Watching Bollywood Movies on the New Apple TV

Apple just released its new Apple TV, complete with the ability to search for movies across services. Responding to voice commands, Siri searches for films not only in Apple’s own iTunes store but also in the catalogs of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. So how well does Apple TV’s new system work for Bollywood movies?

One of the big perks of the new system is that Siri can search by genre. If you’re in the mood for a comedy, just ask her to look for comedy movies, and she’ll return a bunch of titles that fit the bill. She can get even more specific if you ask for sub-genres like foreign comedies or military comedies.

What Siri can’t do is find Bollywood movies as a genre. She recognized the command “Find Bollywood movies” correctly, but only offers an apology: “Sorry, I can’t find that.” Same if you ask her to find Indian movies or Hindi movies. She currently couldn’t find Korean or French movies, either.

Siri has trouble recognizing many names of Indian actors and Hindi movie titles. The system offers several language settings — such as “English” (American is implied), “English (U.K.),” and “English (Indian)” — but changing the settings doesn’t affect Siri’s ability to recognize words.

Siri had no problem with Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra. And though Siri interpreted Akshay Kumar as “Oxier Kumar,” she used the “Kumar” part of his name to find a selection of his films. She wasn’t so accurate with Shahrukh Khan, whom she heard as “Sharbrook Con.” (What is a sharbrook?) Attempts to search for Hrithik Roshan returned “Griffin Rochan” and “Find the Russian.”

Kajol got the funniest result by far. Siri heard the star’s name as “Call Joel,” which prompted her to display the following message:


Searching for movie titles via Siri produced more humorous results. Kahaani became “Call Hymie,” prompting the same note about phone calls as Kajol. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge returned “The wallet I love honey giant gay” and “Bill Walle I love honey jayenge.” At least Siri got “jayenge” the second time, though I’m not sure who Bill Walle is.

As with actors’ names, Siri sometimes got titles right, too. She was able to differentiate between Barfi and Barfly, displaying the appropriate movie in each case.

Though slower than using Siri, the most effective method for finding the Bollywood film you want is to skip Siri and use the Apple TV’s search function on the homescreen. Using the Apple TV remote, swipe left or right to type in the name of a movie, actor, or director. The swipeable keyboard is a pain to use; all 26 letters are in a single horizontal line, so you spend a lot of time going back and forth between each letter. Hopefully, Apple is working on a better system for typing.

Titles or names matching your search show up below the text bar. Click on a title to get more information about a specific film. The list of cast and crew that appear on the left side of the screen aren’t clickable, but the names appear again further down the page in clickable format.

Each film’s specific page displays the various ways to watch it. If you have an active Netflix or Hulu subscription, those viewing options appear first, ahead of the purchasing and rental options available through iTunes. Apple doesn’t try to trick you into paying for something that you can already watch for free.

If you downloaded the Netflix or Hulu apps to the Apple TV, but don’t have an active subscription, a title’s availability on a given service is still noted on the individual movie’s page. For example, my Hulu account isn’t currently active, but it still appeared as an option on the page for the film The World Before Her. My viewing options were listed in this order: Netflix, iTunes, Hulu. If I wanted to renew my Hulu subscription, I could do it through the Apple TV, without having to open another device.

Though Apple TV claims it supports searches by genre, attempts to do so (via both typing and Siri) did not work in my tests. If you want to find the entire category of Bollywood movies, you have to go into the iTunes Movies section on the home screen. Choose “Foreign,” then scroll down to find a colorful banner labeled “Bollywood” with a picture of a dancing woman. There you can see what’s new to iTunes, and scroll through a few sub-genres. However, since area this is specifically within the iTunes store, individual movie pages don’t show you if the film is available on other services. You have to go back out the search page and check the specific title to see if it’s available at Netflix, or some other service.

The actual Apple TV viewing experience is really enjoyable. Swiping down from the top of the touch-sensitive remote control displays audio options, including the ability to toggle subtitles in most apps. “Reduce loud sounds” is another great audio option, allowing for a better balance between dialogue and sound effects.

My favorite feature is the video scrubbing option, which allows you to see shots from the movie as you scroll forward and backward on the remote’s touchpad. This makes it a lot easier to find specific scenes, and it worked well in tests with iTunes, Netflix, and YouTube. So now if you’re watching Gunda on YouTube, you can easily scan ahead to the part where Shankar finds the baby in the garbage can, and then scan further to watch him toss the baby to his pet monkey. It also makes it easier to find this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 7.20.21 PM

In my brief experience, YouTube streaming worked more smoothly on Apple TV than on Google’s own Chromecast, which was an unexpected benefit.

Obviously, Apple TV has some kinks to work out with Siri’s audio recognition and the swipe keyboard, but overall it’s a great device for Bollywood fans. An ability to search by genre outside of the iTunes store would be a huge bonus, and apps by streaming services like Eros Now and Spuul — maybe even Amazon? — would make it invaluable.

13 thoughts on “Watching Bollywood Movies on the New Apple TV

    1. Kathy

      I could spend all day asking Siri to find Indian actors and reading her ridiculous results. πŸ™‚ Bollywood movies as a genre are only listed in the iTunes store. Siri can’t find them by genre, and it’s not an available category in the general search.

  1. Karma

    “…apps by streaming services like Eros Now and Spuul β€” maybe even Amazon? β€” would make it invaluable”

    This is the biggest hope I have for Apple TV’s app platform (not Amazon, but Eros Now and Spuul). Their catalogs would be a very welcome addition to what is available on Netflix and others. Oh, and with subtitles of course….


    1. Kathy

      That’s my hope, too, Karma. Eros Now’s catalog is huge, and Spuul gets a lot of smaller-budget films that don’t release elsewhere.

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    1. Karma

      FWIW, I’ve owned Roku version 1, 2 and 3. I hear not so good things about the fan in Roku 4, but I am sure they will sort it out.

      That said, Roku 3 is amazingly good. No fan… dead silent. Tons of channels, though nothing specifically Bollywood oriented. There are some Indian Cooking channels and I think some TV streaming channels with Indian content. I use (regularly) on mine, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Plex (for home videos), Time Warner Cable App, Acorn (British TV streaming), Youtube, HBO Go, Showtime, etc. In fact in a newly renovated space in our house, I am going to only put a Roku and an Apple TV (no cable box at all).

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