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!
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.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix to include one new addition and one expiring film. 2013’s Inkaar was just added to the streaming service. It could be worth watching just for its ridiculously attractive stars: Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh.
I just added a new page to Access Bollywood with a list of Hindi movies streaming on Netflix in the United States. The link to the page is always accessible at the top of the right sidebar under “Other Pages at This Site”.
I’ll update the list regularly with movies newly added to Netflix as well as movies soon to expire from the service. For example, Refugee (2000) and Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl (2011) are both expiring this week. Enjoy!
Eros International got its start in the 1970s acquiring the distribution rights to a host of films before entering the production business in the 2000s. As such, Eros Now features wide array of movies — new and old — that aren’t available for streaming elsewhere. There’s very little crossover between the Hindi-language catalogs of Eros Now and Netflix.
Like Netflix, Eros Now is available on desktop computers as well as Apple and Android tablets. Also like Netflix, Eros Now has a monthly subscription fee of $7.99. Both services require payment through their websites and not via the App Store, which is a disappointment.
Being both a production house and a distributor, Eros Now has the option of making home productions available for streaming sooner than Netflix can acquire rights. Table No. 21 opened in theaters on January 4, 2013, and was available for streaming on Eros Now just weeks after its release.
Eros Now went a step further on March 15, when it made the horror film 3G available for streaming in select countries (including the US and the UK) on the same day that it released in theaters in India. The film is available to Eros Now subscribers at no additional cost, but it is also available to non-subscribers for a 48-hour rental that costs just $1.99. This rental format has great growth potential, as it satisfies international fans’ demand for new content, while saving Eros the cost of shipping prints overseas and undercutting piracy.
The app itself is easy to use, with better, narrower search parameters than the Netflix app. Movies can be browsed and sorted by genre, language, and decade, with the ability to separate out trailers from full-length films. One quirk of the search feature is that it demands the input of three characters, making it impossible to search for 3G by title.
Unfortunately, the app and website lack a queue feature, and movie viewing doesn’t carry over from one device to another. In fact, the app forces the user to sign in at the start of virtually every session. Close the app in the middle of a movie to run an errand, and you’ll likely be forced to restart the film from the beginning when you return to it.
The video quality is less crisp than that of Netflix, regardless of the age of the film or the strength of the Wi-Fi network. Images never come into perfect focus, and scenes with a lot of movement, such as dance numbers, can look like a messy, pixelated jumble.
English subtitles do not appear automatically in the video but can be added by clicking on the “CC” button at the top right of the screen. This is a nice bonus for viewers who don’t need them and find them distracting.
For many fans, the biggest selling point of Eros Now is likely its impressive music catalog. The service features music videos and soundtrack albums for most of the films in the streaming catalog, as well as for films yet to be released, such as Nautanki Saala and Chashme Badoor.
Though it lacks a film queue, the app allows users to generate a music playlist. Another bonus is that the music continues to play even after closing out of the app. It’s nice to be able to create a playlist to listen to in the background while catching up on Twitter.
So how does one decide between Netflix and Eros Now? If the choice is based on video quality alone, Netflix is the clear winner. Netflix also has the advantage of having a massive library of movies and TV shows in dozens of other languages. But Eros Now’s music library may be enough to sway some customers. The choice may ultimately come down to the contents of each of catalog.
The battle between the catalogs is pretty much a draw, as both offer a lot of good options. Eros Now lays claim to movies like Omkara, Pinjar, Om Shanti Om, English Vinglish, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Dabanng. Netflix offers Kahaani, 7 Khoon Maaf, Jodhaa Akbar, Delhi Belly, Chak De India, and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
Eros Now gets new movies sooner than Netflix, but for every Table No. 21 and 3G, there’s a Mai — Love Your Mother or Rajdhani Express: 2013 releases that failed to generate any buzz whatsoever.
Because I can rent new movies for $1.99 on a one-off basis through Eros Now, I don’t see any reason to continue my monthly subscription. I’d have to watch at least four movies a month via the service to make it cost-effective. Since my reviews focus on new releases, I wouldn’t break even most months. Instead, I’ll track possible future rental opportunities via Eros International’s Wikipedia page (which lists the names of notable films in the Eros catalog and upcoming releases) and use the app on an ad hoc basis.
Update: The streaming service Mela shuts down permanently on September 15, 2012. With its only real competitor out of the picture, Netflix is unquestionably the best option for streaming Bollywood movies on iPad devices.
With Indian Premier League Cricket slowing the flow of major releases out of Bollywood, it’s time to examine another option for watching Hindi movies. iPad owners in the U.S. have several ways to stream Bollywood movies on their devices. But which app is the best, particularly for movie fans who rely (as I do) on English subtitles?
When reviewing streaming video services, I considered a few criteria:
Is the app easy to search and navigate?
How comprehensive is the catalog of movies available?
All of the apps reviewed have a fee associated with full access to their catalogs. Here’s a look at the few of the streaming services available on the iPad.
