With the Cricket World Cup strangling the flow of movies out of Mumbai, this is an ideal time to consider various streaming video options. Following up on my general review of Bollywood streaming apps for the iPad and Eros Now in particular, let’s look at another streaming video service that specializes in Indian fare: Spuul.
Based in Singapore, Spuul’s interface is as slick as any other option out there. Movies are easy to sort by genre or language, and then by release date or title within that category.
Spuul offers videos in three different pay tiers: free, individual film rentals, and a monthly subscription. This is where things get confusing. Films can be listed three separate times, depending on their cost. Free movies are obviously labeled “Free,” but rentals and subscriptions have their own taxonomy. One-time individual film rentals fall in the “Special” category. Some “Special” films may also be available as part of the “Premium” monthly subscription, and they are listed separately with both tags.
“Special” films start at $0.99 for a 72-hour rental period. A “Premium” subscription costs $4.99 per month for access to all the movies in the “Premium” catalog, but not “Special” movies. So even with a “Premium” subscription, it would cost an additional $0.99 to watch an exclusively “Special” film like Kill Dil.
Adding to the confusion is that — as far as I can tell [check the update below] — “Special” films aren’t actually rented on a title-specific basis. Rather, the $0.99 spent on a “Special” film rental purchases the user a “Golden Ticket” that can be used on any “Special” film, not just the one that inspired the purchase. The “Help” section of the website is filled with answers to questions about “Golden Tickets.” While the system may make sense to those who work for Spuul, it adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to the user experience. I don’t care about internal terminology. I just want to watch a movie.
That said, Spuul’s fees are incredibly reasonable given the size of the “Premium” catalog and the low expense of renting “Special” movies one at a time (not to mention the large “Free” catalog). A “Premium” subscription plus three “Special” rentals is $0.03 cheaper than a one-month subscription to Netflix. Speaking of which, there is a lot of crossover between the Spuul “Premium” catalog and the Netflix Hindi catalog, including movies by Yash Raj Films. Also, Spuul is the best source for recent Hindi horror films.
Spuul’s security and ease of access are other selling points. Payment is only accepted through PayPal, allaying concerns about submitting credit card information to an unfamiliar company. One is able to sign in to Spuul with Google+ or Facebook without having to create a brand new account. Spuul is very active on Twitter, and it’s the best way to get a hold of the company for customer service issues.
Movies can be watched on computers and Apple TV, and Spuul apps are available for Android and Apple devices. I found the video quality to be clear and crisp on both the computer and iPad. As with Netflix, Spuul’s apps are video players only, and purchases must be made at the website.
My biggest problem with Spuul regards their English subtitles. On two separate movies — Gang of Ghosts and Ankhon Dekhi — the subtitles began to lag behind the spoken dialogue after about 40 minutes. Spuul’s customer service was quick to respond to a tweet about the problem, but the issue hadn’t been fixed when I rented Gang of Ghosts for a second time about a week later. When I recently watched Alone on Spuul, some of the subtitled dialogue was missing spaces in between the words. It didn’t keep me from understanding the film, but it did require me to focus additional attention on the subtitles instead of on the film itself.
If you don’t need English subtitles, this won’t be an issue. In that case, I recommend Spuul based on their catalog, video quality, and secure payment and login systems. If you do need subtitles, I suggest trying one of the service’s free movies first. If that works, then Spuul offers another great way to stream Bollywood movies.
Update: Thanks to Michael from Spuul for leaving a comment with the following clarifications:
For specials you do actually purchase the movie we just give tickets to people as well with their premium subscription. We also support many different secure payment models – google play, apple iTunes, credit cards, paypal and even various methods specific to a country.
You can purchase via any method and as long as you use the same account then the purchase is available across all platforms. We just don’t enable purchases via the TV apps.
What happens with subtitles is the producers of the movies don’t QA them and there are errors so we have to QA all the subtitles to find errors but it is manual process and we of course will miss some errors.