A long overdue rant

First of all, in general I don’t really like to complain (okay, that background noise is my friends laughing). But seriously. I hardly ever send anything back to the kitchen in a restaurant, for instance. I figure: they are doing their best back there, and who knows what all they have to deal with. And also, they might spit in my food (or worse). So if it’s edible and there aren’t any bugs or severed fingers in it, I won’t bitch. I might grumble a little, but that’s usually it. However, dear readers and fellow unfortunate fans of old Hindi cinema, I am really fed up.

Who is mistreating the Memsaab so? Indian DVD manufacturers, that’s who!

I recently watched an unsubtitled (as usual) VCD of Shammi’s lovely film Rail Ka Dibba, released by Friends Video. Friends presents us with this at the beginning:

Well, fRIENDS, I would feel a LOT more “co-operative” with you if you didn’t flog us with THIS eyesore on every screen (and I’m not referring to Shammi or Madhubala!):

Your transparent white one floating smack in the middle of the screen isn’t any better either! Of course this aberration is not restricted to Friends. We all have to peer around large (and often gaudy) Ultra or KMI or Eros or TNT logos.

We know you made the video, people, it says so on the cover. And lest you try and tell me that it’s to prevent pirating, I’ll tell you this for free: not only does it not prevent pirating, it encourages it. Why should we pay good money to stare at your advertising instead of the film we want to see? And if someone goes to the trouble of digitally removing your intrusive logo from a video and uploads it online, how can we be criticized if we would rather watch that version?

Dara might prefer that Shemaroo obscure his double chin:

but I don’t! And I doubt that anyone else does either!

Also, we fans know that some (okay, many) original films aren’t in the best condition. It’s sad, but it’s true, and it’s not necessarily your fault, although I DO wonder why all the people making a living from cinema don’t invest anything back into preserving it. That’s a rant for another day.

But why can’t you put even a *little bit of effort* into improving the video quality? I do it easily with my screen caps, and I’m certainly no great whiz at technology! It’s not that hard to adjust contrast and color digitally. Or to remove scratches and blotches.

You know what else? Some people do the clean-up on their own, out of sheer love for the films. Then they kindly put them up online, and we who also love the films download them! Instead of buying your crappy product!

Look at poor Laxmi Chhaya in the dismally dark Raat Aur Din with TWO logos cluttering up the screen:

Here’s the version I’d download for free and keep, without the logos and with the picture brightened up so you can actually see how Made of Awesome she is:

It’s not perfect, but it’s much better! So can you really blame me? Really?

Why is Geeta Bali GREEN? Why?

There is just NO NEED!

There’s a lot you could do with the sound, too. A LOT.

Plus, what is up with all the cropping and other editorial decisions? Heads are cut off and people disappear off the sides of the screen. The cinematographer didn’t frame the film that way, so why do you?!

Here’s a frame from Howrah Bridge. It’s a cleaned-up (not by them of course) T-Series version, with their godawful bright red logo also removed (and even they appear to have done some cropping, judging by the credits which are partially cut off):

Now compare it with the same exact frame on the so-called “Platinum” edition from Moserbaer, untouched (meaning the logo is still there and the picture is fuzzy):

Why, Moserbaer, would you chop that man’s head off? and the poor guy behind him on the right? Why???

And why for the love of God do all of you delete entire songs and scenes that are still intact in the original? It happens all the time! Songs and scenes which are even on the VCD and in versions screened on television go missing from the DVD! Why???! Find a print of the WHOLE FILM and put it on a DVD! And don’t just slap butchered VCD content onto a DVD and call it a legitimate product! It isn’t! If we don’t want to watch the entire movie, we’ll use the FF button. That’s what it’s for! Give us the whole film when you can! Geez. I can’t believe I even have to say that!!

I also know that it’s not that difficult or expensive to add subtitles. I might purchase a Shammi film without them if I have no other choice, but I would happily pay a lot more for a subtitled version! There are also many many non-Shammi films which I would buy if they had subtitles—without them, I won’t waste my money. I am not alone in this, either. There are a lot of people across the globe who love Hindi movies but don’t speak Hindi. Help us out, can’t you?! You might actually make more money too!

And subtitle the damn songs!!!!! Songs are an integral part of the STORY in Hindi films. Subtitle them! Hire someone who can do justice to the lyricists, many of whom were superb poets, and deserve so much better than this.

I would love to hear an explanation from you manufacturers as to why you only seem interested in your products being “good enough” at best. Good enough for whom? Good enough for what? Idiots who don’t deserve better and will buy whatever crap you offer them? Artists and technicians who put heart and soul into their lives’ work? Films that don’t “count” on the global stage? Do tell me: am I missing something?

It’s short-sighted and disrespectful, and it makes my heart *hurt* to see how the Totally Fabulous that is Hindi cinema history is treated. Not by others, not by an uncaring world, but by you, Indian video manufacturers.

Shame on you! And shame on you in the film industry who allow it to go on! Do you care nothing about the legacy of those who came before you?

PS: I will give you this: more of my DVDs now actually play all the way through to the end. Kudos for that. (Hopefully it’s not just a coincidence.) But—that is what’s known as being damned with faint praise. It’s not a good business model. Please: Stop editing and chopping and cropping, improve the sound and picture quality where you can, and add subtitles. I’m begging you.

PPS: Thanks to Tom for supplying me with the screencap examples I used here to illustrate my points. I salute all of you out there like him, who take the garbage these guys sell us and make it better! Pranam.

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106 Comments to “A long overdue rant”

  1. You have nailed it. While I have watched nowhere near the amount of Indian cinema you have, I have seen my fair share (thanks, Netflix!) of this wonderful country’s films in the last few years. And I am appalled at some of the horrible film quality, sound, and the lack of subtitles/horribly translated subtitles. But the worst thing for me is the logos they display on the screen, obscuring the action and characters. WHY?? It’s highly annoying, to say the least.

  2. I am right there with you!! And I don’t ask for much with my subtitles – although I do prefer that “you” is spelled all the way out, instead of “u” and “ur” as frequently happens.

