January 16, 2012

Why Indian Loves Piracy !

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This subject is quite much talked about and we have seen our celebrities always comes up with campaign how piracy is bringing their profit down and how this is against creativity & industry at large. I am not talking about Piracy as a whole but I want to write about Movie Piracy and why this will always exist and make quite a sense for all of us to indulge in the same.

I do not think people in this country prefer piracy because of cost of watching or owning a movie; the people here embracing piracy because of non-availability, poor distribution, bad infrastructure and lack of information. 
When I was growing up in Jamshedpur which is known as one of the best planned township of India; Watching a movie in a theatre was a big thing back then and the reason being that among 6 cinema halls we only had two cinema theatre which were decent enough for a family to go to watch a movie and that too after 7-8 days of its release, as the crowd during first few days of any big movie were really wild. Anyone with family, it was a sort of big adventure to get through to watch any movies conevine quietly. I do remember when I used to go to movie in its first day of release during that time- it was war like situation while buying the tickets over the counter and once you get in you just can’t hear a thing for first half hour because of so much of noise by the crowd. Of course Dolby, DTS and all such new technology came very later in town like Jamshedpur. The only source for movie fan to get hands on any movie was Video Cassette and later VCDs. There was a time when movie used to come on Videos within a week of release which given boost on sale of VCD players and DVD Players but then industry thought it losing their revenue share on movie theatre so they came up with rule about not to release movies on videos for at least 4 weeks after its theatrical release date. This is exactly what triggered the piracy as when satellite TV came in picture and people started watching trailers regularly through movie promotions they were quite eager to watch the movie the moment it released in theatre but with limited of cinema theatre across country and most of them with very poor infrastructure the viewer really wanted easy alternatives and Piracy came into rescue. 

Let’s do some number crunching- we have around 7000 cinema theatre across India (most of the same in big cities), the country which has 7936 towns and 6.41 lacs villages (as per census survey in 2011) and we all know our population.  So, while movie maker talking about curbing piracy they are very narrowly focusing only on select audience majority would be metro. Now let’s talk about metro. In any metro watching movie is costly affair; nowadays in every metro the single screen theatre is just for mere it’s presence and cost of watching multiplexes  are quite a high and it comes with much expensive frills where one simple pop-corn cost Rs. 95/- and ticket cost 200-250+ during weekends. For a family this may result in shelling out 1500+ in one go. So for anyone it has become quite apparent they should not end up watching something crappy by spending so much. That’s the reason filmmakers buy reviews, misguide through promos and do excessive marketing coz they know their content is not worth it beyond two weeks. The biggest grosser of 2011 such as Ra.One, Ready, Bodyguard, Singham—you don’t need to read figure they are posting; just open news paper and see if the movie is still there after two weeks of release; only movie with good content survives more than 4-5 weeks on any theatre. When Ra.One was released it was literally on every theatre and with 7-8 shows in one day, I checked Bombay Times after 10 days of it’s release and only few theatre were having Ra.One with only 2 shows. So for filmmaker now the equation is: create hype, excessive promotions, release it in maximum theatre, buy expert’s reviews on different media and make as much money you can in 7-9 days before people’s word of mouth is out about the content of movie At the end it is us as audience who are cheated in the name of entertainment. So, why not buy movie which is readily available at any market along with even vegetable vendors at Rs. 50/- in DVD format and some of them are of really good quality. It is also easy to download movie through various blogs, torrent portal, and files sharing websites. We as consumer depend on film maker and distributors when the movie will release. 

Currently I am eagerly waiting for some hollywood movies such as J Edgar, The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Young Adult, A Girl with a dragon tattoo, War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, A Dangerous Method etc. which are released in USA more than a month back but still not released in India. I have no option but to look out for sources where can I download it from Internet.
Film makers make hue and cry about piracy stating that it is against their creativity which they should be fully paid and it is hampering the industry. I refuse to believe that when especially we all know how much hefty amount even an average film star & leading directors are taking for one movie and now make a ratio if the writers, editors, cameraman and other experts get the same sort of money. 
If film industry is really serious about removing piracy completely then instead of asking people to correct their action they should fix their system. They should focus on source of distribution and ensure it reaches upto all levels. We have 140 million TV household and 90% of them are using cable. Among those 90% around 20% is the share of DTH users which was introduced in 2005 and growing very rapidly. Government of India has also made set top box compulsory for all Cable TV users; this is one big media and distribution network we are talking.

I believe filmmakers must focus on innovating their distribution strategy and giving the consumer various legitimate option to watch their movies whenever they want to with high quality. They should work out a model with DTH & Big Cable networks to release the movie as pay per view in all household along with theatrical release. They should make movie streaming available with Internet right after release just like NetFlix. This will ensure distribution in large scale and any viewers will chose to watch good quality, right at their home as and when they want. This will not deter the theatre going crowd as such fans still prefer movie theatre over piracy. I personally believe this will change the business dynamics of movie industry and finally the end consumer will be happy.

In fact film maker should learn from Movie Pirates about distribution of their movie.

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