Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Streaming Bollywood Movies: Review of Amazon’s Heera Channel

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In March, 2017, Amazon added a new Indian movie channel to its American lineup of add-on subscriptions to Prime Video. The Heera channel boasts hundreds of titles in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu. Here’s my take on the service.

Foremost in the minds of many consumers when choosing a streaming provider is the strength of the service’s catalog. With nearly 400 titles in the Hindi collection alone, Heera has a lot to offer fans of Indian cinema. As of the time of this writing (October, 2017), Heera already carries twelve movies released theatrically in 2017. The service has a number of new stand-up comedy specials by Indian comedians, as well as the original TV series Inside Edge starring Richa Chadha and Vivek Oberoi. (Much of the content available with the additional Heera subscription in the States is available with a standard Amazon Prime subscription elsewhere in the world.)

Maybe even more important, Heera has what are arguably the two most desirable Bollywood films for repeat viewing: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Streaming services have been racing to sign contracts for access to the full catalogs of the most prominent Indian studios and production houses. Netflix has a deal with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, while Amazon/Heera have contracts with Yash Raj Films and Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment. Heera’s recent addition of several films starring or produced by Salman Khan point to a relationship between the star and the streaming service as well. (At the time of this writing, Netflix, Amazon/Heera, and iTunes are all vying for Eros International’s huge catalog.)

Another nice feature of Heera’s collection is a subset of movies produced by the National Film Development Corporation, an organization devoted to financing films of artistic merit that might otherwise struggle within the traditional studio format. Heera also has a number of older titles from the 1970s and earlier.

Heera’s deep, diverse catalog — I haven’t even touched on movies in other languages or Heera’s collection of animated children’s shows — appeals to a wide audience. A multi-generational household will find something for everyone in the family to enjoy, for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

That leads to another key determining factor for streaming subscriptions: price. If you live in one of the estimated 64% of US households that already subscribe to Amazon Prime, paying an additional $4.99 per month for Heera is a no-brainer. It’s cheaper than Netflix’s most basic one screen/standard definition plan for $7.99 per month, and you get access to an extensive collection of Hollywood and international movies available through the basic Prime membership, with includes dozens of Indian films.

Things get more complicated if you’re only subscribing to Heera for the movies and wouldn’t otherwise use Amazon Prime. You can save a little money with a year-long subscription to Prime for $99, bringing the per-month cost of a Heera subscription down to $13.24. (Amazon offers a 30-day free trail of Prime, if you’re unsure about a long-term commitment.) A strictly month-to-month plan costs $14.99 — $10 for Prime plus $4.99 for Heera. That’s three dollars more than the current cost of Netflix’s most expensive four-screens, Ultra-HD plan.

Of course, there are other aspects to consider when choosing a streaming service. One really cool feature available with Amazon/Heera is the ability to change the size and background color of subtitles. There are five text sizes available, as well as three color options: white text/no background, white text/translucent grey background, or yellow text/black background. You can preview a sample of what each style and size subtitles will look like, even if you adjust the settings in the middle of watching a movie. Keep in mind that some titles do not have English subtitles (including my beloved horror flick Khamoshiyan). Heera also allows you to download movies for later viewing, and the video quality is good on an iPad.

The biggest downside for Heera is that — as an Amazon subsidiary — its catalog shares the same abysmal organization that plagues the rest of Amazon’s video catalog. It’s not just that catalog is disorganized; some movies are impossible to find unless you specifically search for them by title. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge isn’t mentioned on any of the twenty-four pages of movies listed under the “Heera Bollywood Movies” section. I only knew to search for it by name because so many other Yash Raj films are available.

It’s also impossible to skip more than one page ahead through Heera’s desktop catalog (okay, you can jump from Page 1 to Page 3). With titles sorted by “Newest Available” — which gives the fullest possible iteration of the Bollywood catalog — it took me 1 minute 45 seconds to scroll all the way to the last title — and that’s on a new computer without stopping to actually read the titles. Woe unto you who forgets the name of a movie listed on Page 24 and has to look for it on a computer with an ancient operating system.

The Heera app available on my smart TV has a few lists — such as “Heera Popular Movies” or “Heera Comedy Specials” — that sort the movies available in that category in order of popularity. That means that you’ll have to scroll through 150 or so titles to find Fanaa under the “Heera Bollywood Movies” section, which only lists about half of the movies available in that category anyway. The “Heera Recently Added Movies” section is a couple of weeks out of date as well. Your best bet is to set aside some time to add the movies you want to see to your Watchlist using the full website. OR you could select movies from this handy list I made of all of the Hindi titles available on Heera. (Tips via PayPal are always appreciated.)

As of right now, Heera is my preferred Bollywood streaming service, over Netflix and Eros Now. The catalog is both current and deep, and the price point for Prime subscribers is hard to beat. Heera’s launch triggered a scramble among service providers, and Hotstar‘s recent foray into the American marketplace could mix things up once again. As great as Heera is, its reign as the best Bollywood streaming service could be brief if Amazon isn’t vigilant.

Try Heera for Free!