    My dream is to open my own Ye Olde Hindi Film DVD line, that is basically a Criterion Collection for Bollywood and there would be commentary tracks and documentaries and all sorts of fun extra features!

    • I don’t even need extras—I just want the basics to be covered! :) If I had a sugar daddy I would have already done the Criterion thing (although I know it would be a lot more difficult than it sounds)…

  3. Cheers to you! I am entirely on your side, all you say is true, there is much room for improvement, yet we are a slight step ahead of the days of the old videotapes that were fuzzy copies of copies of copies with advertising continually running across the top and bottom of the screen.All the work you do is definitely appreciated. You are technological!

    • They are passing off some of those fuzzy videotaped copies of copies of copies AS DVDs. If that’s the only source material left, then okay—but do something to sharpen the picture up and improve the contrast and color where necessary. I really think they could do a lot more to search for decent copies of the original film though, rather than snatching a VHS tape off grandpa’s shelf!

      And I’ve seen the advertising running across the top and bottom too!

  4. I’m adding my full support here.

    Wondering about how and from where these people get the prints to make these horrible DVDs and much more horrible VCDs.

    If one knew that then people like Tom could start a good business :-)
    Get the prints, digitally clean them and make excellent DVDs. I’ll offer for the job of subtitler (is that a word?) :-D

    Actually I’m quite serious about the former suggestion.

    • I am quite serious about it too. If the people currently manufacturing DVDs don’t do something to improve their products, then they are going to lose out when someone who DOES care—there are plenty of us, and it’s just a matter of time—starts up a rival company and takes the whole market from them.

      • The Internet has really fueled interest in old Hindi cinema. Thanks to Mesaab, Dustedoff…. and sooo many others who have taken a lot of trouble to upload song sequences, sciences etc in YouTube. So many from Pakistan. One should talk to a big company like Moser-Baer who have the money to buy rights from those going out of business. Then in collaboration with Moser, set up a huge portal with trailers, peeks and sell access to cleaned up movies. Memsaab, your Shammi connection can help!!

      • I wonder why Bollywood biggies, even well-informed ones with roots in the film industry – the Kapoors, Amir Khan, Bachhan etc. are not concerned about the priceless legacy? Perhaps one should motivate them and a start an influential lobby for the preservation and good quality re-distribution of old films.

        By and large Indians have a poor sense of history. The British unearthed India’s history, imagine!!

  5. Right on, Memsaab!

    These are problems that afflict not only Golden and Silver Age films, but more recent ones as well (my copy of Umrao Jaan (1981) has poor resolution and is missing at least one song). Even some of the greatest Indian films are out there in versions that can only be described as butchered.

    Let’s hope that distributors come to realize that an appreciative audience awaits decent digital copies of Indian films. Thanks for raising this issue, Memsaab.

    • I didn’t mean to imply (although I sort of did) that things are much better for films of the past couple of decades…I just care more about the older ones ;-)

      And exactly—there are really good films out there which are just hacked up for no good reason. It’s CRIMINAL. Seriously, it’s like murder. It is so disrespectful to everyone involved, including ME, that it makes me want to cry. I certainly don’t have any compunction about pirating at this point—the original makers of these films aren’t making the money from them any more anyway, just these jokers making the DVDs. And VCDs, which to my mind are just an excuse for passing off REALLY shoddy quality on us.

  6. Well said!
    Three cheers for memsaab and the saviours of old hindi movies like Tom!
    I am allfor it that such people get a medla or something.
    It is really painful to see that the DVD manufacturers won’t even do simple correctionslike which you habe pointed.
    How about sending this per email to all the DVD manufacturers?
    Thanks again!

    • Tom and his ilk could really educate these people if they were at all interested. I really am NOT technological, but even I can see what a disgrace these videos are.

      Most of these companies don’t seem to have email, or any venue for giving them feedback about their crap. I can see why! although certainly it seems to prove the point that they simply don’t care as long as they make a few bucks.

    • I was just thinking the same thing while reading this… it should go out as a petition to Ultra, Moser Baer, Friends (of course!) et al. I’d add my name to the petition without thinking twice! The way these people mess up videos is unpardonable. Even an extremely popular film like Teesri Manzil has large sections missing (when Anil first meets Prem Nath, passes him off as his uncle, etc, and the bit before the song Yeh nazneen hain meri) – I’d never have known about those missing sections if it hadn’t been for the fact that when I was a kid, I saw the unedited version shown on TV.

      Now I’m wondering how many of the films I’d berated for being choppy and incoherent weren’t actually like that.

      • I used to think “WTF!” all the time, watching these old films. “Don’t these people know how to segue nicely from one scene to another?” I would wonder. Eventually I started seeing different versions of the same film and realized that it was not the original filmmaker’s fault (usually).

        These people, they enrage me.

  7. Hear hear! Three cheers for Greta. Dude, I completely agree with everything you have said!

    And here’s another crappy thing: I have some vcds (this was from back when I was a poor college student and didn’t even have a dvd PLAYER leave alone dvds lol) where the scenes that were cut are replaced by ADS!!!!! Ads for other products. I cannot tell you how utterly frustrating it was to sit thru my umpteenth ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ viewing where suddenly the screen would show this horrible animated ad of a mosquito eating thingamajig ( ‘All Out’ brand).. SO SO BAD!! There were a total of 4 All Out ads on my AAA vcd!

    And while we’re at it, why do Indian dvd manufacturers make it impossible to skip thru the film promos in the beginning?? I own and rent so many dvds where I put it in, go off to the kitchen to get snacks, return in 15 minutes and then the film starts. They make it so you can’t access the menu button till you sit thru every excruciating filmm promo! So off-putting, like I am looking forward to some old classic art film by Benegal or Nihalani and I am forced to watch a vampiric Zayed Khan shake his ugly ass in some C-grade movie about dope. GRRR!

    • Oh, I know I only scratched the surface of the issues most of us have with the crap these people pass off on us. Please feel free to add more as you think of them!

      I use the forced-upon-us preview time to open a bottle and pour myself a liberal glass of wine :) So I’d rather they start with improving the picture and sound quality, and adding subs. Baby steps!

