The Indian movie industry (and that’s not just “Bollywood”) is plagued with piracy of movies as well as music. I’ve had several friends staying abroad telling me about recent releases they saw “on the Internet”. Of course, songs are always to be downloaded and not bought.

A movie I saw recently had a note at the end of the screening: “Please buy original CDs. Do not download music.” There was laughter in the sparsely-populated movie hall (on the 2nd day of the screening of the movie that talked about youth and music, no less).

That got me thinking: we spend quite a lot of money these days to watch movies in multiplexes. It’s about 5x-6x the cost from what I used to pay about 10 years back. And that too doesn’t guarantee a seat in the “balcony”. These days, the movie halls usually have flat pricing, no matter where you’re seated. You could be 5 feet away from the screen or 50.

So it’s no wonder people don’t want to go to movie theatres. They just walk across the street and buy a DVD for Rs 30 that has 3 or 4 of the latest releases. And they can always download the music or buy MP3 CDs that cost about the same but have music from 50 recent releases. Original audio CDs cost about the same it costs to watch the movie in the movie hall.

I was thinking what can help curb this piracy, and one thing that came to mind was the distributors and producers of the movies could give away audio CDs of the movie just after the screening either for free or for a very samll token amount, like Rs 30.

If this were done, people would actually go to the theatre to watch movies since the cost of the ticket no longer only gets them the movie but also gets them the CD to the songs which they’ve already listened to (and liked?) (side note: movies in India usually run more because of the music and actors than the story or reviews). Also, music gets distributed and listened to legally instead of it being pirated.

The producers need not worry about losing out on income via audio CD sales. I wonder how much they make anyway. Also, if this drives more people to the theatres, it’s only going to be good for them. For people who do not want to watch the movie but want the CD, they can buy the CDs as they had been buying previously. For people who wanted the music but did not buy it, there’s no negative in the model for the producer, but there’s a positive: enticing them to go watch the movie plus get a chance to get the CD.

So it came as a welcome surprise (though I don’t know how well this idea will take off) when I saw Google announced putting links in youtube videos for songs in the video.

I’ve had (non-Indian) friends tell me they don’t download music any more since they can get songs for just under a dollar from the various online stores. It hardly makes any difference to their bottomlines plus they get legal music and are free of any hassles they might later get into for doing illegal stuff (downloading).

This might work elsewhere, but in India, the mentality hasn’t changed enough that people will buy something instead of getting it for free or from a very cheap alternative. Adding ‘buy music you just liked from here’ won’t pick off. I’d like to be proven wrong, though.

There’s a lot to be gained in this model for everyone involved. Even the movie halls will see more traffic and hence more income for the various food courts and shopping plazas that are bundled in the movie hall complexes these days.

If this is implemented and takes off, the producers can then think about giving off DVDs of the movie for let’s say 50% of the original price. Why not?

Update: xkcd on piracy

Lage Raho Munnabhai

Lage Raho Munnabhai, the newest film to hit the theatres is an absolute treat to watch. It’s funny, it has a good story and makes us think about the Mahatma.

After Rang De Basanti, this is another movie this year that has a social message. RDB was more patriotic, LRM is more social and moral. But it doesn’t preach. It’s funny, while getting across some of the principles the Mahatma stood for. It’s completely different from Munnabhai MBBS, where the duo of Munna (Murli Prasad Sharma) and Circuit made their debut. Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi have excellent timing and dialogue delivery, keeping their chemistry from the first outing intact.

‘Mamu’ Boman Irani has a short role, and he acts well. Vidya Balan is the new face, playing the female lead. She plays an RJ. The current radio boom is apparent as this is one more movie where RJs are shown and talked about. She does a good job of the role that she plays.

The theme in a nutshell is: Munna’s obsessed with the voice he listens to daily on his radio. Come Gandhi Jayanti, he gets a chance to be part of the show and meet the lady behind the voice if he answers ten questions related to the Mahatma. No wonder he makes it through. Munnabhai then fakes himself to be a professor and then takes up reading all about Gandhiji as he promises to deliver a lecture to a few people on the Mahatma. He then starts seeing visions of the Mahatma, as he goes on to follow the path he shows him, following the principles of Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence).

I think this is a very well-made movie in all respects. After Lagaan, I found RDB came close. This one also scores in all the departments. The dialogues, camerawork, choreography, music, singing, acting, timing, direction, everything’s excellent.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra replaces Anu Malik, the composer for Munnabhai MBBS, with Shantanu Moitra (of Parineeta fame). Add Sonu Nigam’s voice and what you get is very good music, very soothing to the ears. I like ‘Pal pal pal…’ the most, which has Shreya Ghoshal’s sweet voice alongwith Sonu.

Shantanu Moitra seems to understand music well. His style seems to be inspired from old English classicals, very operatic tunes. ‘Bande mein tha dum’ keeps playing very frequently in the background; only Sonu can create magic with his vocals for such a song. It’s blended extremely well with the background score.

The director, Rajiv Hirani, has me impressed. He’s not only taken on a bold subject, but done complete justice to it. He’s presented a message in a humorous setting. He’s created humour in non-obvious places — like the ringtones for Circuit’s and Lucky’s characters — without being loud and crass. It’s genuine humour and generates laughs.

Overall, I really liked this movie and recommend everyone to see it. Rajiv Hirani has handled a sensitive subject quite well, without going overboard on the humour or the lessons. It gets across its message in a very fresh format.

Will be tuned to his future releases. Vidhu Vindo Chopra seems to be doing good in the producer’s seat, and would love to see him sit there for some time now.

Must-watch Sonu Nigam mimicry video

Everyone who’s a Sonu Nigam fan and everyone who’s not (quite a difficult thing to find such a person) will enjoy this.

Especially watch out for his renditions of S. P. Balasubramaniam, Kailash Kher and Adnan Sami songs. Also mimics Anu Malik and Udit Narayan’s voices. Simply awesome.

Also look out for his expressions. Priceless.

Thanks to Sujay for pointing out this link.