Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ode to Teenage - video library of my teens

Yesterday I saw a movie called 'Seven Pounds' on DVD which is one of the most pointless and depressing movies I have ever seen. Seriously, Hollywood seems to have lost it.

Of course I have not seen either Kambakht Ishq or Luck (and do not plan to) but even those cannot beat the sheer lack of colour, sense or style in 'Seven Pounds'. Will Smith, what were you thinking??

But this is not a lament on a specific movie, rather the whole DVD rental experience. A couple of months ago I joined Bigflix 6 month 'unlimited rental' plan. Which basically means you can keep 2 DVDs for as long as you like; or rotate them every day. Why Bigflix?

Well, their selection is not all that hot. Most of the movies they stock keep playing out on TV but this way you can watch at your convenience, and without ads. But the biggest point in Bigflix's favour is they actually have a store which is 5 minutes away from my house.

This is of course, a Reliance mobile showroom whose primary job is to sell SIM cards and collect bills. But, it also has a (mostly empty) cybercafe and small area devoted to BigFlix. Which means I can actually go across and pick up a movie - if I feel like.

I can also queue up movies and have them delivered but I like having the option of acting on impulse.

And being Reliance ADAG you have some surety that they won't just pull down the shutter one fine morning. Like did in New Bombay without bothering to inform customers. (reminder to self: must write a separate blog on that someday!)

My grouse with Bigflix - the corporate DVD rental experience - is that the folks who man the store are just doing a job. They don't really care about movies. Or wouldn't one of them have warned me: "Seven Pounds is absolutely avoidable!"

And my point of comparison of course is the one and only "Teenage video library". The folks who literally took me through my teens.

In 1983 my dad went to Japan and brought back a Hitachi VCR. Clunky by today's standards but an object of extreme beauty - and desire - back then. Promptly, we joined 'Teenage video library' in Colaba and began our romance with renting films.

The chief attraction at "Teenage" was a guy called Asif who was extremely cheerful and appeared to have seen every movie ever released. You just had to mention the name and he had an opinion for you. Or you said "I want a comedy" and he would recommend a few.

Asif must have been in his early 20s but for some reason did not have much hair on his head. I might have had a small crush on the guy, for some time. Even borrowed 10 bucks from him once, when on my way home from St Xavier's (as an FYJC student) I had no cash to take a BEST bus.

Asif had a brother who was older and had curly hair. He was obviously the 'boss' - probably the 'brains' of the operation. But Asif was the heart and soul.

The point is that a mom and pop shop like "Teenage" (or bhai and bhai in this case) had a certain charm. A stickiness, a sense of 'this is a service I trust'.

Unlike Bigflix they never ever shut down at 8 pm. Yes, we would argue if the 'print was bad' and much of their business came from pirated films. Bad bad boys :)

Bigflix cannot follow such a model (and those who want pirated don't rent DVDs - they simply download from the internet). But I wish they had a kid at the counter who was doing a part time job because he loved movies. I think it adds something to the experience.

Of course one can check reviews on the internet - or even on GPRS. But the point is, a human touch.

That touch is disappearing not just from DVD rental but every retail space as it 'modernises'. Salespeople come and give you a perfunctory "Madam can I help you" without the intention or inclination to do so.

And so many people behind the counter are busy jabbering away on their mobiles, or lost behind their headphones. Even when customers are waiting for billing, or for assistance of some kind. Because it's just a job and that means 'physical presence'. No energy, no emotion, no interest because "yeh mera thodi hai".

Aaj idhar hoon, kal kya pata.

I am sure "Teenage" still flourishes at Hampton Court in Colaba. Wonder if Asif still mans the counter. If not, I hope someone like him - to sell dreams and DVDs to the next generation of teenagers.


  1. Yes..
    Just reminded me of Thakkar Video Library in Goregaon West

  2. Dear Rashmi,

    It is I Rakesh,God of the markets.

    Forget Bigflix,try internet movie piracy.Illegal downloads start at less than Ten rupees/week!

    P.S:I follow your advice every week and stay hungry but that only makes me more hungry and people say that by being hungry I am foolish.

    So mission accomplished sometimes I stay hungry and stay foolish but more importantly :I'm sexy!!

  3. I think the change is coming. And coming for good. Customisation is catching up. Be it in an apparels shop or a car shop. And the same will trickle down to the small shops. I mean, customisation was what which keeps the mom-and-pop shop making profits.

