Are all chauffeurs the same?

The more I converse with my chauffeur, the more impressed I am with his knowledge. I wonder if all chauffeurs are like that. I remember watching a Hollywood movie where the chauffeur chose to become a chauffeur because that job gives him a lot of time to read. In the process of being a chauffeur, he managed to save up millions due to share market tips from his boss.

For example, in my conversation with him yesterday, he said that there are so many cars now in Hyderabad. One reason he gave was because the bank now approves loans so easily and buying a car is like buying vegetables. I told him that the same thing is happening in China. For example, in Beijing, there are about 1,000 new cars every day. To my surprise, he said something like this, “If this is to continue, one day we are going to be in trouble because there is not much oil left in the world and we will see many big countries that do not have much oil like USA and China fighting to buy oil. The world politics will be played according to this coming oil crisis.”.

How many chauffers, or in fact, how many people in this world, will have this kind of insights on cause and effect? The fact that there is a coming oil crisis is not a big secret but the way he said on how it is going to influence world politics is really brilliant. And we are talking about a guy who does not have much education. He picks up English by himself and managed to marry a woman who teaches English.

Then he is also a huge movie fan. Not really Hollywood movies which he also watches but he is a huge Bollywood movie fan. Maybe most Indians are the same and this is probably why India produces close to 1,000 movies a year, the most in the world.

He is now officially my Bollywood movie consultant and he knows where to buy cheap DVDs. I have given him a float of Rs1,500 to stock up good movies for me.

Today, we were talking about “Krrish” and I asked him if it is a good movie. He said that it is like a “Superman” movie for kids and he felt that it is a really copycat job. Well, as far as I know, it is not uncommon for Bollywood producers to copycat Hollywood ideas and a whole website has been created to keep track of these copycat activities. In fact, many of the recent “copycats” such as “Taxi 9211” has become hits. He continued to say that the previous movie “Koi Mil…Gaya” is a much better movie. “Krrish” is a sequel to that movie. I immediately asked him to procure me a copy.

He is also on the hunt for me for some Satyajit Ray’s movies and he has found some. The only problem is that those are VCDs and do not have English subtitles. It is a shame that Satyajit Ray’s movies are so hard to find here.

We continued our movie talk and I asked him which movie is worth watching in the cinemas now. He immediately said “Fanaa” and he told me to watch out for “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” and he jokingly said that it sounds like a sequel to “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham”.

I then wondered. How could he afford to go to the movies?

The average ticket price here is between Rs60 and Rs100 for normal cinemas and Rs180 for the IMAX hall. DVDs for new movies costs between Rs300 to Rs350 and for older movies, it costs between Rs250 to Rs300. VCD prices ranges from Rs150 to Rs200 for new movies. For older movies, the price can go down to Rs25. And then there is cable TV that costs between Rs100 to Rs250, depending on which area you live but the contents are more or less the same, with an offering of about 100 channels.

Then there are the pirates. Pirated DVDs costs about Rs50 per piece, more than 1/6 of the price of the original but the pirates are not doing really a lot of business as in Malaysia. One reason is because the quality of the pirated DVDs is very bad, unlike those in Malaysia.

He said that he does not normally go to watch movies in the cinemas but he buys cheap VCDs. He will only go to the cinema if there is a big movie featuring the stars that he likes. Stars are a real determining factor on whether one goes to the cinema or not. For lesser movies, they will watch them on TV. Finding myself in my old shoes, I did not blink and asked him about the window. He said that for normal Bollywood movies, the soundtrack will come out way in advance to promote the movie (this I already know and this tactic is particularly effective in the UK). Right after one week after the movie has finished it’s theatrical runs, the DVDs and VCDs will appear in the market. However, it is not uncommon for DVDs and VCDs to be released simultaneously or sometimes one or two weeks prior to theatrical release in India in other countries (I wonder how he knows about this!). Then normally, the cable TV will play the movie 6 months after the last day of theatrical release.

Well, so much for this edition into the film business here. Will update on this as I get to know more. Hopefully I will be able to hook up to some movie producers and distributors here and get more inside info.

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Filed under India, Thoughts & Commentaries

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