Stealing, openly

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February 26th, 2009 Shyamal Majumdar

I haven’t watched Slumdog Millionaire as yet, but it’s got little to do with the growing feeling that the movie represents nothing but poverty porn. I must be in a hopeless minority as every other person you meet these days seems to have seen the film many times and is eager to give you a scene-by-scene description of the fairy tale that shows how the film’s young protagonist, Jamal, overcomes long odds to live happily ever after.
Courtesy the Slumdog watchers, I also know how in one of the early scenes, Jamal dives into a raw sewage under the outhouse where he is trapped, to get a movie star’s autograph.

It’s almost like those gold old Sholay days – everyone seemed to know the number of glass pieces that pierced Hema Malini’s feet when she was swaying to the song `main nachungi’.

The difference is Sholay had a dream run in movie halls for over five years, while Slumdog ran out of steam barely a week after its release. If so many Indians have watched the movie, why were multiplex owners complaining about unsold tickets even in the first weekend after the film’s commercial release in India? The truth is for all the attention in Hollywood, Slumdog has failed to set the box office alight in India.
The reason is quite obvious: Slumdog must be one of the most counterfeited movies of all times. You can see them everywhere: hooky CDs and DVDs of the movie are openly on sale for Rs 40-50 with a little bartering, prompting US-India Business Council President Ron Somers to say, “Imagine how many Slumdogs could be conceived, produced and premiered if only there were greater efforts to crack down on film piracy.
In fact, a study commissioned by USIBC as part of its Bollywood-Hollywood Initiative, found that India’s entertainment and media industry loses some 820,000 jobs and about Rs 20,000 crore to piracy each year.
It’s true that the grey market that had once decimated the music industry has always been there. But they were sold on the sly earlier; the veil seems to have been taken off now. I suspect no law can prevent this as no law can change people’s minds. If rich and educated people lecturing the world against piracy etc don’t mind enjoying the knock-off versions of the film, the law cannot be anything but a mute spectator. Somers, meanwhile, can keep on pleading.
Just the other day, a friend was recounting – quite gleefully – how he saved Rs 1,120 (the price of four multiplex tickets on a Sunday) by downloading the film from his relative’s pen drive. Isn’t this encouraging piracy?  India’s high & mighty and beautiful people couldn’t care less, it seems.    

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3 Responses to “Stealing, openly”

  1. arun Says:

    Piracy is causing huge losses to the entertainment industry. That’s right.
    But how original is the entertainment industry in the first place to have the moral right to complain about it?

    If technology available makes piracy such an easy job that just anybody can copy a song or movie from the orginal source and multiply, it’s time we stopped worrying about it. Nothing can stop it, that’s the dis/advantage of technology. It empowers you — without distiction. Regards

  2. Omigosh Says:

    Look, it’s not a film making money for Indians (they just get to keep shiny little statues and video clips of speeches with grandiloquent sounds like “ma”, as we desis wanna go, and “om”, as ET wanna go in Spielberg’s version that lost out to Gandhi in 1982), so PIRACY is OKAY. Let a million CD fakes bloom across our fair country, and may even proud citizen see it over and over.

  3. Tintin Says:

    This is all about India and more or less the film is also on the same lines. Indians have to Indians to survive. In India only 15 % of person earned enough who can pay for multiplex tickets and watch the movie with there family

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