  8. Memsaab, a very big thank you for this post. I have been raving abou the poor quality of the DVDs, mindless editing or chopping of crucial scenes or songs by manufacturers and the very poor sub standard sub titles for long now. It is not only the old movies but relatively new ones also suffer this fate. Last weekend, I saw Jodha Akbar on DVD. To my utter surprise some of the most beautiful scenes between Jodha and Akbar were chopped and so was the lovely song “In lamho ke daman mein”. In this instance i think it is the guys who have pirated the DVD who have done this self editing or censorship.

    On subtitles, I must say I have come across some really excellent sub titles for both Janwar and Junglee – apt translations appearing at the right spot when the characters utter these dialogues. Songs also have been very well sub titled. I hope you found a good copy of these films too. If not, pls send me your address, I shall send you a copy as a Christmas present. I will share my views of these films later on. Sorry for the long post

  9. Forgot to add, I generally have the sub title option switched off as I do read, write and speak hindi fluently. However, these days I tend to check if they are ok after reading reviews on blogs from people who do not speak hindi. I entirely concur with some of the comments above about DVDs not having the option of selecting scenes or skipping ads in the beginning. I once hired a DVD from a local desi store where ads were running on the bottom half of the entire movie and that too of cheddies (hindi for undies) !

    • At least bad subtitles give me more of a clue what’s going on than NO subtitles. But it would be SO EASY to put good ones on there, all the time! There are many people who could do better than what is fobbed off on us now! And the scrolling ads…words fail me.

      Again: it’s a sad thing when PIRATES make better products than the people we are paying money to!!!!!

  10. There was a whole article in the Hindustan Times’ sunday magazine Brunch about how Aamir Khan had undertaken to provide subtitles for the upcoming film 3 Idiots. It also illustrated how poorly the subtitles were done ususally and audiences came out of the theatre laughing – to quote Nasreen Munni Kabir. It also gave a couple of horrible examples of how badly the iconic song ‘kajrare’ song was subtitled. So maybe the industry is waking up to it.

    Trouble is, few people can afford to dedicate their lives to preserving or presenting movies on their own. They need corporate backing. It is time for money soaked production houses like YRF to give something back to the industry, by launching a full scale department which can do something to subtitle, preserve and present movies better.

    • I helped out with 3 Idiots subtitles myself :) And I know Aamir made some great improvements to them, good for him! Actually, I think VVC’s production house generally does a better job with subs than most, although I did have quite a few comments to make when I went through them. Subtitling for an American audience is different than subtitling for an English-speaking Indian audience, which is different than subtitling for a British audience. There are nuances that could always be improved. But I am so so SICK of NO subtitles at all. There are so many movies I am dying to see but cannot understand! So frustrating, and it’s not easy for some of us to learn a language without immersing ourselves in it. Very little opportunity for that with Hindi here in the US.

      And OF COURSE not everyone can do something about preservation. It’s an expensive undertaking. But there is plenty of wealth in India these days!!!!! Instead of building a hideous tower with 16 floors of parking, I am pretty sure what’s-his-name Ambani could have rescued some wonderful films from destruction and obscurity, and made do with, say, 12 levels of parking instead.

  11. In general Indians sadly are not bothered by clutter or garbage. ( I am an Indian and live in Delhi). Just look at our streets. Garbage strewn everywhere. Then look at the TV screen – for example – the news channel. First there is a ticker running at the bottom, sometimes even two. Then there are the headlines of the day in bolder text just above the ticker(s). Then every 5 minutes there is “BREAKING NEWS’. Come on media people, 9/11 or 26/11 was breaking news, not when some stupid politician is making an even stupider speech somewhere. Then of course there is the newsreader reading yet another story with two logos, one of the Tv channel, and the other from where the story might have been taken, cluttering the top left and right side of the screen. Thats clutter, distraction =crap.

    • LOL!!!! I would bet that given a choice, Indians would rather do away with the clutter though. We are buried underneath that crap too. I mean ads crop up EVERYWHERE here too, not to mention “breaking news” announcements.

      But at some point, respect needs to be given to that which deserves it. Hindi cinema has a long and rich history, and it makes me as sad to see what’s being done to these films as it would to see graffiti sprayed on the Taj Mahal.

  12. Oh, while I am at it….remember the time when rented Hindi video films would have advertisements (one example- men’s underwear) included in the film. So 5 minutes into the movie you would have an underwear float diagonally across the screen. The songs were royally massacred – you would have lot of objects going in all drections, – a rose (agarbatti advertisemt), toys, nail polish, and god knows what – of course the underwear was always there…..

  13. *applauds*

    I hope you’re planning on sending this to all the major DVD releasers. Yesterday me and a friend were playing with the idea of sending all the DVD’s we wanted to get rid of to some obscure, random place on the world map. Then I got another idea; why not just use the DVD makers’ address on the back of the DVD? Probably not a great way to protest but I am somewhat amused by the idea..

    • I think returning them to the DVD manufacturers is a great idea. With a big FAIL scrawled across them!

      Of course, they would probably just turn around and try to sell them to someone.

  14. BlueLotus has made my evening with the underwear comments!
    Then of course I agree with everything Memsaab says. And – it’s values on the pat of the dvd people, nothing else – I am sure you could get people to do decent subtitles for nothing, especially if a credit was given.
    For that matter I could find people who would do it, as I am sure oculd Memsaab.
    I watched a Shyam Benegal movie at some event in NY with the great privilege of having Shyam Benegal there to talk to us. After the film screened he said first of all, he wanted to apologize for the subtitles, he hadn’t realized how bad they were. They were not as bad as what we’re used to, and I have a big insight – the director probably NEVER sees the movie with the subtitles. And they really should be made to – such a big and important part of their audience relies on them.
    Do you know this site? it reviews Indian dvds – not movies so much but dvds per se. http://www.zulm.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=8&sid=9012066b35291b55451d544a2a5eeee1

    • Oh, I definitely could find people. There are volunteers right here who would do a much better job than what’s being done (or NOT as the case usually is).

