Here’s a scene from the ’90s: Shelves of movie CDS and DVDs calling out to you. Saving up pocket money to rent a movie almost every other weekend was a major life goal. The old man at the store would actually inform you about the latest hits to catch up on.
Of course, that was before the wave of torrents and, more recently, online streaming services took over our lives.
Between my house in Santacruz and Bandra in Mumbai, only a decade ago, there were some 200 odd video libraries. However, now they are few and far between, all waiting to shut down. A couple of visits to these stores threw at me some surprises – rare movies that Netflix have not yet acquired, and anecdotes that the virtual world could never be part of.
Old is not always gold
Shivji Gada’s 30-year-old video library, Scholar Music Center, in Santacruz (W) is shutting shop next month. He looks frazzled when we approach him to talk about the glory days of the store.
“We would earn Rs 35,000 per month. Now, we barely manage Rs 2,000. Sometimes, we have gone for three months without any income. There really is nothing left here. All this is garbage,” he tells us. They shut the sale of DVDs and CDs two months ago, when they reached a point of zero demand. In terms of interest in renting, the demand in percentage has gone down from 100% to 2%.
We couldn’t help but take a look at the fine collection on the racks. We spotted the entire VCD collection of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and old Hollywood movies – Saturday Night Fever, Rocky, Ben Hur, etc.
Ashwin Kingsley Fernandes (@ashshanuferns), a 26-year-old social media executive fondly remembers his schooldays when he would rent the newest releases every weekend, and the entire family would watch the films for Rs 50. “There was a local rental place in Kalina. Mostly, we would rent new Bollywood releases. Sometimes, we would also call for Hollywood films. But the last time I visited the store was over five years back. It’s all thanks to the internet,” he says.
At Movie Empire, Bandra (W), Ejaj Sheikh, the owner tells us how he doesn’t have any other business plan yet, but is busy thinking of shutting the place.
“We own this space, hence the store is still here. We need an alternate plan though. We hardly have any members now. Foreigners come over to rent Bollywood films such as Masaan, The Lunchbox and Shah Rukh Khan films,” he tells us, adding that one can just buy the DVDs now.
Head to the store to grab a copy of some of the best of world cinema too. From Kurosawa to Truffaut, he has them all!
Down memory lane
Twenty-four year old filmmaker, Srishti Rhea Jayin (@humheroine), misses Read Sure, the video library close her home in Vile Parle. The place closed down its shutters a couple of years back. Srishti had been a member since 11. “On my 11th birthday, I remember getting the Mean Girls DVD from there to show my friends. I watched almost all foreign cinema from Read Sure. It’s now converted into a dhaba,” she says with a sigh.
One of the oldest and definitely the longest-running movie library is still somehow busy. Sarvodaya Video Centre in Khar (W) is in the business since 1980. Manish Chandaria, owner and founder of the place welcomes us with a smile and says that he has been around since the very inception of these libraries in the city. “Movies were a major craze back in the day. We would also rent out colour TVs and VCRs along with the movie cassettes. In fact, we would rent out movies to those 2×2 tourist buses between Mumbai and Goa routes. It was a different scene back in the day,” he remembers.
In its glory days, the store was frequented by the who’s-who of the industry, including Dilip Kumar, Naseeruddin Shah, Rishi Kapoor, Madhur Bhandarkar, Rajkumar Hirani and David Dhawan.
Of course, the business has hit a slump, but he has adapted to changing times. You can actually get your LPs, audio cassettes, VHS tapes and VCDs converted to DVDs and other digital formats at his store. He also has other audio and video accessories that he sells. Besides, you can buy mobiles and smartphone accessories as well as karaoke systems at his store.
Well, the end maybe near. But Chandaria calls his store a “survivor”. He hopes that piracy will be curbed completely one day, and the business will bloom once again for video libraries and the entire industry.
But it need not be a sad farewell in any case. Head to one of these libraries, relive your childhood days. Plan a movie night, rent your favourite movies, and, give a nostalgic farewell that these stores deserve.
Reach Scholar Music Center at 26496505. Visit Sarvodaya’s site: sarvodayavideo.com for the online catalogue.