While the PPCC itself uses an army of slave-robots, programmed to trawl through the world's DVD stores, this is a fairly expensive and hazardous method. Robot parts are scarce. Robots can break down in remote locations, far from the nearest highway. Robots can disobey you. Robots can have horrible taste in movies. They are also, like Hummers, not very eco-friendly.
So here is the PPCC's Robot-Free Guide to Buying Indian Movies when Not in India.
1. Your local Indian shop
The PPCC is blessed to live in a country with a large Desi community, so we have a number of local suppliers. There's Uncle. Then there's Other Uncle. Then there's Grumpy Uncle. Then there's Helpful Uncle. And finally there's Krishna. Anyway, all of our local suppliers are wonderful - they recommend titles, they sometimes give you discounts if you buy more than two or three movies, and, if they're nice, they'll even check the subtitles for you beforehand. All of them are always pleasantly surprised to see a silly gori asking for some hard-to-find Shashi Kapoor title, and usually they get excited too and start recommending their favorites or offering to bring their copy from home so that you can at least borrow it.
Even though this might be an expensive option at times - once, in a Desi shop in the USA, we were asked to shell out $20 for Dil To Pagal Hai! Ha, whatever! - there really is a lot to be said for seeing the colorful covers, for touching the movies, for smelling them. OK, this sounds perverted, but there's a living and breathing excitement in shopping for movies in person. Some of our best catches - Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Umrao Jaan, Kasme Vaade - we picked up blindly in the local Indian store, deciding, "Well, what the hell?" We just liked the look and feel and weight of it, and it turned out we liked what was inside too!
1a. Your foreign Indian supply shop.
Never miss the opportunity to buy DVDs while travelling. Some places are notorious - Jackson Heights, a suburb of NYC; Southall, a suburb of London; that one area in Chicago - and you can shop for DVDs with the added bonus of a new, big, fun Desi neighborhood to do it in. Also, don't forget that several regions in the world are very Bollywoodified from top to bottom: Africa, the Middle East, Asia (well, duh), the Pacific. This sort of Indian DVD Tourism is an adventure in itself. For example, once the PPCC purchased a copy of Asoka in Morocco. Unfortunately, it has Arabic subtitles only. Well, what can you do.
1b. Your local library
This is more relevant if you live in a super-Desi area somewhere in England. But all libraries have DVD collections nowadays, and many of our earliest finds were in the local library's Hindi DVD collection. Sometimes they sell off their older titles for cheap cheap.
2. The world wide internet
The power and cruelty of the Internet cannot be denied, even our robots are subject to it. If you're keen to see a movie, especially after reading the PPCC review of it, you can first check YouTube and MusicIndiaOnline for some song selections. Then you can probably find someone somewhere in the world who is selling it and will ship it to you. Here are some of our usual sources:
Good for almost everything. They sell 'em cheap, they sell 'em plentiful. They are very reliable, shipping fast, and every couple months they offer shipping waivers. Their prices are fab too - you can find usually some great titles for US$6. If you live in the USA, especially if you're in the bush and far from any Indian shops, they will soon become your primary supplier. (Also useful for other things like Filmfare magazine, soundtracks, Hindu mythology comic books, and Bollywood dancercize videos. One-stop shopping for all needs!)
A smaller selection, but you'll be amazed by the prices you can find on their Marketplace: Junoon for a quid! It's always worth checking it out, since chances are you'll be able to find something for really cheap, cheaper than the local store. Unfortunately, the American Amazon is a pain in this regard - much more expensive, much less selection. So, if you're in the USA, see 2a and don't even bother with Amazon. But if you're in the UK or Europe, 2b is very worth considering.
2c. India Weekly
If we can't find it on Nehaflix, we usually hit India Weekly next. Cheap prices, big sales, very good selection. Their shipping, though, very slow. Like cold honey through a sieve slow.
Small but eclectic and interesting selection. If you just can't freaking wait and must have your Hindi movie NOW (and you live in the USA), this is a good option. Also good for non-Hindi needs.
2e. Eros Entertainment's official DVD store
In theory, they should have, like, anything ever made in Bollywood ever. We've found some very esoteric stuff there - Shashi and Smita?! - but their website is a pain and their shipping rates likewise blow. There's a pay-to-download option, useful if you do NOT need subtitles. We do, and so we've never used it.
For however you stand on copyright issues, it does exist as an option. And there are websites dedicated solely Hindi movie torrents. Consider that movies are usually 700 MB if one big video file, or 3 or 4 GB if it's a DVD rip. Also consider that subtitles and movies can sometimes come as separate files; so, if you realize you just downloaded a Hindi movie without subs, you can probably find the subtitle file seperately.
3. Friends and Acquaintances
Ah, the most rewarding way to learn about movies. Once you make your Hindi movie love known, you'll be surprised how many people come out of the woodwork: work colleagues who suddenly reveal themselves to be obsessed with Sholay, friends of friends who've actually been crushing on SRK for years, and so forth. It's always worth announcing to anyone who looks remotely like they could have Indian ancestry that you have a thing for Hindi films - the PPCC certainly does. At worst, they'll roll their eyes and say they never watch tacky Bollywood movies. OK, at worst worst, they'll be annoyed by your racial stereotyping. But, at best, you'll find someone to gush over Manmohan Desai films with! And what more do you need in life?!
Another common way that the PPCC obtains movies is by asking friends who are travelling to engage in a bit of 1a (Hindi Movie Shopping Tourism), especially if they're going to a known Desi zone. With some friends, you can just say, "Oh, get me something with Vinod Khanna." With others, you can order from an online retailer and mail to their home. And still with others, you may have to be quite specific, explaining the store's location, the title, the look of the movie, and so forth.
Common etiquette dictates that - unless you friend is also your parent or Bill Gates - you should pay them back, however the PPCC has gotten away with Bollywood for Food deals as well.
How much should you pay?
Never, EVER more than US$20, unless you expect to find crack inside the movie as well. The PPCC considers a fair price to be US$6 - US$10. Anything less and you're probably buying something illegal and therefore you'll feel guilty and the producers won't realize the great resurgance Shashi is having in sales. Anything more and, as we said, it better be freaking amazing and actually include a life-sized Dharmendra inside.
What to expect?
1. English subs.
2. A series of ads before the movie with either techno music or elevator muzak accompanying rolling shots of past Bollywood hits provided by the same supplier (Shemaroo, SkyTV, Eros Entertainment). This is a good way to see if anything else appeals, as presented in 30 seconds. For example, we bought Teesri Kasam after hearing a 30-second snippet of Duniya Bananewale on our Aa Gale Lag Jaa DVD.
3. The religious bit. Our favorite religious bit is the psychadelic Ganesh in the beginning of Shemaroo's Aa Gale Lag Jaa.
4. The censor blurb, assuring us it's not porn or a snuff film.
5. The movie. Heaven!
PPCC, I am incompetent and/or live in a hole in the center of the Earth and/or live in a hole in the center of the moon, and am therefore incapable of accessing Hindi movies. What can I do?!!
Do not despair, the PPCC has noticed that there are several means of achieving Hindi movie-like joy without actually watching a Hindi movie.
1. Read the PPCC. It's like you'll be there, watching it with us!
2. Eat a laddoo. Whenever we eat laddoos, we feel like we've just taken a bite out of Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe.
3. Eat another laddoo. The effect is never as strong as the first bite, but you'll probably want another one anyway.
4. Hindi sikhna.
5. Buy Neon Bible by The Arcade Fire. What? It's really good.