Video rentals in Mumbai have almost no takers today

FOR the last 40 years, the city’s cinephiles have frequented Sarvodaya Video Centre in Khar West to rent their choicest movies. “Name any film, and I used to have that in my collection,” says its owner Manish Chandaria, a self-confessed movie buff. However, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of customers for the last few years. This has worsened after the pandemic, with the store hardly receiving any visitors nowadays.

“In this day and age, people hardly rent any films. Because of online platforms, all producers, writers, and directors, who comprised our main clientele, want movies for free. Nobody comes to the store now, not even our regulars,” says Chandaria.

Payal Video Club, located in Vile Parle West for nearly 20 years, has suffered a similar fate. “People rarely rent DVDs these days. But I still run this place because I love doing it,” says owner Hitesh Shah.

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Chandaria launched the DVD library at a time when there were hardly any multiplexes in the city and only a few foreign films were released in theatres. “Earlier, we used to be booked for months,” says Chandaria, who started the store in 1982 with 78 VHS cassettes. His collection and business grew over the years even as VHS later made way for CDs, DVDs and now Blu-rays.

Similarly, Payal Video Club once catered to a large number of college students. Shah attributes his loss of clientele to technological advancements and changes in people’s lifestyles. “People have no time to buy or rent a DVD to watch,” he says.

In the 1990s, there used to be nearly 80 DVD libraries in Bandra alone, apart from various neighbourhoods of the city with video rental services. “The rivalry among them was fierce. But over the years, they found it tough to sustain the business,” recalls Chhajan Chandra, the owner of now closed Chariot DVD Club, which was once a popular haunt of the city’s rich and famous.

As the DVD rental business started dwindling, many of them had to scale down their business or shut shop. “Many of these libraries had to dispose of their DVDs or sell them for meagre Rs 5 per kg. The DVDs, which were once sought after, suddenly seemed to have lost their value,” Chandaria says. Today, subscribing to the video streaming platforms makes more sense for cinema lovers instead of renting DVDs as it is a less costly affair.

For Shah, the DVD rental business is not his main source of income even though he hasn’t yet decided to pull down the shutters of the store. “I have other investments that help me sustain and keep running the store,” he says.

Unlike him, the Chariot owner has rented out the shop. Sarvodaya has diversified into selling electronics and water purifiers. The nature of DVDs has also undergone a change.

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