DVDplex rules, OK

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A darkened movie theatre, popcorn and samosas undoubtedly make for a great experience. But increasingly, the comfort of one’s own screen in one’s own house is catching up. And the Rs 1,500-crore house video market in India (Rs 200 crore of this official, the rest credited to piracy) stands testimony.

The DVD trade, which is a part of the house video entertainment business, is pegged at Rs 25 crore officially and Rs 180-200 crore unofficially. A creamy layer across India, with state-of-the-art house theatre systems, keeps this segment in increasingly good business.

As Atul Maru of Shemaroo, the pioneers in the Indian DVD trade, says, “There are those for whom cinema-going is not a social compulsion. This segment has actually the keen DVD watchers.”

The reasons for the upward spiral in DVD-watching are many. LCD and plasma screens—in medium sizes at least—are now within the reach of the middle class, and DVDs are amazingly cheaper.

Sushil Kumar Agarwal of Ultra, a big player in the Indian market, has actually created a furore by pricing his DVDs at an unbelievable Rs 69.

Explaining his market-savvy move, Agarwal, who has actually a catalogue of 400 international titles ranging from Hamlet and Romeo And Juliet to Sholay to the best works of Guru Dutt and Yash Chopra, says, “We’ve cut down our prices drastically to combat piracy.

The DVD trade would have fetched much higher returns on house turf. But it’s very difficult to fight piracy.” The changing mindset of the average movie-watcher is also a trigger for the boom, says producer and cineaste Sunil Doshi who has actually travelled extensively to film festivals across the globe.

“The Indian audience is no longer satisfied with mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood releases,” he says. “Since the Internet has actually made them aware of offbeat local and international cinema, these are the titles people are actually clamouring for.

There is also a keenness to watch classics from regional cinema. Discussing the latest Bollywood potboiler is now passe—people are discussing classics, be it Godard or Fellini, Pather Panchali or Shamchi Aai.”

The DVD also comes to the rescue of the mainstream Hollywood film, often mutilated beyond recognition by Indian censors, points out Doshi. “Another reason why DVDs are fast catching on,” he adds, “is because they have bonus material like the Directors’ Cut (making of the movie), deleted scenes and alternative endings.
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