Bollywood DVDs...reviewed for PQ and Sound?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Feb 25, 2005.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Ever since Lagaan, my appetite for Bollywood films (I'm not longer embarrased to say) has been growning. And after attending a free pre-screening for Bride and Prejudice the other night (which I loved) and seeing that it was released through Miramax which hopefully means I'll get to review it...I'm looking forward to hosting a few Bollywood movie parties with some of my South-Asian friends.

    But if I invite a bunch of folks over to watch a Bollywood film I really would want to know ahead of time that the DVD title was a decent 16x9 transfer with great 5.1 sound (Lagaan is gorgeous on both counts...so it can be done). Does anyone know of a site that reviews these films and has some insights regarding picture and sound? Or if I had a list of titles from which I wanted to choose is there a resource to look up reviews that might indicated picture and sound quality?

    -dave [​IMG]
     
  2. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Zulm.net, on the message boards especially is even more obsessive than the reviewers here over picture quality. The boards are filled with people arguing over screenshots and such of DVDs.

    The thing about Bollywood DVD is that, while they are usually very cheap (many under $5 and $10), they are just about always 16x9 even if the print is beat up. Even new to DVD films sometimes have prints that look like they are just coming off a run at the dollar theatre.

    Only a few films have been released by major companies in the US. But, you will get to know the Bollywood DVD companies fast. Which to trust, which not to.
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Jon,

    thanks for the info!

    You seem to have a good grip on the Bollywood DVD thing (and I will definitely check out that site)...any particular favorites or titles that you'd recommend?...both for Picture/sound as well as decent music and dance?

    dave
     
  4. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Any of Ramgopal Varma's films are great, especially for Western audiences not used to Bollywood yet. He is sort of the Scorsese of Bollywood. And, honestly, his films are up there with some of Scorsese's.

    RANGEELA is his first big one. About a girl (played by Urmila, who stars in most of Varma's films) who wants to become a big star. I think you can find the DVD at places like Indiaweekly.com and Nehaflix.com (the two biggest Bollywood retailers) for around $5. Great film, some of the best musical numbers in any Bollywood film. It also features the star of LAGAAN.

    MAST is a personal favorite that he made. A guy heads off to the big city to follow his favorite actress. Sort of like a big 50's musical, set in the 90's. I think it is one of the most accessible.

    DAUD is a fun one, a road movie with Urmilla again and Sanjay Dutt (sort of the Stallone of Bollywood). Very entertaining.

    SATYA is sort of the Indian GOODFELLAS, about a guy's climb through the underwold. And COMPANY is sort of the Indian GODFATHER, all about the underworld itself. Both of these have few musical numbers.

    Varma's most recent one, BHOOT, is a horror movie. Like THE EXORCIST. No musical numbers at all and under 2 hours. It even played US multiplexes it was so popular. Was shocked to see it playing near me (even more shocked when I went only to find they were showing an unsubtitled print, and I don't speak a word of Hindi. I figured out what was going on though).

    So, those are all highly recommended. Bollywood films aren't really ones where you look for the director, they are mainly star driven. But Varma is one of the few exceptions to that.
     
  5. Paul Sandhu

    Paul Sandhu Supporting Actor

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    You know I really like Shaheed Udham Singh, 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, Hawayein. I have seen Hawayein and it looks alright, I recall it was anamorphic. Not sure about the other movies though.

    And you would be hardpressed to find a really good print, its even harder to tell which is pirated and which isn't. You have look very carefully at the DVD.

    I have seen Bhoot it was alright. My local Cineplex Odeon has a few Hindi films running and they always feature subtitles. If they didn't I would never understand half the dialogue. Filmi Hindi is much easier to understand that the real hindi.
     
  6. WillardK

    WillardK Second Unit

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    Are there any resources as good as Zulm.net for Bollywood classics? I've had bad luck finding decent dvd's of B&W films. Knowing what I might be in for, I recently bought Pyaasa and it turned out as typical to be a poor transfer from a worn video tape. (The version I recorded from TCM has better image, sound and subtitles (missing for the songs on the dvd)). Are there any labels that produce quality dvd's of their B&W Bollywood titles?

    Vendor warning: I just used IndiaBlockbuster for the first time. They were prompt and prices were good, but one subtitled dvd I'd ordered was substituted with a non-subtitled dvd on another label. I've gotten no response yet as to whether or not they will provide an exchange.
     
