Prime has done something new and horrible which made me decide I need to do a new kind of “consumer beware” post in hopes of helping you save yourselves.
Prime is Selling Incomplete Films–Do Not Watch Any Hindi Film on Prime Without Checking the Run Time from Another Source
There are multiple versions of most movies floating around, the actually physical reels of film vary. There are bits of film that broke, reels that were lost, or little local government censorships, or even censorships by distributor/theater owner (“my audience won’t like the kissing scene, I’ll just cut it out and throw it away”). What drives me crazy is that the actual full complete version for the films Prime is selling exist, it’s on DVD, it’s even on youtube videos by fans in most cases. Prime, somehow, has just purchased a massive library of vandalized films and made them available to viewers without any realization of what they have done, or feeling the need to throw up some kind of warning saying “not the complete version of this film”.
Before you watch an older Hindi film on Prime, check the run time from another more reliable source (fan loaded youtube videos, einthusan, even the image of the back of a DVD available for sale on ebay). If the times don’t match, DON’T WATCH IT!!!!!
I’ve run into two films so far that were destroyed before Prime loaded them. These aren’t small changes, these are massive ones that mean the Prime version of the film is not actually the film any more.
Guddu first, that’s the easiest to explain. Prime cut off the ending of the film. Not the last 5 minutes, the actual resolution to the plot. It’s a love story, and in the Prime version you don’t find out if the couple gets together. ?!?!?!?! This is ridiculous, here is a major company proporting to provide a film to you, and you have to go to youtube or find an article online to learn how it actually ends.
Sholay, that is a far far bigger deal. Imagine, for instance, that DDLJ was the film we know, and then at the last few days before release the police came by Yash Raj Studios and, with a literal gun to their heads, they were forced to reshoot the last five minutes to show Kajol marrying Kuljit and the wisdom and power of the parents being affirmed. The whole rest of the film is the same, this build of the perfect love story and so on, but the last five minutes were tossed in the trash and the police filmed a new ending.
That’s what actually happened with Sholay. Salim-Javed spent almost a year writing this perfect script, the producers dug up funding to make it exactly as it was envisioned, the whole thing builds to this statement on vengeance and grief and the masks men wear, and all of it. Sholay was being made during The Emergency, when Indira Gandhi instituted a dictatorship for a year and a half. And her men went into the studio offices and forced them to reshoot the ending, based on a script they had written that affirms the power of the police.
Sholay released with the police/censor board version. It became a big hit, but the real ending became the stuff of legend. The movie is okay, good enough, with the censored ending. But the real ending is what makes it the greatest film in Indian history. And then in the late 90s, the real ending was discovered and released with the DVD. It was a miracle! And that version of the film became the one that people saw around the world, the version I saw, the version people discuss on fansites, the accepted version.
And now Prime is rewinding the clock, losing this thing that was found. WHY???? How can you DO something like that???
And there’s more! Prime cut another 10 minutes from the film, I don’t know what 10 minutes but I know that the real version needs every single second of screentime so those 10 minutes are guaranteed to be vital.
And they changed the soundtrack. Sholay was the first Indian film made with Dolby sound, and the makers used that to the utmost. Each character and relationship has it’s own little musical theme, and the Foley sounds alone are iconic. You know in Chennai Express when Shahrukh and Deepika return to the village at the end? The series of sounds they hear as they arrive, the twang of the cotton being carded and so on, that’s a Sholay homage. That’s the exact series of sounds that herald the arrival of the bandits in the village before their raid. That’s how important the soundtrack is. And Prime tossed it out with the trash and threw on some dumb thing as a replacement.
Sholay is the horrific one, Prime is vandalizing one of the great works of cinema, and is second hand agreeing to state censorship. But it seems to be affecting basically every movie. Emily mentioned she is excited to finally watch Baazigar, so I checked that one. Don’t watch it on Prime, because it’s missing 4 minutes. Watch on youtube instead. Where is available, in full, legally.
Here’s the good news, most of the Prime films ARE available on youtube, usually legally. Prime apparently bought the rights to the censored cut versions of the films, meaning the rights of the actual real films are still out there and you can watch the real movie somewhere else. Just do a little bit of research to makes sure you are watching the right thing before you use Prime.
Hotstar is Not Moving Forward
Hotstar is still your best bet for older Malayalam films, although Prime is getting better. Hotstar just has such a massive library it will be a while before any other service catches up. But the newer films are being added slowly, and not that many of them. And the subtitles are getting less common. 6 months ago I said they were the one to beat, but since then Prime and Netflix have both beaten them in the newer libraries of films and subtitles.
Tentkotta is the reason that Hotstar and Netflix and Prime have such a small Tamil/Telugu library. Tentkotta has been around a lot longer and buying up everything. Only downside is, terrible platform! It’s still not great, the movies that say “subtitles” don’t always play subtitles. There’s supposed to be a Roku channel but I can’t get it to work. Chromecast does seem to work, so that’s good. But the website is suuuuuuuuuuuuper slow. Like, I have been waiting for the homescreen to load the entire time I have been typing this paragraph. Oh, and you can’t see the English title for a movie until you click on the poster image. I don’t mean translated to English, I mean English script. That seems like a legitimate complaint, right? I shouldn’t have to learn how to read the unique Tamil script just to figure out if I am clicking through to Petta or Kabali.
But the library! That’s what it’s about. Okay, you can’t find EVERYTHING, but you can find a lot of things, and if you just want to watch a good Dhanush movie, or a good Ajith movie, it’s there. You know, after you click on each poster in turn to find out what the actual title of the film is.
Still the best! Crosses the very very low bar of having subtitles for every film, being searchable by title, and actually providing the real full version of every film instead of some chopped up unfinished thing. Prime has a bigger library, but if most of their films aren’t the real movies, I’d still prefer Netflix where at least I know that what they have, is the real thing.