Video rentals in Mumbai have almost no takers today

For the past 40 years, the city’s movie buffs have frequented Sarvodaya Video Center in Khar West to rent their best movies. “Name any movie, and I had this in my collection,” says its owner Manish Chandaria, an avowed movie buff. However, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of customers over the past few years. It got worse after the pandemic, with the store hardly getting any visitors these days.

“Nowadays, people hardly rent movies anymore. Because of online platforms, all producers, writers and directors, who were our main clientele, want movies for free. No one comes to the store now, not even our regulars,” says Chandaria.

Payal Video Club, located in Vile Parle West for nearly 20 years, 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.

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 theaters. “Before, we were booked for months,” says Chandaria, who opened the store in 1982 with 78 VHS tapes. Its collection and business grew over the years, although VHS later gave way to CDs, DVDs and now Blu-rays.

Similarly, Payal Video Club once catered to a large number of students. Shah attributes his loss of clientele to advances in technology and changes in people’s lifestyles. “People don’t have time to buy or rent a DVD to watch,” he says.

In the 1990s, there were almost 80 DVD libraries in Bandra alone, apart from various parts of the city offering video rental services. “The rivalry between them was fierce. But over the years they found it difficult to keep the business going,” recalls Chhajan Chandra, the owner of the now-closed Chariot DVD Club, which was once a popular haunt of the city’s rich and famous.

As the DVD rental business began to decline, many of them had to scale back their business or close shop. “Many of these libraries have had to get rid of their DVDs or sell them for the low price of Rs 5 per kg. DVDs, which were once sought after, suddenly seemed to have lost value,” Chandaria says. Today, subscribing to video streaming platforms makes more sense for moviegoers than renting DVDs as it is a cheaper affair.

For Shah, the DVD rental business is not his main source of income even though he has not yet decided to shutter the store. “I have other investments that help me sustain and continue to run the store,” he says.

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

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