Of all the “mod cons,” as the Brits would call it, of desi life in the United States, the two services that have made steady gains into Indian entertainment in general and Hindi films in particular are Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and the online movie streaming service Netflix.
Sirius/XM’s Channel 159 features ATN Asian Radio, produced by the desi-friendly ATN TV network based in Toronto. Their morning and evening rush hour-timed Bollywood Bonanza program provides thematic late release musical outlet enjoyed by thousands of fans of Hindi film music.
I have to admit—I am hooked on my Ch. 159 and it has been a preset button on my dashboard since the channel’s October 2007 debut. My car trips are incomplete without at least a mini dose of either Bollywood Bonanza or my other fave Bhoole Bisre Geet, the golden oldies show broadcast over the lunch hour and then again in later evenings. The fact that Sirius/XM delivers an uninterrupted, near-CD quality radio experience across North America makes it a must-have, given my infernally long workday commutes. Not bad at all for $15/month.
When it comes to renting Hindi DVDs, Netflix has made a sizable inroad into offering Hindi film titles, in spite of the bad publicity resulting from their ill-fated attempt to roll out an unpopular multi-tier pricing scheme. Like the rest of their catalog, Hindi movie DVDs are also available for both home delivery and for streaming to your home theater via your internet connection. And, like the rest of the Netflix catalog, only a select list of Hindi titles is available for on-demand streaming.
What Netflix offers for streaming is a surprisingly decent menu of recent—though not always “new”—titles. The most ubiquitous are from the Yashraj vault. This includes Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabattein, Dhoom, Veer Zaara, Kala Patthar, Silsila, Chandni and Lamhe (see accompanying review). There is also Guzaarish, Kites, Jodhaa Akbar, Fashion and down market entries such asMilenge Milenge and Dance Pe Chance.
The compromise that must be made with Netflix is signal quality. Although all Hindi entries are subtitled in English, the picture quality can be a little fuzzy at times. Also, the afore-mentioned limited menu needs to be refined. For that, Vudu is still the best all-around pay-per-view Hindi film menu online. Many of Vudu’s new Hindi releases can be streamlined on a cutting-edge 1080 lines of resolution which delivers stunning visuals on a decent sized flat screen monitor. That, along with 5.1 digital sound, can shake the rafters and take just about any home theater configuration to task. For casual viewing on demand for one basic flat fee, however, Netflix, currently about $15/month, is an acceptable alternative.
Editor’s Note: The above list of desi stations is by no means exhaustive. Listeners in Northern California have KLOK 1170 AM and KZDG 1550 AM for their listening pleasure, while Southern California has KSWD 100.3 FM, among others. Other video streaming options also abound.