  7. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Something for David,

    Out here in NVA, there is a theater near my gym that plays Indian films on two screens. It is in Loemann's Plaza on Rt.50. I have no idea if they have subtitles on their films (or if they are in English), but I do know it can be a popular place with the Indian population.

    Jason
     
  8. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    I was rather shocked by the TCM Bollywood series as the versions they showed for some of the films were the sped up, PAL versions. When they showed RANGEELA it was drained of all the color (and the English translation of the title is COLORFUL).

    I did order one title from IndiaBlockbuster and didn't have a problem. But, with the amount of titles out there, it isn't a surprise.
     
  9. WillardK

    WillardK Second Unit

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    I just wanted to follow up on this in fairness to IndianBlockbuster (now known as Desino1). I did get a call back from them and they promptly exchanged two problem dvd's (one on the wrong label w/o subs and another with digital glitches). It was friendly service with no hassle.
     
  10. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    So, it's just new films from Bollywood that everyone wants. All 16x9 transfers. Unfortunately, you're missing the best of Bollywood that way. Most of the older films I've seen that I've become quite fond of do NOT have anamorphic transfers and are not of great quality as DVDs but the movies are a good deal of fun and are a heck of a lot more about Bollywood than these current "big" movies.

    I'd check out Gumnaam, an absolutely wacky Bollywood take on And Then There Were None, with classic musical numbers (the best of which was featured in the opening credits of Ghost World - that number is one of the longest musical numbers I've ever seen and its choreography is so zonked out that I watch it over and over). The main musical theme of the film is literally note for note Mr. Mancini's Charade. I can't recommend Gumnaam highly enough. To me, anyway, it's what Bollywood is all about.
     
  11. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    And just to be clear: Watching only new Bollywood films would be like watching only new Hollywood films - you can hardly get a sense of what Hollywood and its films are like from only watching new films. Film buffs like classics and I know Mr. Boulet is a film buff - so check out the Bollywood classics from the Golden Age, just as you check out films from Hollywood's Golden Age.
     
  12. WillardK

    WillardK Second Unit

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    I'm a big fan of those 60's pop Bollyfilms (in it's entirety, believe it or not, Gumnaam is actually one of the duller ones... dragging in between those irresitible musical numbers (Helen is my second favorite Bollystar only to Shammi Kapoor)). There are few recent Bollyfilms I've seen that interest me as much (thought Lagaan was very dull with forgettable music... and for me, even the similarly plotted from 7 samaurai, hugely popular 'classic' Sholay isn't something I ever need to see or hear again.) There's something care-free and exhuberant about the odd mixture in 60's pop films that becomes a sort of straining to be westernized commercial in the more recent films. At least that's my impression from an admittedly limited exposure. And I don't attribute it to the distancing of kitsch and I don't know if I'm making any sense, but there's a manic joy in those pop films that I find infectious... and absent from laborious films like Lagaan.

    There are plenty of serious dramas from the golden age to explore as well and Pyaasa is by far the best I've yet seen of them. It's another version of the devdas story well told with musical numbers beautifully integrated into the narrative (it's especially negligent that the dvd of this does not subtitle the songs). If you can forgive the occasional heavy handed christian metaphor or two, it's very enjoyable.

    Oh... I've got to mention one I was recently turned on to: Namak Halaal is from the 70's and features Disco Qwaali!!! ...and that's all I'm saying. Yes, I bought the dvd.

    I know I've only begun to scratch the surface in my viewing and would be very keen on seeing underground or anti-Bollywood films (they DO exist so I've read... actually have seen 2 or 3 on cable).

    I'd have to disagree with you about the quality of those pop 60's dvds. While print damage is not absent, the Eastman color is clear and vibrant on the ones I've purchased. They in fact are in sharp contrast to the black and white film dvd treatment which is mostly abysmal.
     
  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Let's get some recommendations! I know that in many cases mutliple versions of titles are out on various DVDs so it's also important to know *which* DVD go get in those cases...
     
