The good news is that Criterion’s collection of movies by director Satyajit Ray are available on the new streaming service FilmStruck. In addition to loads of other fabulous movies, FilmStruck features a handful of “Classic Bollywood” films. (Six of the nine movies in that category are in black-and-white, just to give you a sense of how “classic” we’re talking.) A monthly subscription to FilmStruck that includes access to Criterion’s movies costs $10.99, but the site offers a 14-day free trial when you sign up.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two additions to the catalog. The 2014 comedy Sulemani Keeda is now available for streaming, as is 2007’s Water, which returns to the service after a prolonged absence. Another Hindi title just expired from the catalog, and it’s a doozy: Queen.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with a big change: there are no more Bollywood movies on Hulu! With the expiration of Entertainment and Hunterrr, Hulu’s Indian collection is reduced to a handful of documentaries and about a dozen Bengali movies by Satyajit Ray. Hulu’s been shedding Hindi films over the last year, so we knew this was coming, but it still feels weird to see the plan completed.
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:
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.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with one new addition to the catalog. 2015’s Hunterrr is now available for streaming, without a subscription. While not a perfect film, Hunterrr does have interesting performances by Radhika Apte and Gulshan Devaiah, two actors I’d love to see more of in the future.
I just added a new page to Access Bollywood with a list of Hindi movies streaming on Hulu in the United States. The link to the page is always accessible at the top of this site and in the right sidebar under “Other Pages at This Site”.
I’ll update the list regularly with movies newly added to Hulu as well as movies recently expired from the service. Enjoy!