      How sad that Benegal hadn’t even bothered to check subtitles for his own film. And of course that is never going to happen with the older ones, whose makers are deceased. The ones who are still living (or their heirs) have usually sold away all the rights though. So it really is up to the DVD makers to do right by their products—which of course they DON’T.

      Shame shame shame!!!! I said it before, and I’m saying it again: when people who pirate films make a better product than you do, you should be afraid for your business. Very afraid.

  15. Can I please post this as a link on my FB group GraFTII Adda. This is such an important point.

  16. pls post some lots more helen,laxmi chhaya and bela bose movies….coz i m a big fan of them….i jst lv da nautch girls of dat erra….n pls if its an helen,laxmi chhaya or bela bose film pls write their songs name and ols also write dat how many songs they have in da film…if u do dat i l realy grateful 2 u….coz i m collecting their songs n i realy nid ur help 2 complete my collections…n pls if u can post ten fav bela bose songs as u hv post helen and laxmis…so i l b happy…

    • I know exactly how you feel—I was so frustrated when I first became obsessed with Helen over finding her songs! :) I have been meaning to write a favorite Bela Bose songs post…will try to get to it soon.

  17. I had picked up few VCDs couple of weeks back. I was hoping that the “Rail Ka Dibba” I have is not Friends’ but my badluck :-(
    Not that others are better, most of the times, so many scenes and songs are deleted in VCDs/DVDs that I prefer watching movies on TV (inspite of more than a hour long ads in between)
    Havent got to watch Rail Ka Dibba yet, but will surely write about it if it’s watchable

    • It’s a lovely movie (I think—I watched it with Bollyviewer, who gave me the overall story as best she could, but with NO SUBTITLES it’s hard for me to judge)…Shammi and Madhubala had great great chemistry, and the story was sweet. Om Prakash and Sajjan provided wonderful support. Bollyviewer said that some of the dialogues were lovely too, but again I wouldn’t know.

      Friends could have done a LOT with overall picture quality though. And it is very chopped up, maybe due to original film deteriorating, but very probably not entirely due to that. And their godawful logo obscured way too much of the screen too. I’d be much more inclined to cut them some slack if I didn’t know how indifferent they were ALL THE TIME.

  18. Memsaab, you used my favorite expression these days: “Shame on you.” I use it liberally–anytime,anywhere. Jeez, I’m well on my way to ending up like some cranky curmudgeon.

    Actually I am visiting India soon and I will have my first experience with these bad quality videos you speak of. My mother has bought some old movies and a friend is lending me some from his vast collection. After that, I will probably empathize with you more.

    Somewhat off topic, I know Naya Zamana (Dharmendra), Sharmilee are on the list. Will you be reviewing these soon? I love the songs in Naya Zamana and Dharm is at his gorgeous best.

    • Cranky curmudgeons welcome here any time, being as that I am one too.

      I love Sharmilee, but probably won’t review it because Beth and the PPCC have done a stand-up job of it already :) I don’t really have anything new to add to their reviews. It’s a lot of fun though. I don’t think I’ve seen Naya Zamana yet, although I think I have it.

      You will sadly see what I mean.

  19. I *SO* AGREE. I just ranted and raved about this over at BollyWHAT a few weeks back, and people’s responses were, “It’s to prevent piracy.” Really? Cuz from where I’m standing, a burned DVD carries the logo regardless of whether or not you paid for it. So all it does is punish people who want to do things legally–and I do. And it means that I buy fewer DVDs, because I CANNOT STAND the logos and interstitial ads like on the Paheli DVD.

    • And as I pointed out, people who are pirating are REMOVING the logos AND improving the quality of the picture and sound, which makes the pirated version even BETTER. I realized early on that I could get much better sound on film songs that I downloaded than I got from the legal CD (I’m talking mostly old—as in pre-80s—music here). Guys uploading songs had used technology to improve the sound quality!

      I don’t think people in the film industry understand that that is what’s happening, or surely they would put more pressure on the dvd industry to do something about it.

      I personally am very happy to download a better product for free, than to pay some jerk money for his crappy dvd. I don’t believe in piracy in general either, and would not be someone who indulged in it. I don’t ever pirate Hollywood films for instance, although I could if I wanted to. It’s not that hard!

      • “I don’t think people in the film industry understand that that is what’s happening”

        Maybe I am in a bad mood today but i honestly think 90% of the filmmakers don’t give a shit. They’re in the industry not for the love of it but for the money. Just the way it is. GRRR.

        • I meant, I don’t think they (film industry folks or dvd manufacturers) understand that *often* pirated products are better than what you can buy on dvd. I mean, if people can get something better FOR FREE than what you are selling, then probably your business is going to sink when the masses figure it out. So even if they only care about money, they are going to have to do better.

          I’m doing my part here by telling people: you can get better quality by pirating. It’s true!

  20. Hooray for Memsaab! I guess the reason why this happens is that there are no formal studio libraries in India the way there are in Hollywood – so this is where the “socialist” part of our government would have come in handy. I’m sure there’s some kind of national film society somewhere that could step in and do some serious preservation work, but nobody’s ever thought of that.

    Ugh. Just reading what other people have been going through makes me madder than I was last night trying to get that stupid Shemaroo DVD to play.

    • There is plenty of shame to go around when it comes to the state of Hindi cinema history. It just seems so short-sighted to me though when people who stand to make money from preserving it and treating it well fail SO MISERABLY to do so!

      And in fact they are actively HINDERING any decent attempt to preserve Indian cinema by taking over the rights to these films and then preventing people from sharing songs on youtube; by NOT making them available with subtitles for a bigger audience; and by insulting fans like us by forcing completely shoddy products on us. It makes no sense! I have bought films based on songs I’ve seen on youtube (before they were taken down)—it’s free advertising, you morons!!!!

      Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. So f***ing STUPID. (My rant has not made me feel better in case you couldn’t tell.) (Although it’s nice to know I’m not alone, not that I thought I was.)

  21. Thanks a lot for this post. Like many others, I too needed to give vent to my feelings on this and related topics, and this post is just the place to vent them.

