Bollywood DVDs: 10 of the best

Anyone who has ever purchased a few Hindi DVDs (or read this blog) will be all too aware of the substandard quality they sadly offer compared with other international cinema. However, amongst all the dross are several genuinely well-authored releases and below is a list I’ve compiled of what I’d consider to be the ten most impressive. And while some of these films may not represent the best of Indian cinema, the discs themselves will be the ideal choices to make the most out of your HD setup.

Taal10. Taal (Rapid Eye Moves, R2, PAL)

This excessive slice of musical melodrama looks splendid on this release from German label REM. Though the image is quite soft, colours are amazingly vibrant (perhaps overly so at times) and the 5.1 audio is glorious, doing full justice to composer A.R. Rahman’s memorable song sequences which are stunningly picturised and more enjoyable than the film itself. No extras other than the theatrical trailer are presented and unfortunately for non-Hindi/German speakers, there is a lack of English subtitles also.

Guru9. Guru (Rapid Eye Movies, R2, PAL)

Another English subs-free, but good quality disc from REM is this fictitious biopic of rags-to-riches businessman Gurukant Desai from acclaimed director Mani Ratnam. Superb songs, terrific performances and a thrilling narrative sadly lead to a limp conclusion, but the journey there is just about worth it. The DVD’s image is rock-steady, dirt-free and with impressive colour rendition. On the audio front, the 5.1 track is excellent as well. Special features include a few promotional featurettes and trailers.

Meenaxi8. Meenaxi (Yash Raj Films, R0, NTSC)

Controversial artist M.F. Husain’s second foray into cinema results in an unquestionably sumptuous visual experience with a couple of fine performances from leads Tabu and Kunal Kapoor, but like his previous film (2000’s Gaja Gamini) the narrative is at times unintelligible and often just plain dull. Still, the sumptuous set design and dazzling cinematography make this DVD, offering a vibrant and detailed transfer, well worth a watch. A ‘Making Of’ feature and adequate English subtitles make up the extras.

Lagaan7. Lagaan (Columbia Tristar, R2, PAL)

A rare Hindi DVD authored by a top Hollywood label which boasts a transfer far more pleasing than Bollywood’s usual fare. Colours are natural and sharpness is impressive, though the print is marred by the odd tear and scratch. As for the film, even casual Indian film fans should be aware of its credentials - Lagaan tells the tale of a high-stakes cricket match between ten Indian villagers and a regiment from their British colonial rulers. Exhilarating and unpretentious, Indian cinema doesn’t get much better than this.

Black6. Black (Bodega, R2, PAL)

This French DVD is another Euro release lacking in English subs, but the video and audio cannot be faulted. Colours are splendid, the print is squeaky clean and the 5.1 audio sounds terrific. Black has polarised Hindi film fans - some adore it for its haunting score, powerful acting and outstanding art design while others are less impressed by its emotional manipulation and liberal borrowing from 1962’s The Miracle Worker. Regardless, Black remains one of this decade’s most important and must-see Indian films.

Devdas5. Devdas (Diaphana, R2, PAL)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film adaption of the novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay is overwrought with hammy performances, suffocating opulence and sluggish dialogue, but is blessed by some of the most resplendent sets and stunning dance choreography you’re ever likely to see on film. This professionally-authored French DVD release (which lacks English subtitles) features a stellar 5.1 audio mix to give your surround set-up a helluva workout. Interviews, in English, with the film’s stars are among the extras.

Mission Kashmir4. Mission Kashmir (Columbia Tristar, R2, PAL)

Another superb job from Columbia Tristar - this DVD has a near-flawless transfer with magnificent colour rendition and a print free from damage and grain. Only the image’s sharpness could be doing with some improvement and sound-wise, the 5.1 audio is crystal-clear. A shame the actual movie is far less enjoyable. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s take on the Kashmiri conflict starts out engrossingly enough, but descends into standard masala action fare by the end.

Mangal Pandey3. Mangal Pandey (Madman Entertainment, R4, PAL)

Filmed simultaneously in English as The Rising: Ballad Of Mangal Pandey, this fictionalised historical epic attempts to achieve the same patriotic mood as Lagaan, but falls short due to poor scripting and an at times dull narrative. The performances are spirited though and this excellent DVD release from Australian distributor Madman has impeccable colour rendition, good detail and dynamic audio. A plethora of promotional material is on offer among the disc’s special features.

Parineeta2. Parineeta (Excel Entertainment, R0, NTSC)

One of the very few Bollywood DVDs to offer a DTS audio track, this 2-disc set exclusive to India has been given suitably lush treatment from Excel Entertainment. Colours are sensational, the image is wonderfully detailed and the print is free from any grain or damage. Extras are plentiful, with promotional material, documentaries and a director’s commentary on offer. The movie itself is an enjoyable drama of a romance threatened by class division set in 1962 Calcutta.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham1. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Rapid Eye Movies, R2, PAL)

Director Karan Johar’s follow-up to the magnificent Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a disappointing mixture of bloated self-indulgence and at times grating performances, but does have its moments and is undeniably popular with Bollywood fans and newcomers alike. This digitally remastered 3-disc DVD set from Germany may just be the best a Hindi film has ever looked on a home video format. Mastered in HD, sharpness and detail are highly impressive while the colour rendition is nothing short of exquisite. REM have also split the near-4 hour film over the set’s first two discs to maximise the video’s bitrate. Four crystal clear audio tracks are on offer: the original Hindi 5.1 track as well as three dubbed in German encoded in 5.1, 2.0 and DTS. A selection of promotional material and deleted scenes make up the third disc’s extras and include a recent interview with Karan Johar regarding Bollywood’s popularity surge in Germany. Sadly though, yet again there are no English subtitles to found on this otherwise perfect release.

Posted by Stephen on September 20th, 2007

9 Comments »

1
Gurcharan Singh said

September 22, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

Any idea where i can order Gaja Gamini?

2
Stephen said

September 22, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

The Gaja Gamini DVD is long out of print now. Your best bet will be eBay.

3
Anurag said

October 1, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

Hi Stephen, Bollywood’s 10 best- that was a great list to look at. I have 3 issues:

1) Is it possible to rank the dvd list. As I am curious to know the ultimate one in the list.

2) There is no DEI dvd in ur list which I thought has produced some really marvellous dvds. are they really inferior to all the above in the list?

3) Is this list inclusive of all South Indian DVDs as well? If no, then which wil be the top 10 dvds taking all Indian language dvds into consideration?

4
Stephen said

October 1, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

Hi Anurag,

The list is ranked already from 10 to 1 - the numbers are beside the titles. 8)

Regarding DEI’s DVDs, yes, many of their releases are of high quality, but I don’t think any are as good as the ten I’ve listed here. I major problem I have with their discs is their colour rendition, which always seems so weak and inconsistent to me.

And no, I didn’t include any regional Indian DVDs in the list for the simple reason that, if I had, there probably wouldn’t be any Hindi DVDs left in there. ;) There are so, so many South Indian releases that are of superb quality and I haven’t even seen them all. So it would be almost impossible to create an overall list of the 10 best Indian DVDs.

5
Atul said

February 6, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

Hi Stephen.Nice list there buddy.No wonder half of the movies uve listed have music by the gr8 A.R.Rahman.Anyways,cud u pls tell us how or from where we can buy these particular versions like the German REM dvds in India?

6
Stephen said

February 6, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

All the German DVDs mentioned in the list can be purchased from Amazon.de as well as numerous German eBay shops, although Amazon may not ship to India.

This list is actually in need of updating actually since there’s been quite a few superior DVDs released in recent months from Eros and a truly excellent German DVD of K3G. Hopefully I’ll have time to post details of these in the near future. :)

7

March 30, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

I’m not big on dubs, I really prefer subtitles .. however I must say I’m pretty amazed that they put in the effort for the german dvd’s, and surprised they don’t throw in an english dub for the UK/US releases.

Films that lack subtitles do annoy me, but no way as much as when you have subtitles there, but are magically removed for the songs (like the lyrics weren’t worth the effort) .. I’m sure you’ve come across these.

8
NOMi said

May 23, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

kabhi khusi kabhi gum is very fantastic movie. i like it.

9

November 14, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

This is a great list! I’d add the Lagaan DVD collector’s edition set, which is unbelievably beautiful in every category (presentation, picture/sound quality, extras, a documentary on the making). My favorite DVD set of all time. The movie is split onto two DVDs for ultra-high quality. Discussed more here, and at LagaanDVD.com.

Cheers!

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