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New Heera Channel Streaming Page

I just added a new page at Access Bollywood listing all of the Hindi films available for streaming on Amazon’s new Heera Channel. Amazon Channels are subscription add-ons to Amazon Prime, meaning that you can’t watch Heera without first subscribing to Prime (which more than 80 million people in the United States already do). Heera’s monthly subscription costs $4.99 and can be cancelled anytime. Amazon offers a free 7-day trial of Heera if you’d like to check it out before subscribing.

Heera features Indian movies exclusively, with titles in Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu, as well as almost 300 Hindi films. The Hindi collection spans nearly seven decades, the oldest title being 1951’s Deedar and the newest titles being OK Jaanu and The Ghazi Attack from earlier this year. Heera’s catalog balances newer commercial fare with an assortment of older movies and quality productions by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), making it a good choice for multi-generational households or those looking for a diverse selection.

Among the more recent offerings are movies by Yash Raj Films (like Sultan and Befikre) and Excel Entertainment (like Rock On 2 and Baar Baar Dekho). Heera also features the collected works of everyone in Bollywood with the surname Bhatt — minus Alia, whose only appearance on the list is in Kapoor & Sons — so if you’ve been itching to marathon the Murder or Raaz series’, you’re in luck! The two 2017 titles give Heera an edge over both Netflix and Eros Now, neither of which currently has any Bollywood movies from this year.

If you’re intrigued, give Heera a whirl with the free 7-day trial. I’m trying it out myself right now, and I’ll post my thoughts on the user experience side of things once my investigation is complete.

Streaming Video News: May 8, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with two more additions to the catalog. The 2014 Bengali movie Teenkahon is now available for streaming, as is the 2013 Hindi film Siddharth, which I absolutely love. For everything else new on Amazon Prime (Bollywood or not), check Instant Watcher.

Streaming Video News: April 7, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with eight new additions to the streaming catalog. (Well, seven if you discount Yamla Pagla Deewana, which was added to the site prematurely last week and pulled down after a day or two. But now it’s back!) The new additions include Aarakshan, Horror Story, Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai, Krrish, Krrish 3, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, and Rangrezz. I found Aarakshan disorganized, and Krrish 3 was just okay.

With more than thirty Indian titles added in the last month — including a bunch of mainstream Bollywood films like those added today — it sure looks like Netflix is feeling the heat from Amazon’s new Heera channel, which just added the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack to its subscription service.

Streaming Video News: March 27, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. The 2012 thriller Blood Money — starring Kunal Khemu — is now available for streaming.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with an intriguing new addition. Naseeruddin Shah plays a pot farmer in 2016’s The Blueberry Hunt, now available for streaming free with a subscription to Amazon Prime. The service recently added the 2010 stand-up special Indian Comedy Tour as well.

For everything else (Bollywood or not) new on Netflix and Amazon Prime, check out Instant Watcher.

Amazon Prime’s New Bollywood Channel: Heera

Update: Read my full review of Amazon’s Heera Channel

Amazon just delivered another way to stream Bollywood movies. Heera is a new Amazon Video channel dedicated to Indian content that features more than 200 Hindi films.

Amazon Channels are add-ons to Amazon Prime that feature wider catalogs of films and shows than are included with the regular Prime package. They come with an additional subscription fee per channel, on top of the required Amazon Prime membership. You can’t subscribe to Amazon’s Heera channel without a Prime membership.

The amount of Indian content available for free with Amazon Prime is pretty minimal: 25 titles, and that includes documentaries and movies in languages other than Hindi. The Heera Channel adds 380 titles across five languages, including 206 Hindi movies, 70 Tamil films, 67 Bengali movies, 23 Marathi films, and 14 Telugu movies.

What’s more, Heera has recent blockbusters like Kapoor & Sons, Sultan, and Fan. None of those titles are presently available on Netflix, so Heera can help you catch up on the biggest hits of 2016.

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, click here to sign up for a 30-day free trial. Once you’re signed up for Prime, head to the Heera Channel page to sign up for a 7-day free trial of the streaming video channel. The regular subscription fee for Heera is $4.99 per month.

Since I already subscribe to Prime just for the free two-day shipping, paying another $4.99 per month for Heera seems like a good deal, at least in the short term. The value of any streaming service depends on the quality of its catalog, and I’ll be investigating Heera’s more thoroughly in the coming days. The channel subscription is month-to-month, so you can cancel anytime.

If you were going to join Prime just for the sake of Heera, it would cost you $15.98 per month: $10.99 for the Prime membership and $4.99 for the Heera Channel subscription. A full-year Prime membership costs $99 (or $8.25/month), dropping the monthly cost with a Heera subscription to $13.24. If you won’t use the other things Prime has to offer — like free shipping and access to the full Prime Video catalog — month-to-month is the way to go.

I’ll do a more in-depth investigation of Heera’s catalog and how it compares to the other streaming services in the future. [Update: Here it is!] In the meantime, this new streaming option is worth celebrating. The more Bollywood movies, the merrier!

Streaming Video News: February 9, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a couple of new additions to the catalog. The Urdu film Moor — Pakistan’s submission to the 2016 Oscars — is now available for streaming free with an Amazon Prime membership, as is the 2012 American flick Bollywood Beats, starring Lillete Dubey and Pooja Kumar.

For everything else new on Amazon Prime, check Instant Watcher.