    So here I go:

    1. The people who sell these DVDs/VCDs to us are in this business to make money. The fact that cluttered screen affect the viewing pleasure of movie watchers is almost rocket science for them, and I do not think they can realise this however hard we may try to drill this fact in their thicck skulls.

    2. The fact that people not familiar with Hindi also watch these movies and they need subtitles is something that the movie makers themselves do not realise. The fact that such audience needing subtitle is a potential market waiting to be tapped is lost on these people.

    3. Even if they somehow decide to provide subtitling, they decide to do it half heartedly. I suspect that their underpaid, overworked semiliterate peons are made to double up as the sub titlers. The fact that neither the sub titlers, nor their supervisors (if any) nor the bosses have much understanding of Hindi as well as English means that whatever sub titling is done gets passed.

    4. When I was a small kid, I disliked old movies. Now that I have grown up, I have acquired sense of history, culture etc and I have begun to appreciate old classics. Take it from me, the marketer of these old movies will never acquire thes tastes, and so it is too much for us to ewxpect that they will have the sense to preserve these classics, and market them tastefully by digitally enhancing them. It costs money, and if they spend money , their margins are affected, is it not ?

    5. Selling DVDs is a new business for these businessmen. They are used to selling other products too, and they are not used to the customer asking them to improve their product.

    6. The reason why these people do not have presence on internet is the same as mentioned above. These people are used to doing business the old way, and they cannot see any business opportunity in having their presence on the cyberspace, they only see unwanted expenditure in it.

    7. Preserving old movies and packaging them attractively ? Now that is again rocket science for them. It is totally beyond them.

    8. Fans like us can do ( and actually do) a much better job of improving preserving, circulating, and publicising these old classics. And there are fans who can do a professional job of subtitling. I am not a professional sub titler, but I can do a far better sub tiling job that any of the subtitlers who are ravishing these Bollywood classics by their “translations”.

    I can go on ranting, but I suppose that is enough for the time being. But more than the rant, I would dearly like to see such rants bearing fruits. But then I have already mentioned it that the marketers of these movies neither know Hindi nor Englishm , nor are they internet savvy. So to imagine that any of them are going to read these rants and more importantly, understand-is next to impossible.

    • I think someone like US, only with money, is going to have to do something to show them up before they pay any attention. Money is the only thing they seem to understand, and that too not very well. I really believe they are doing a disservice to their bottom line too—they’d make more money from me for sure if they did just even a bit better.

      I also can’t believe that actors who are still around—Amitabh Bachchan, for example—can tolerate what’s being done to the films they worked so hard on (and they did work hard, mostly, I think). He complains so bitterly about the nonsense the media writes about him, but can’t be bothered to do anything about his film legacy which will live on FAR beyond the rags he’s misquoted in. Or Salim-Javed! Some of their scripts are masterpieces, a fact that I’ve been able to discern DESPITE the subtitles—not with the help of them.

      These people have CLOUT. They could influence things. They just can’t be bothered. I worry more about the quality of my stupid blog than they do about their films.

  22. The abysmal quality of Hindi movie VCDs/DVDs and even videotapes have pushed me to such a point that I’m only capable of one response now – screaming and sobbing in primal rage.
    I don’t normally advocate violence as means of resolving things, but I dearly wish that instead of defacing and tearing down film posters, the Shiv Sena goons would go around clubbing these idiot VCD/DVD manufacturers on the head.

    I watched a lovely, throughly entertaining old film last night that was full of beautiful songs and dances including a wonderful semi-classical one by Helen. The print was so bad and the colors so strange that I could barely see her face. Not being able to see Helen should be considered a crime against film lovers!

    • I didn’t even address the fact that so many films aren’t even ON dvd or vcd yet. Well, it doesn’t help me much when they’re put on vcd anyway, since they are never subtitled.

      You have helped me see some classics by sending me digitized taped things from television, which I am unendingly grateful for! But ARGHHHH. Why isn’t EVERY SHAMMI FILM readily available on a decent dvd? Do they not understand how awesomely popular the man is? I don’t mind if there are some quality issues from film deterioration, as long as these people do the best they can. But they don’t even come CLOSE. Argghh.

      And of course, these films should not be deteriorating any more! PERIOD.

  23. Thanks, Memsaab. You know I’m ranting right alongside you on most of these points, but I’ve gotta say that I’d hate to see VCDs done away with entirely. The cheapness of the format has enabled me to sample freely from a wide range of obscure Indian (and, while we’re on the subject, Thai, Cantonese, and what have you) films that my resources wouldn’t have allowed me to otherwise. While I would now gladly pay $17-$20 for a lovingly restored, English subbed DVD of movies like Wahan Ke Log and Love and Murder, I never would have taken a chance on those films in the first place if I hadn’t been able to pick them up for a couple of bucks.

    Not that there’s really any chance of VCDs going away anytime soon. It’s actually a very popular format — just not among highfalutin cineastes like ourselves. ;)

    • The thing is, Todd, I don’t see how it can be that much less expensive to produce TWO vcd discs than ONE dvd disc. On Induna, dvds aren’t really any more expensive than vcds. How many more films would we be in love with if we had the opportunity to see them with subtitles?

      And LOL@highfalutin cineastes :) I’ve never been called THAT before. It’s one reason I love you.

      • If the price point was the same, that would be great. I just fear that most of these companies would use any remastering or digital enhancement as an excuse to call it a “deluxe edition” and jack up the price. I’ll be the first to admit that my attachment to VCDs is unhealthy. There’s just something appealingly perverse about coveting something that is so obviously intended to be disposable.

        On another note, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people saying that the treatment of new Indian films on DVD isn’t much better. Typically the manufacturers just justify the higher price with the inclusion of pointless extras, or with excessive packaging — like a second disc of bonus material that could easily have fit on the same disc with the feature. A disc that will actually play all the way through in a simple case would be enough, really. I mean, did anybody really need their DVD of Om Shanti Om to come in that extra big box that wouldn’t fit on the shelf with the rest of their DVDs? (Okay, I did like the Yearbook packaging of the Main Hoon Na DVD, I’ll admit. That was cool.)

        • I loathe deluxe editions, they take up too much space and hardly ever have anything interesting to add (on occasion they do, but it’s rare). This is true of Hollywood packaging too.

          I just want to see the film! I want it to be complete and coherent and subtitled. That is all I require! Should be SO EASY.

  24. Thnx memsaab…actualy i ma vry big fan of ur site..coz i m realy vry helped by ur site…n i also got so many helen songs frm ur movie list wich realy helpd me a lot…n i think u kno dat hw mch its difficlt 2 collect helen songs…coz as hv actd in so mannnnyyyy films dat its vry hard 2 get her songs frm those films….n ur site realy helpd me….n i wil hope dat u wil help me more collecting more helen songs…i dnt kno whn my collection of wil ovr…she hv so mannnyyy songs….i wud request u help me by writing da helen songs name on da top of the pic..n pls also say da how many song she hv in da film…pls..

  25. In addition to the print and sound quality, the cutting and pruning, there are some other unique flaws which turn up now and then.

    I have this DVD of ‘Mere Huzoor’ from moserbaer.
    I was so happy because it was one of my favourite genres (muslim socials).
    What did I get?
    A wierd copy, where the characters looked broad on the TV screen.
    No amount of adjustment gave the correct proportions.
    And the size was just a strip on the screen.

    To watch Raj Kumar in this distorted form is one of the worst crimes that moserbaer could have commited (along with all the others noted here).

    Kagaz Ke phool was such a disappointment . It was so dark, hiding Waheeda’s beauty and GuruDutt’s attractive face. I especially mention this because it is supposed to be a Guru Dutt classic. :-(

    My tears flow.

    • Oy, that’s a new one to me. Send it back to them, with FAIL written across it! :P

      Then start looking online for it. There is probably a version out there that’s been fixed (or wasn’t tormented in that way to begin with).

      I NEVER buy a Moserbaer dvd unless there’s no other option at all and I really really want to see the film. They are the worst of a very bad lot. I usually don’t buy dvds until I’ve researched all the versions from different companies that I can find (eBay is great for this, or just plain Google). I’ll bet you can find other options for both Mere Huzoor and Kagaz Ke Phool. I have both, will look and see what versions they are.

      • On my recent visit to India, I found a collection of Guru Dutt classics (good quality DVD) legally produced by a company and sold in main stream music CDs, DVDs. VCDs shops. I guess it is better to buy such movies when they are available in such shops

        • These are all “legally” produced! Their treatment of the films should be illegal though. The films I buy online are original—not pirated—dvds, same as you would buy in a shop.

  26. Memsaab, needless to say, ditto from me on everything you’ve said!

    Coincidentally, I was contemplating doing a post called “I’m going to have to make friends with fRIENDS,” because last week I found myself salivating over a whole rack of fRIENDS DVDs in one of the bigger Jackson Heights Bollywood DVD stores, because I know this is stuff I won’t find anywhere else. (And the guy at the counter told me they could order others that aren’t on the rack. I’m hoping they got in Village Girl (1945) today.)

    I’ve already posted a long blog complaint about my first attempt at buying the fRIENDS Ratan DVD and how it just wouldn’t play through. But since Ratan worked OK on the second purchase try, I’ve decided that I’m just going to have to take my chances with this company (since I know now that there are chances).

    And it would be great if everything were subtitled… But I’ve found that Hindi DVDs are generally subtitled, which isn’t true of other, related languages. I have a Pakistani DVD store near me and there are always wonderful-looking old ’50s and early ’60s Noor Jehan films on display, but almost none of them have subtitles (the one exception was Dupatta).

    Generally, I’ve been willing to see Hindi or Urdu films without subtitles if they have one of two stars in them: Padmini or Noor Jehan. (And with some of those Tamil Padmini films, I count subtitled versions as being without subtitles because they are so nonsensical.) I guess the words aren’t as crucial if I can still enjoy beautiful singing or beautiful dancing (plus just beauty in general :) … But it’s much easier to find those unsubtitled films for free online, and that’s where I’ve been watching them. I am just not going to spend my “hard-earned” money (collected from the Unemployment office every week) on films without subtitles.

    • fRIENDS has put some great old films on DVD—BUT. They chop them, float their stupid logo in the middle of the screen, and make no effort at all to make the picture even legible sometimes. It’s incredibly disrespectful—again—to how good some of the films are, and to us. Good enough is NOT enough!!!!

      So I don’t see why I shouldn’t download fRIENDS videos that I want to see. I wouldn’t waste money I picked up off the street on them.

      And many of the Hindi language films I want to see are NOT subtitled. Even on DVD, they often are not. Nupur and T-Series are particularly bad about this.

  27. P.S. Correction to make my above post make sense: Change “Hindi or Urdu” films to “Indian or Pakistani” to include Tamil and Punjabi too. And any other pertinent language for which I can’t get subtitles. :)

  28. I can forgive bad picture quality, fill in the blanks when scenes are cut, put up with the picture rolling on the screen or dissolving into colored blobs, (thats what being a Bollywod oldies fan has brought me to!) but what really REALLY disturbs me is to see my favorites stars being stalked across the screen by VCD logos! :-( And if that isnt enough, the video is almost always cropped – so in the cast section you usually cannot read long names and in the actual movie you keep trying to peer into your TV so you can see the edges of the screen where the actors’ chopped body parts must be floating. Its like these DVD/VCD makers have decided to test our devotion to oldies (and new ones). If old Hollywood DVDs werent so expensive, I’d totally shift allegiance to a different industry! Though even Hollywood movies have their fare share of awful prints (an old Cary Grant film I ordered from Amazon had very bad picture quality and audio that was almost indistinguishable from noise), they are by and large, MUCH better.

    • Bad quality is just egregious and ubiquitous (yes I am pulling out all my big words) on the old Hindi movie front. I can put up with the stuff I have to put up with, but so much of it isn’t necessary. It could be fixed SO EASILY!

  29. One problem is that the best company ever to make Indian DVDS doesn’t make them anymore. DEI/BEI produced quality DVDS using advanced encoding techniques and filtering (denoising, sharpening etc.). Almost all of their releases were progressively encoded not interlaced. And they never used logos on their DVDS. They were also the first company to put English subtitles on the songs. Don, Inkaar, Gunga Jumna, Hum De Chuke De Sanam, Kaho Naa Pyar Hai, Hum Saathi Saathi Hai are fine examples of their work. They apparently weren’t rewarded for the time and effort spent on their DVDS with increased sales. So, eventually they stopped producing new DVDS.

    Another problem is the popularity of Indian VCDS. The consumer is used to films that are edited to fit onto 2 VCDS without subtitles, pixelization galore and poor overall video quality. I personally believe that many times the DVD company simply uses the edited master they made for the VCD and copies it onto DVD. For example, the Teen Devian DVD is missing all the color scenes (14 minutes) and, as mentioned by dustedoff, the Teesri Manzil DVD is missing scenes (20 minutes, I believe). I’m sure there are many more DVDS out there similarly cut.

    We need a company like DEI/BEI to appear on the scene, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. :(

    • Actually, I have been rescued by BEI on several occasions (Sachaa Jhutha comes immediately to mind). Have they really gone out of business? Noooooooo!!!!! Say it isn’t so! I also think of Samrat as being pretty reliable. I will always opt for BEI or Samrat given the choice. Yashraj is decent too, but only release films from their stable.

      Unfortunately, these guys don’t have the huge market share that the ones I hate do. Why is that? WHY?! I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW TEEN DEVIYAN HAD COLOR SCENES!!!!!!!!!

      • Sachaa Jhutha is another nice DEI/BEI DVD.

        DEI/BEI was there from the beginning, but hasn’t made a new DVD in 5 years. I emailed DEI founder Sandish in those early days and recommended and suggested they put subtitles on the songs and put a “play all” button on the song menu. He responded quickly, thanked me for the suggestions, and did both. DEI/BEI was the only company that even had the courtesy to respond.

        Yes, Teen Devian had color scenes! Read thread @ http://www.zulm.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4694&highlight=devian

        • *pounding forehead on desk*

          Do you still have his email address? Let’s write to him and ask him to get back in the game :-D (or see if he’d be interested in joining me when I win the lottery and start up my own company)…

        • BTW, I do so appreciate the work you do on making your Helen compilations (and the latest My Name is Suzy) so nice. Especially the trouble you go to to subtitle the songs!!! Thank you!

          • Thanks, memsaab..glad u like :D

            For the latest compilation (“My Name is Suzy), I had to subtitle Laxmi’s Gumnaam song and the “Hawas one because the original DVDS for both films didn’t have subtitles on any of the songs. So, I got them from different sources and remuxed them into the video. :)

    • Yes companies or pirates are notorious for compressing movies to fit into two movies in one DVDs/VCDs with the result that significant sections are chopped. This happens with new movies too – eg “Meerabai Not Out” – a really good movie which unfortnately went un-noticed as is the case with most good movies. The sudden jumps make you wander “what happened that there is a sudden twist in the story” or a new character appears from nowhere. Very frustrating.

  30. Pacifist: I know exactly what you are talking about. I have the same Mosere Baer ‘Mere Huzoor’ DVD- flattened faces and bodies- like somebodt ran a road roller over them….

    Teesri Manzil- the same story, such a popular film, and all versions have missing scenes. – (Memsaab, will you please call up Shammiji).

    Then I had a “Kanyadaan” Moser Baer DVD that ran halfway through, and then stopped. I was stupid enough to then buy a VCD to watch the second half. I could have hit myself. Such a terrible movie. And this after having read warnings from Memsaab to skip the movie entirely. Now I want my money back….

    • Hahahahahaaaaa! @ Kanyadaan. What a terrible movie.

      Seriously, I need to win a lottery. I would NEVER let any Shammi film be chopped unnecessarily. In my country, it would be punishable by death to do that.

      • If I recollect right, my sister told me that Kanyadaan was a big hit in India those days ie when it released. She being an Asha Parekh fan should know. I guess it is not so good from memsaab and Pacifist’s reaction – i haven’t seen the movie but have heard the songs on radio – they were pretty good.

  31. actualy memsaab u misundrstud…actualy i meant dat frm now if u post any helen,laxmi or bela bose film so pls mention da songs name…i dint said bout da oldr posts…so if u felt bad or weird or something..so i m realy sorry 4 dat…realy sorry….

  32. I completely agree with your rant. And in your first screencap you hit on a pet peeve of mine – just because it’s old doesn’t mean it has to look terrible. I hate that “excuse” at the beginning of so many Hindi DVDs. There are plenty of silent films from all over that look gorgeous because the producers of the DVD cared about the quality of the product and because someone cared about the legacy of film.

    I am relatively new to Indian cinema, and it saddens me greatly to see such a rich film history tossed about cavalierly like so much garbage. I would be interested on seeing some of the pirated films, but have no idea where to start. (I’m quite torn on the piracy issue. I want films to be available but I want artists to be compensated.)

    Hats off to you for saying what so many of us are thinking!

    • Indian silent films have sadly mostly disappeared through neglect, although I think a bit of due diligence might unearth some sitting in vaults outside of India, being ignored. Restoration is expensive, but these companies don’t even do the bare minimum digitally which ISN’T expensive.

      Re: piracy—I agree completely that artists should be compensated; however, in the Hindi cinema world, copyright owners of older films have generally sold away all rights to the vcd/dvd manufacturers and distributors, so they aren’t making any money off these products anyway. The people making money from them are the manufacturers—the same people who are flogging us with inferior products. And these people, in my opinion, have lost all moral high ground due to that indifference.

      If you want to look into downloading, there are a gazillion peer-to-peer (torrent) sites online, and usually they have pretty good instructions for getting started.

      As I said earlier, I first realized that music you can download has often been optimized by the people uploading it so it sounds much nicer than the CDs you can buy (and also, there’s a much wider range of songs available from old films); then I ended up with a huge number of films that wouldn’t play all the way through and saw that people were uploading them—and I’d be able to see them all the way to the end. I figured if I had already bought the film once, downloading another version so I could finish watching it could not be wrong. And I discovered from there, that some of these guys uploading films went to the trouble of improving the quality, just as they did with the songs.

