NEW THREAT: Bollywood Movies Get Killed By High-Quality Pirated Videos

Jolly LLB 2, Raees and Kaabil are among the recent releases which suffered the wrath of digital pirates who leak high-quality prints just hours after a film’s release. Their attack has forced Bollywood producers into a huddle

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NEW THREAT: Bollywood Movies Get Killed By High-Quality Pirated Videos

The summer of 2016 was bit unbearable for the industry that is known to churn out maximum celluloid products across the world. It neither was the soaring temperature nor was the humidity that made matters worse for the largest film industry.

People who had invested money in films like Udta Punjab and Great Grand Masti skipped a beat when it was revealed that both the films were available for free consumption online, days before the actual release of the films. Months of labour and hard work were threatened and every minute was a blow on the film’s future.

udta punjab poster
image Source: twitter/shahidkapoor

It was Balaji Motion Pictures who bore the brunt of this attack, as both the films were from the abovementioned stable. In the aftermath, the production house went for damage control but by then it was too little and too late.

Picture this, Udta Punjab boasted of a stellar cast with names like Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Punjabi pop superstar Diljit Dosanjh attached to its credit but the outcome was less than Rs 50 crore at the box office. Great Grand Masti had Masti and Grand Masti as its predecessors with tags of ‘super hit’ attached to both in trade journals but the bludgeon was so hard on the fate of Great Grand Masti that it simply failed to survive the initial three days of its release. The film was a box office disaster which could not even cross the Rs 10 crore hurdle. The collateral damage resulted in Balaji Motion Pictures downing its shutters for future film production for good. Interestingly, the video that was available before the release of both the films had the watermark of ‘censor board’. Food for thought?

great grand masti poster
Image Source: twitter/riteishhd

This was only last year and now piracy is more sharp and lethal. The multi headed dragon has raised its hood again and producers, once again, are feeling the heat. The situation is now so grave that the supreme body of Indian film producers - The Film and TV Producers Guild of India aka The Guild, went into a huddle last week to discuss the issue. The subject this time was the quality of pirated videos.

The new year also brought newer challenges to producers. The pirated versions of most of the films that released in theatres were DVD quality or just a notch below.  Pirated copies of films like Raees, Kaabil, Force 2 and Jolly LLB 2 were sheer delight for people who have an anathema for buying cinema tickets.

The pirated copies are better, cleaner and sharper than before. Yes, initially the pirated copies that reached the public on the day of a film’s release left a lot to be desired – they were pixilated and inferior in quality and gave a glimmer of hope to producers that despite having seen the film, the viewer might just visit the nearest cinema hall for a better viewing experience.

But the ever growing technological advancement has crushed this glimmer of hope too for producers. The copies available now are far superior in terms of quality and picture sharpness, negating and quashing any hopes of viewers visiting the cinema halls to have a dekko again.

Vasu Bhagnani blames the menace of piracy solely on the government. “There is no denying the fact that the industry is suffering but how about the government? Government is suffering three times the losses and they are simply not able to comprehend this. Government is not getting taxes and the growth of the industry has stopped. When films run, more theatres mushroom which means more business, but in our case the growth has turned negative. Remember, every time someone watches a film on DVD, government is denied tax,” explains Bhagnani.

force 2 poster
Image Source: twitter/sonakshisinha

Recently Viacom 18 dragged its digital integration firm K Sera Sera Digital Cinema Ltd to cyber cops for leaking their film Force 2 online. An FIR too was filed in this case. The production house had alleged in its complaint that Force 2 was available on various cyber platforms for streaming and downloading defying all piracy laws. The company also revealed that the copy from where the piracy originated was sent to their digital integration firm. All charges were later on denied by the digital firm and the matter is still pending. Vipul Shah who was the producer of the film, maintains that Viacom18 should not resort to any sort of settlement and should go all out behind the culprit. The latest development being that the cyber cops have arrested the owner and manager of Prakash Cinema in Dabara area of Gwalior in connection with the Force 2 piracy case. The father-son duo were arrested after the cops found out that copy of the film  that was given to Prakash Cinema by the digital firm had the same watermark which was there on the leaked version and the pirated online version.

So is there any end to this menace? Vipul Shah, the man behind blockbusters like Aankhein and Waqt, rather than giving a clear cut answer, tries to explain things. “Piracy menace cannot be curbed because the people involved in it are powerful ones. No government across the world feels that film industry is a part of them. We help in creation of job opportunities, we play a role in the economy and thus we also should be given protection.  Politicians too are part of the piracy network and have their own cuts, in such a scenario it becomes really difficult to curb piracy when everyone who is part of the system is busy in money transaction. It’s a common notion that if you watch a pirated film then it’s not an illegal act but if you were to pick something from a shop then it’s an offence. The mindset has to change,” roars Shah.

dangal poster
Image Source: twitter/aamirkhan

It’s difficult to attach any number to the losses the industry is suffering on account of piracy but a small scenario might just explain the grim scenario. The most successful Indian film of all time - Dangal minted close to Rs 400 crore at the box office and that roughly translates to Rs 5 crore footfalls in theatres. Get down on the street and casual conversation with people will inform you that virtually everyone has seen the film. You won’t find a person who has not seen the film. With a very average and rough calculation it means that 15 crore people from the country have seen the film. So if a footfall of 5 crore people have fetched the film close to 400 crore, one can well imagine the losses.

So is there any mean to curb this? Vipul Shah had suggested an extremely radical idea to the guild a while back but was rejected. Vipul was of the opinion that if the government is hell bent and serious towards eradicating this menace, then they should not go after the pirates, rather they should arrest and put behind bar those who are caught watching pirated stuff. “If a person with some stature were to spend a night behind the bar then I am convinced that he or she will never ever resort to pirated stuff.  The effect will be similar to drunken driving cases, the results for which are in front of you,” says Vipul Shah.

kaabil poster
Image Source: twitter/FilmKRAFT

Vasu Bhagnani is currently in London and met a friend few days back. The meeting also introduced  him to a new anti-piracy software. The 'Producer No 1' now is thinking of getting the software to India to help the industry. According to him the software will be able to detect any unauthorized exhibition of the film running in any corner of the world. With pirates matching their beat with the latest technological advancements, we can only hope and pray for Vasu’s sincere efforts. Amen.

Thumbnail Image Source: twitter/akshaykumar, iamsrk & FilmKraft

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