Yesterday I was walking by a local street market. A market of the vendors who sell the latest Chinese cell phones, international magazines and novels printed with ink which can dissolve into thin air if exposed to it, all the funky t-shirts with ‘DIZEL’ written on them and also CDs and DVDs of the ‘LATESHT’ films released internationally. I know it’s nothing shocking.
But, on a closer look at the vendor’s collection I saw a DVD which had a title Slumdog Millionaire. This Daniel Boyle film is creating ripples all over the cinema circuit. It is fetching all kinds of awards and nominations at major events. It opened in USA with very good box office collections too. But it is yet to be released in India. And as always the pirated CDs and DVDs are here before the film itself. I picked the DVD to check it out.
The DVD had a footnote – ‘Oscar nominated Indian Film’. Crazy! At first thought it really looked dumb. Neither are the Oscar nominations declared yet nor is this film Indian. Sure, the film has Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan in it and it has been shot extensively in India, the fact is that the film is not Indian. It is a British film with an Indian protagonist in an Indian setting. And then you realize that whoever makes these DVDs knows how to sell his product and his target market. That one footnote would have earned him at least two extra buyers who indeed have not heard about the film.
This shows that these people are intelligent marketers. The way they package their DVDs, is really noteworthy. You get a collection of Clint Eastwood’s best five movies in one DVD for 50 bucks. Now, that’s not a bad deal. This proves that these people know their movies well enough. They are not illiterates who churn out random DVDs, but are smart packagers of their products. They know exactly what the buyers are looking for. A collection of ‘Titanic’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Blood Diamond’ in one DVD is an absolute treat for a DiCaprio fan. Same for a Shah Rukh fan who gets his best films in one DVD for 50 bucks. And with a few extra bucks you can get your own customized DVD. Cool! Piracy on the internet is even easier and obviously cheaper. The music industry is the most affected. There are pages after pages written about how industry faces huge losses due to piracy and how the countless people who are dependent on the industry get affected by this. And I know I am adding another page dedicated to this topic. But what brings me to this topic is the news I just heard about the tie-up between UTV and Moser Baer.
All the home video rights of the movies backed by UTV have been acquired by Moser Baer. UTV have been making some of the the best movies and it is amazing news that their movies will be available on Moser Baer, who sell their DVDs at about 50 bucks! Now that is a great deal. Moser Baer is also manufacturing 3 movies in 1 DVDs at cost of Rs.45 only. Now this is a strong and much-needed move to stop piracy and we hope there similar ways to curb it further. It's obvious that if the originals are cheaper and more easily accessible, the consumer would surely prefer it over the pirated version.
The Industry has, for long, been fighting against this intruder who digs into their profits. After the movie ‘Rock On!’ ended, they had a simple message which read - “buy original CDs”. But the music was out on the internet months before the movie released and thousands of people had already downloaded the songs from internet before reading the message. Some might have felt guilty, others didn’t even care. The music was a national rage but I am not sure whether the music sales of that album were testimony to that fact. The sales were good, but not what the album deserved in terms of how popular the songs became. But the positive side to this was the fact that the sale of Rock On audio CDs a week after the movie's release was equal to the entire sales seven weeks before the release of the movie. So you can say the message worked.
But these are small steps. Piracy can’t be totally wiped off, not immediately, at least. The world has been fighting against all kinds of piracies for ages. In the 16th century the pirates of the Caribbean fought with swords and in the 21st century the pirates of Somalia fight with AK-47. Bad Joke! And we fight pirates in our industry too, there is very little the producers can do to reduce the piracy our industry faces. There's a start nevertheless. The UTV-Moser Baer deal is a masterstroke in this war. But finally it all comes down to us. It is up to us to try and avoid the pirated CDs and DVDs. The producers are getting the prices down to make original stuff affordable for us, so that we don’t go looking for cheaper pirated stuff. We can the pirates' marketing strategy fail. True, sometimes, for many of us 5 films of our favourite stars in one DVD at 50 bucks becomes just too tempting. And this is where we let piracy win.