      That, in a nutshell, is why I don’t think anyone needs to feel guilty in the least.

  33. Sooo with you on this! I have soo many complaints and even with the Yashraj Forever Classics, as their versions of Guru Dutt films are soo fuzzy and the Raat aur Din was soooo dark they really need to hire some new restorers!

  34. Well, I just bought a DVD of ‘Kaminey’ and the print is so dark you can hardly see anything! Unforgivable, and tatty.

  35. Support you and others on all the points raised here.
    Really liked “I use the forced-upon-us preview time to open a bottle and pour myself a liberal glass of wine :) “. Now why did’nt I think of that, usually I end up trying all btn combinations to get ahead and end up playing the intro twice.
    I too have seen Teesri Manzil & Teen Deviyaan with the missing parts, grrr and damnation to them. Where is Dharmendra when you need him to belt out his “Kutte! Kaminey! Mein Tera Khoon Pee Jaoonga”. (I assume by now you do not need subtitles for this classic line.)

    • LOL@playing the intro twice. That HAS happened to me too, it’s infuriating.

      And I need no subtitles for Dharmendra! I will join in with him and you in belting it out!

  36. The day before you posted this, I got a Moser Baer DVD of Phagun in the mail. The box advertised Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan, with their picture on the case. The DVD had a silkscreened copy of the cover image right on it. But when it started to play, it was the Phagun with Waheeda Rehman and Dharmendra. A completely different movie! I like your idea of writing “FAIL!” on it. :)

  37. The thing is though, there will always be more than enough idiots who don’t deserve better and will buy whatever crap they’re offered, to sustain the entertainment industry.

  38. As do all of your other admirers, I support your rant 100%. Another observation: I have never understood why, when I see a film in the theater, the DVD often has different subtitles than the release in the cinema. Usually, the theatrical release has better subtitles, too. Why the revised translation?

  39. Memsaab. I doff my metaphorical cap to you. You have here written down all of my major complaints which riddle the films I watch. The beautiful and tragically mis-treaten bits of cinema gold. Really, you are truly a genius.

  40. Raaz ki baat hai… there are very less Indian movies which I have actually bought on DVD..

    And the annoying logo is just one of the reasons.. U hv nailed it Memsaab on this really annoying habit of the DVD manufacturers..

    Imagine any Hollywood based DVD or Blu-Ray coming with a watermark.. or in Friends’ case, a huge-ass flashing logo with shiny disco balls et al..
    People would start suing Fox, Universal etc..

    This revolution needs to continue until Eros, Moserbaer, T-Series and Shemaroo listen to us

    • The problem is that they don’t even KNOW how much they are losing out because of their shoddy quality. And they probably don’t care as long as they stay in business. I think what needs to happen is for someone who cares about the films and the history behind them to come along and start taking their customers away, which would happen if all we fans out here had a better alternative!

  41. Hi,

    As a movie fan I totally agree with what you have said. Though the bad quality is not limited to `oldies’. I have bought quite a lot of ‘non-pirated’ versions of the so called parallel Hindi cinema; Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihilani et al. They are not too old, I mean most of them are from the 70s and 80s. But the quality just sucks. Period. There is no other word to describe my feelings. In fact some of the `pirated’ versions that I have are so much better than the `non-pirated’ ones.

    I was horrified to see the `non-pirated’ VCD of Drohkaal, which is a very recent movie [1994] and there was so much pixelization on the screen and the audio was so bad that I just gave away after 5 minutes. To top up all this it also had an ugly logo floating all around! So was the case with Utsav :(

    It is only due to plain indifference that these manufacturers have towards the aesthetic value of the films and customers that things like this are rampant.
    As some people have already pointed out, it is criminal not only towards the customers but more towards the actors, directors and innumerable others who sweat hard to make a film. Plain indifference is the only reason for this, since in India there is a `chalta hai’ attitude, they are maintaining status quo [well not really, they maybe spiralling down in terms of quality].

    Sending a disk with FAIL written on it, just by one person, will not affect them, as they already have too thick skins. Maybe a mass movement will do the needful!


    • It would definitely have to be a mass movement (which is why I keep my FAIL dvds as coasters).

      And I agree wholeheartedly that their rampant poor quality is not restricted to oldies. Those are just the ones I mostly watch ;-) I think that actors and directors etc. who are still around and who could do something about how their work is treated should be ashamed of themselves for allowing it to go on too.

  42. I can relate to each and every problem here. And feel the pain and Anger of it all. Even cutting a few seconds does make a difference. Otherwise there is NO need to see any movie at all. The maja lies in watching it ALL-silly or otherwise, is it not? One point made me really split with laughter-the road roller one made by bluelotus (pacifist says broad figures). I just bought one like that with old duets and could not test it at the desi store as he had no player. The audio is very good and so is the clarity. But everyone looks like Tuntun and Ram Avtar(I’m referring to the guy in the train in Teesri Manzil). Imagine Simi and Vinod Khanna in Vada kar le Saajna from Haath ki Safaai! Now I see them as that. All others were good. I am ready to sign a petition any day. I have ranted about the 1961 Jab Pyar Kisise Hota hai-if you recollect- as I had seen the original which starts like many NH films-railway station, tickets etc and the catchy song ‘Bin dekhe aur bin pehchchaane’. Maybe one day I will learn how to transfer my VHS tapes to dvd! So many movies have seconds or whole scenes gone. And it loses the relevance like Leader, Teesri Manzil, et al.
    Grrr,cranky, etc.

    • My friend Shalini just sent me the VHS version of Teesri Manzil. No subtitles, but I’ll finally get to see the WHOLE THING. It is just amazing to me how shoddy the whole industry is. Sigh, sigh, sigh. At least we are obviously not alone in our despair :)

  43. I never ever realized the logo thing or maybe coz I watch old movies online most of the time. Other than that my daily dose for old movies comes from ‘tv Asia ‘ ( awesome channel). I too strongly feel ppl in business should preserve old movies ( and there should be a big filmy museum like super big).

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