  14. Daman

    Daman Second Unit

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    David, One movie i'd absolutely recommend which is in OAR as well as very good 5.1 mix is Lakshya, it is one of the better recent bollywood movies and the picture quality is brilliant. Make sure you get the original 2 disc version though.
    I also watched "Black" recently at one of the theaters in NY and its one of the best works of Amitabh bacchan till date. Very serious and brooding movie, totally non bollywood style. Would highly recommend it once it comes out on DvD.
    Then just for fun theres "Dil Chahta hai" which is OAR and has a very good 5.1 soundtrack,storyline and picture quality is excellent as well. Then theres also "Hera Pheri" which is a brilliant, always on the move type comedy.
    If you want some quality 80's movies id recommend "Jaane bhi do yaaron" its a sarcastic comedy take on the corruption and politics in India, wonderfully done,very hilarious and a must see. Then theres another movie called "Sadma" which also features a wonderful story and more than stellar performances by Kamal Hassan.
    In older movies as some one mentioned theres Pyasaa. Also "Kagaz ke phool","Silsila","Chalti ka naam gaadi","mr and mrs 55", "mahal","masoom" come to my mind immediately.
    If you want just slapstick comedy without having to apply your mind [​IMG] then go for movies like "Munna bhai MBBS","Haseena maan jaegi","Jodi no 1","coolie no1" etc. If you need more recommendations let me know what type of genre you are looking for.
    Regards
    Daman
     
  15. Daman

    Daman Second Unit

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    Found a link which might help in terms of picture quality on the dvd's
    http://www.ukindia.com/zip2/zbdvd.htm
    Check the good and bad movies in terms of PQ, but i wont go by just these because some of the movies hes put in as good quality are totally horrible movies as such. But this should get you some insight i guess.
     
  16. WillardK

    WillardK Second Unit

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    (taking a pause from looking up titles in Daman's list)
    here's a few of the old classics to try:

    Aar Paar is in b&w with a horrible transfer but phenomenal music (including a big favorite Babuji Dheere Chalna). It's another film by Guru Dutt, who also did Pyaasa. Did I mention the phenomenal music?

    One option to survey what's out there is to get a few of those playback singer compilation discs. Image quality will be generally worse than the respective film discs, but as surveys they might prove very useful. I'd suggest an Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar or Mohammad Rafi comp.

    Two of the better 60's pop dvd's to check out are Jewel Thief and Teesri Manzil. Both are on the Eros label which is ok to decent for color while horrible to ok for b&w. ArthurMy might want to take a look at Gumnaam's sort of prequel, Who Kaun Thi? It's unfortunately in b&w with a typically horrible transfer, but has great music (another dance hall number) and easily betters Gumnaam's plot.

    Jaanwar has one of the better color transfers I've seen among the 60's popfilms and is on Bollywood Entertainment's label. ...and (note to ArthurMy) it has a head shake dance extravaganza to a mopped Beatle-a-go-go.

    Are any of these Home Theater demo discs? Well, no. It would be a shame, as was said, if that were your only criteria to exploring Hindi films... or films in general for that matter.

    oh... Namak Halaal is actually from 1982 and also features a poisoned chihuahua. and that's all I'm saying.
     
  17. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Maybe, but the problem with Bollywood is that, since they are so prolific, turning out in one year what Hollywood turns out in 5, it is impossible to keep track of everything.

    In most US stores, it will be hard to find a US film from more than 20 years ago. So, imagine how hard it is to just find info on what Bollywood films are worth seeing from more than 20 years ago, especially when there are only a few Bollywood retailers in the US that only emphasize newer films.
     
  18. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Willard, those sound great, I shall try to find them.
     
  19. Nils Luehrmann

    Nils Luehrmann Producer

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  20. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    One caveat when buying Bollywood films on DVD is that, at least for many of the pre-2000 titles it seems, the song lyrics are not subtitled in English. I picked up the DVD for KHUDA GAWAH, the first Bollywood film I ever saw, and the song lyrics, which are fairly crucial to the plot, are unsubtitled. DOH! So, despite the transfer being superior on the DVD, I have to stick with my old dual-tape widescreen all-subtitled VHS version, on the Scarecrow Video Collection label. (The dialogue subtitles on the Scarecrow release seem to be better translated as well.) The second Bollywood film I saw, MAINE PYAR KIYA (aka WHEN LOVE CALLS), I wanted to pick up, but having been burned once already, I asked about the subtitle issue online. When informed that my fears were confirmed about the song lyrics, I declined to pick it up. 'Twould be nice if an enterprising domestic label would license some of these classics and release them in proper remastered anamorphic all-subtitled DVD versions.
     

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