    As you pointed out, there should be someone to recommend/suggest movies. Like you have your hair stylist recommending the kind of hair cut you should get. To me, it seems, "branded Movie rental" is pretty nascent, at least in India. With time, the customisation you are talking about would come in.

    I can think of a time when Rashmi walks into an outlet and the attendant would get the likes and dislikes of Rashmi from the 'history' and can recommend her the kind of movie she would like to see. It's not difficult. It just needs some time. Maybe less than a year (that is, if I start my service by then:-P)

  4. No, Asif doesn't maintain it anymore. He is inspired by Quentin Tarantino(a former Video Clerk) and directing a film called Pulp Dicktion and hes still in the search of his Muse-Uma Tharkan...try if your passion for the genius is still alive....and touch you are talking about...A circular has already been sent to all the front end retail lads/lass' to touch the customers properly and due care attention will be paid to make sure none touches the one from same sex......

  5. I think the we as consumers are as well responsible for disappearance of shops like Teenage and emergence of BigFlix..
    We want quick service, would be skeptic if shopkeeper recommends something.. we change loyalties at the flicker of a price drop..
    So if we have changed.. we should not ask why the world has changed..

  6. I do not like it if some of these guys in shops come and give an opinion. I somehow prefer internet, imdb and the comments made there. I in fact do not like it when these sales guys disturb my shopping experience!

  7. Well, so true. Just the other day when I was reliance, I felt I had to step in and help out this guy who had beeen handed quite the opposite to what he had asked for. As for their collection, I thought I would sign up but then there wasn't much I hadn't already seen. Lol. I guess, had it paid well it wouldn't have been too bad of a job for me.

  8. Very true... Its those business which bother about customer interaction which flourish...

    And yes, going back few years , dvd rental was a common thing. anyone ready to give the review of a movie was earnestly listened..

    Lastly,thanks for warning about the dire state of the movie 'Seven pounds'. You saved a couple of hrs of mine ;)



  9. Well, check out Netflix dot com. Bigflix is a copy of netflix. I love netflix cos it is cheap and it delivers movie to my mailbox and I dont have to go anywhere to go to pick a movie. I like its personalization choices through my rating of each movies, and I still can pick which ever ones I want to pick. I do agree that sometimes we need customer service as good as the relationship between sabzi waala vendor and the one who is buying....but truthfully I prefer to be left alone at times when I am buying/renting something I love. I want to see and experience things, rather than told to use what others like....lekin pasand apni apni!

    Keep up the good writing going!

  10. 7 Pounds demands patience from audience!

    The start is slow but that doesn't make it in any way depressing!

    The movie is very good and really touching, it's just that it didn't get the right audience this time

  11. I liked the movie. Along with all these other people.

    You did not expect another Independence day, did you?

  12. i may defer from ur opinion. in fact i dont like suggestions from shopkeeper while shopping who donot know my taste and style. here i like the mall culture where everything is at display and no one assist u and tries to sell. btw i found the movie the seven pounds ok stuff(one tym watch).

    @prashant mehta
    ur idea for the likes and dislikes by looking at history sounds gud to me as they have in amazon etc.

  13. I thought seven pounds was not that bad a movie. In fact the rating on IMDB does say so. A 46 thousand odd votes averages to 7.6 on 10!!
    Well, the discussion here is on something different. I do agree with you on the video rentals as the rental experience is not that great now. But hope it improves. :)

  14. Rashmi,
    this truely takes me back to our wonder years of renting video tapes and then watching action movies and comedies. The library wallah ( name is good for a movie) always had a advice/comment for the movie.
    That touch has almost gone now even in the smaller shops & towns.

    Now the age of technology is coming. It might happen one day that when you walk in the store your mobile sends a signal & the store computer will match your liking & start giving out movie names. But then it will be technological customization not warm with the human touch....

  15. Seven Pounds is a bad movie??? :-)

    May be anything which is about going out of your way and do things for others is outdated these days and doesn't suit the ego of many modern man / woman who believe in killer instinct, yes?

  16. express your views on Indias microblog


    india'a microblog

  17. why do you have to rent a dvd from bigflix when you have the huge torrent database that's just a click away ??

    also I seriously doubt your choice of movies if u disliked "seven pounds" and have the conviction of pointing out one of smith's best works as "depressing" . Switch over to masala movies cause they'll better cater to your taste !


Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth