In June 2007, when the city traffic police launched their ambitious anti drink-driving campaign, people who didn’t think twice about driving after drinking suddenly found themselves driving into city jails.
The men in khaki were diligent; bribes were a bad idea. The drive was a success.
It’s all set to happen again — this time with pirated DVDs.
So watch out the next time you buy a pirated audio CD or a film DVD — along with the vendor, you could be put behind bars too.
Buyers and sellers are already coy.
“No photographs, no real names, please,” said buyers browsing through DVD titles on a makeshift cardboard table at one of the several DVD stalls outside Bandra station.
One among the crowd of buyers claimed he was the owner of a leading movie rental shop in Bandra. “I come here to keep an account of the movies that are now ‘available’. Otherwise I lose business,” he said.
He said he was aware about the government proposal to book buyers of pirated DVDs under the stringent Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, which could mean a non-bailable three-month jail term.
Some justified buying pirated DVDs, saying originals of big-ticket Hollywood movies were prohibitively expensive. Others said they would now tread cautiously.
Rahul (name changed), a regular buyer, is a daily-wage earner. The new law means, quite simply, he can’t watch movies. “I earn Rs 100 a day. I might get a ticket for only one movie in that much,” he said. “Instead I would rather buy this DVD for Rs 50.”
Raju Mathur (name changed), a DVD stall owner, said they were being victimised. “Everything from underwear to cell phones are pirated in India. Why only target us?” he said. “We are only making a living. Mumbai is a city where there is a cheaper alternative to everything.”
Police raids were common in any case, he said. Mathur said he bought DVDs for Rs 22 and sold them for Rs 50 each, making a marginal profit.
Explaining the math to a man who lives by the margins about the crores a producer pumps into a movie and the crores lost due to piracy, is difficult. “We are the last legs in this business,” Mathur said. “We would like it (piracy) to end, but as long as someone is making them (pirated DVDs), someone will be tempted to sell them.”