Ravaan Pirate Films

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

You wouldn’t believe who taught me how to detect pirate Indian movies! It was a storekeeper who sells DVD’s just opposite the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg. She has a sample she keeps next to the till. It is blue almost purple. I asked her why she didn’t sell pirate movies. “It’s because I love cinema.” As a result, she doesn’t have recent releases, not even Balki’s Paa which was released in December 2009.

Her advice came in handy the other day, while I was browsing at another store. I asked the storekeeper to open the DVD case. I took out the DVD and turned it around. I saw the blue purple colours the other lady warned me about. I told him that I will not buy it because it is a pirate copy. “Why?” he asked. I told him that pirate copies freeze, the dialogue disappears and the picture is blurred. Generally, it disturbs my viewing pleasure. “You must buy a good television,” he said.

He was suggesting fixing what he regards as a technical flaw but that is not the point. It is stealing someone’s content for your own personal gain. Money for making movies comes from somewhere. Producers use their own money, borrow from friends and relatives or get loans from the bank. If people in India and abroad like the product, they reap the benefits of their investment. If not, they lose their money, get up and ride the bike again. Therefore they own the content of the motion picture and should therefore benefit it.

There are warnings about piracy but who reads the fine print? “For sale or rental for private home use only. Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorised reproduction, or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, disc tapes or video disc.”

I pulled this warning from a DVD that has ‘4 in 1 Movies’: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Mohabbatein, Pardes and Asoka. I must admit that I bought the DVD because there was a message on the cover that they were from the original print.

There were pirate copies of Paa, Dul Mil Gaya, Housefull, Three Idiots, in Johannesburg a week after their release dates. Ravaan was worse. It was released in South Africa on 18 June. I went to a video store on 24 June to look for Ghazal, an old movie I needed for a post I was writing.

Raavan was in DVD’s of anything with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Abhishek Bachchan. Raavan was burnt into Dostana, Bluffmaster, Paa, Guru, Sakar, Sakar Raj, Kuch Naa Kaho, Umrao Jaan, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanaam even Josh.

Raajneeti was still in circuit on 24 June. It was playing upstairs in one mall, while downstairs, the DVD store had it burned to most Akshay Kumar films such as WAQT, Housefull and Namaste London.

I regularly return DVD’s I just cannot watch because they might mess up my eyes. Much as I wanted to write about Coolie # 1 and Hero, I took the DVD back because little squares had to form on the screen before I saw the face or image.

I once overheard an angry customer in a video store complaining about a pirate copy she was bringing back because it kept freezing. The storekeeper was apologetic and said some of them came like that. “Why do you sell them then?” she said.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.


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