2006

DVD disorder

Bulk DVD acquisition has just occurred: 24 films (which I probably won’t see anytime in the near future), all purchased from a film appreciation and research group called Drishya. Have mostly picked up movies I saw a long time ago and wanted to own (including Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, Herzog’s Aguirre, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup) but there are also a few titles I somehow never got around to watching – like Kurosawa’s under-seen version of Gorky’s The Lower Depths, Antonioni’s La Notte, Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains and Nagisa Oshima's cult erotic film In the Realm of the Senses.

The discs are reasonably priced and it’s for a decent cause – these guys need money to fund their activities around the country – but I had to overcome a mental block to buy them. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to DVDs my attitude isn’t that “getting to watch the film is the only thing that matters”. I need the complete package: a proper cover with literature about the movie on it, a semblance of order, the impression that it’s been bought first-hand (one of the things I like best about the Palika Bazaar shop where I usually purchase from is that they supply plastic boxes with every disc – never mind that the boxes are usually out of shape).

But these DVDs are distressingly anonymous: no covers, just regular discs with the names of the films scrawled on top with a felt pen, and loosely placed in little polythene packs. They carry associations of a pure, unfettered film-student love for movies (I visualise all-night film-watching marathons with discs casually strewn around the room), but I feel strange about them somehow. I don’t even feel like storing them alongside my classier-looking DVDs; might keep in a cupboard or something.

The prints are decent, not great: haven’t encountered any major problem yet but some of the films are slightly grainy in places, like there’s been a format-transference problem (no, I have no idea what that means either, but it sounds like it might mean something). But what I’m most relieved about is that (with a few exceptions) the special features on most of the discs seem to be in working order. There are audio commentaries (including a joint one by Polanski and Catherine Deneuve on Repulsion), interviews with directors, a couple of feature-length documentaries. Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ has an interview with Peter Gabriel about the process of composing music for the film. There are two versions of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (one of the treasures in this lot): one silent, the other accompanied by the “Voices of Light” symphonic soundtrack.

Anyway, if you’re interested in picking up hard-to-get films, do check out the Drishya website, which has contact information for various cities. And here’s a catalogue of the available titles.


  1. yes, now they give plastic boxes with DVD's at Palika.....btw that was a familiar film-student profile.

  2. looks like this drishya is pirating the criterion collection - and appears to be a major psued org

  3. Uhh...I think you've been had.

    Consider this - their copies are as legal as the ones at Palika. They've been given the movies to screen them in rural areas, not sell them in cities. The 'generate funds for a cause' seems to be hogwash, and I'm quite surprised you fell for it. Heh, it must have been the list of movies. :D

    If you go through their website, it says nothing about asking people to buy DVD's to support their cause.

    I'd first met two chaps from Drishya at Darya Ganj a year and a half ago, and then again at Habitat a week later after I'd watched Lal Ded, a play. Then they were selling CD's at double the price of a DVD at Palika. So they've lowered the rates now, switched to DVD's and created a website. Interesting.

    A friend of mine who'd come for the Osian's Film Fest had met them Siri Fort. I guess you're likely to run into them again at film fests, book readings and plays, which is where they look around for buyers.

  4. You're high up on my list of bloggers, but now I know you like the Marx brothers, well, there you are at the top!

  5. Nikhil,
    Consider this: I've paid exactly the same for the DVDs I bought from them as I would have if I'd purchased them at Palika. The prints are equally good (with a couple of exceptions), there was no operational problem with any of the 24 discs (if I'd bought 24 at one go from Palika, I would have had to return at least 3-4) and most of the special features were in place - which isn't usually the case with Palika DVDs. Regardless of what Drishya's intentions were, I benefit. So why should I complain?

    Having said that, these guys seemed sincere to me. Their legit operations (screening films in rural areas etc) seem completely honest and well-meant (if a little naive and over-earnest - these are the sort of chaps who wag their fingers at you if you can't list all of Tarkovsky's films).

    And of course their website says nothing about their selling DVDs to support their cause - it isn't a legal operation, just something they do to raise funds.

  6. Heh...when I said that you've been had, I was talking about the 'funds for a cause' sales pitch. Maybe that's improved too, cause they didn't seem sincere to me or any of my friends.

    The quality of the DVD's was never in question, and you probably got a good deal. I'd buy them too, but I don't buy the 'for a cause' bs.

  7. but you would buy 'em discs, right? does it matter what thier 'sales pitch' is?

    when we saw them at IHC, I don't remember us being really concerned about how they would've used the money they might've made from us. we were too busy scanning the list of movies.

    considering this - define bullshit.


    ~ harneet

  8. Hey Jai,donno about there cause related sales pitch but these guys had a field day in my agency(and the rest of the big ticket ad agencies in mumbai)I myself bought around 4 DVDs from them which were really fine.While the seniors in my agency were ordering around 50 - 60 DVDs.

    But that apart me thinks they have a fantabulous collection.

  9. Hi,

    I work in the motion picture industry with a media conglomerate. I am in the business of selling/marketing movies overseas. And no this is not my CV getting posted here.

    The point i am trying to make is that the Hindi film industry as well as international cinema loses a lot of money to piracy. The amount being vast enough for each movie to make another movie in itself.

    I have been through the website of Drishya. And yes i agree that their cause is well intentioned. But they dont have the rights to market the DVDs of these international movies in India.

    I am not trying to be a saint here. All i ask is for you people to pause and consider the fact that if we continue to support them, by buying DVDs then it is a like a never ending rigmarole.

    I dont want to sound pedantic and talk about the harm that piracy does to the industry cos i know that you are all well aware of it.

    Be it Palika bazaar or for that matter Drishya group i think we need to put an end to it.

    Being an avid film buff even i am tempted to buy these amazing movies for just 250/-. But i guess i have decided to fight this issue. And i hope that you all will join me also..

    Just a request...



  10. Harneet: You and I were scanning the list, and I quietly told you about them on the side. Deepan was talking to them and Priya was listening. After they left we discussed what they were doing. I still have the list, somewhere.

    No, I wouldn't buy the discs now. Oh, and - here. O-)

  11. (sorry, jai)

    nikhil, honey, lest you forget - i was with you when we ran into them at daryaganj, prior to meeting them again at IHC.

    'course you would not buy the discs now. you are one up on them, downloading 'em movies straight. cut the middlemen out, eh?


    ~ harneet

  12. Did it ever occur to anyone of you that this is piracy?
    God Man! please give some respect to the intellectual property. how long will this country live off stuff that is robbed and that is the reason why the pitiful state our arts are in. It is a curse from these great philospher / Directors.
    Try spending the money you make.