Unlike other video streaming services, Mela focuses exclusively on Indian content. Mela’s iPad catalog — a subset of the full range of video entertainment available with their set-top box, which includes TV shows — features hundreds of movies in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, Marathi, and Gujarati. The full movie catalog is accessible with a $4.99 monthly subscription, though a limited number of films can be viewed for free without a subscription.
By virtue of having a narrow focus, the Mela iPad app is incredibly easy to search. After selecting which films you’d like to browse by language, movies are organized alphabetically by title. Movies cover a wide date range, from the ’60s to the present, including a number of films released in 2012.
Most of these newer films are independent movies that didn’t release in U.S. theaters. For most American fans, Mela is the only way to see the horror flick Ghost or the relationship drama Chaurahen.
Mela gets an incomplete grade on one criterion: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is available for streaming, but it’s not subtitled in English.
That’s Mela’s biggest drawback, at the moment: not all of the movies are subtitled in English, and not all of those films are marked as being subtitled in the movie description. I often have to start a movie and fast forward to see if the dialog is subtitled. Most recent releases are subtitled — as Kahaani will be — and the company continues to add subtitles to older films already in the catalog, a process that the company says should be completed in the next couple of months. (Dear Mela: please prioritize subtitling Disco Dancer. Thanks!)
Another feature that would make the app ideal would be an ability to search movies by release year. However, within each language, there is a category for newly added titles, which includes recent theatrical releases.
Netflix is undoubtedly the video service Americans are most familiar with. In addition to an extensive library of DVDs, Netflix has more than 70 Hindi titles available for streaming. The unlimited streaming plan costs $7.99 per month and allows subscribers to watch movies on their computers, TV or mobile devices (adding a DVD-by-mail option costs an additional $7.99 per month, minimum).
The quality of Netflix’s Hindi streaming video catalog is impressive, and all the films are subtitled in English. The catalog presently includes popular titles like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dum Maaro Dum, and, most importantly, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The other obvious advantage for Netflix is its huge catalog of English-language movies and TV shows, as well as other foreign films.
However, the Netflix app doesn’t lend itself to serious catalog browsing. In addition to showcasing new releases, the home screen of my Netflix app suggested movies from odd categories like “Quirky Documentaries” and “Inspiring Movies”: clever, but useless if I want to see what new Hindi movies are available. Unlike at Netflix’s website, movies listed under the “Foreign” browsing category aren’t further subdivided by language, though it did suggest some titles in a “Bollywood” subcategory. Searching under the word “Hindi” yielded no results.
If I want to see which Hindi movie at Netflix has the most recent theatrical release date, I have to go to the Netflix website, search for Hindi-language movies, sort them by release year, add the appropriate movie to my queue, and then access my queue on the iPad app to watch the movie. It’s a more complicated process than it should be.
While Hulu specializes in TV content, it also offers movies for streaming. Much of the service is available for free on a computer, but iPad access requires a subscription to Hulu Plus for a cost of $7.99 per month. Like Netflix, a subscription offers access to a wide range of content beyond Bollywood films.
Also like Netflix, Hulu’s catalog is a pain to search on the Hulu Plus iPad app. Hulu’s catalog of movies isn’t available to browse by category, so I searched for movies using the term “Hindi.” Searching for the term on the iPad yielded fewer than thirty titles, while the same search at Hulu’s website yielded more than sixty titles. (Oddly, Hulu doesn’t include Hindi movies in their “Foreign Language” category.) Dil Se stood out among a largely unimpressive catalog that included the likes of 8×10 Tasveer and All the Best.
More annoying is that closed captioning is available on movies at Hulu’s website, but not on the Hulu Plus iPad app (though it is available on some other mobile devices). Not all of the Hindi movies in the catalog are subtitled automatically. So even generating a queue at Hulu’s website and selecting films from that queue doesn’t guarantee that the movie is watchable on the iPad.
Thanks to an agreement several years ago with Eros Entertainment, Vudu has number of Bollywood movies available for rental and purchase on an individual basis. Most titles are from 2006 and earlier. The Vudu app is a player only, which means that movies must be browsed and purchased at the Vudu website for later viewing on the Vudu app. I found the process tedious and the catalog largely unsearchable, so I won’t bother renting from Vudu.
For hardcore Bollywood fans, Mela is an essential app, especially since it costs less than other movie streaming apps. Even though many movies in the catalog currently lack subtitles, there are more than enough to keep English-only fans occupied until the catalog is completely subtitled. And no other company prioritizes independent Indian films the way Mela does.
Netflix is a great app for movie fans who don’t want to be limited to Bollywood titles alone. If you don’t live within driving distance of a theater that shows Hindi films, the Netflix catalog will keep you up to date on many of the biggest hits. However, for $3 more per month than Mela, be sure you take advantage of all the service has to offer in order to get your money’s worth.
Hulu Plus isn’t worth it for Bollywood movies alone, as you’ll quickly exhaust the limited selection of subpar titles. And with other services offering newer films, there’s no reason to bother slogging though Vudu’s annoying catalog.