By Vidya Pradhan
First Joost, now Jaman. What’s with J names and internet entertainment anyway? What piqued my interest in Jaman was a news item that the company had signed a deal with NFDC for exclusive rights to their movies. So, about a month ago, I headed over to Jaman.com to check it out.
Jaman ( pronounced like the fruit) was started about 18 months ago by Gaurav Dhillon, the founder of Informatica, after guiding that company through a successful IPO. The idea behind Jaman is to bring world cinema to audiences that currently access these movies through ethnic grocery stores and online DVD rental stores. What it adds to the typical movie watching experience is a social networking component that allows users to review and comment on the movies. Also, it opens up movies across cultures, making it possible for viewers to get a sense of world movies through trailers and reviews.
Jaman is still in beta so my first experience as a user was rather confusing. I had to download the Jaman player, sign up and then rent the movie – a process made more complicated that it should be because of the lack of messages telling me what I was doing wrong. Once I figured out all the bells and whistles, I salivated over all the fantastic Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen movies on offer and then decided to rent – Bahu Rani ! – a soapy melodrama starring Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha.
Rentals cost $1.99 while movies can be purchased for $4.99. Rentals and purchases on Jaman use the same method – a download onto your computer, except in the case of the former, the rental license expires in 7 days. The movies take up 1GB to 1.6GB of space regardless of rental or purchase. The download itself took forever – 1.5 hours for a 2.5 hour movie (remember, this was an early beta version). But once the movie was fully downloaded, the player worked like a dream. The picture quality was hi definition and the comments left by previous viewers provided some really interesting insights into the movie.
Do Anjaane When I recently tried it again, once again foregoing art house classics for ‘Do Anjaane’,( an Amitabh Rekha starrer that turned out to be unexpectedly entertaining), the download speed was better. Also the latest version of Jaman has progressive downloads, which means I could start watching the movie a few minutes into the download process, a significant improvement in the user experience.The first 3 rentals on Jaman are free so I haven’t tried out the payment mechanism yet. Jaman has built its own DRM and payment systems and uses its own fully legal peer-to-peer (P2P) network to distribute movies to members of its community. I spoke to Geetanjali Dhillon, Executive Producer for South Asia. WNI: Would you say that Jaman is focusing on the ‘long tail’ in terms of content? The 67 South Asian movies that Jaman has on offer today are mostly art movies. GD: There are so many good movies which either have a limited distribution or never see the light of day. Our deal with NFDC makes at least 25 movies available to audiences which are just not available either in Indian stores or even on Netflix. We are in talks with studios to increase our library. In the last 12 months we have seen a radical shift in the mindset of Indian producers when it comes to internet distribution. We want to give a complete picture of Indian cinema by including independent films, regional films. Of course we would like our library to be as comprehensive as possible but there are costs associated with uploading a new movie so we would like to put in movies that we think the users would appreciate. Ultimately it is the users who will decide if there is value to the content. Deals with several rights holders are in the works and I am very excited about the South Asian content that is going to be coming up in the next few months. WNI: Given this new interest in internet marketing, wouldn’t one expect the studios to set up their own sites to market their content? GD: Sure, some of the content may cross over and that’s fine. The value to the Jaman user is the social networking component, which is specific to Jaman, and the access to movies from different cultures. The whole experience is a rich one for the user. WNI: Download speeds are still pretty low and the initial sign-up process can be confusing. GD: We are very aware of these issues and are working fast to resolve them. Already progressive downloads have been introduced to get the movie to the viewer as quickly possible. WNI: Why not stream the movies? GD: We have chosen not to stream the movies because the picture quality suffers. We want to give the viewers a cinematic experience. WNI: Can the purchased movies be burnt on DVD? GD: Our proprietary DRM makes it impossible for the downloaded content to be reformatted. This actually reassures studios who have serious concerns about video piracy. A copy can be made on DVD for reuse on the same computer as a backup file. WNI: Who is the target audience for Jaman? GD: Jaman is targeting the new world citizen. Diaspora of every country finds it hard to access movies from home. Discerning viewers are also keen to learn about movies from other countries. Someone who liked ‘Y tu Mama tambien’ might well be interested in what Indian directors have to offer. So there you have it folks. Renting a movie on Jaman beats trolling the net for free movie content and is good for that quick fix when you want a high quality movie but can't be bothered with heading over to the store. Content, especially South Asian, is fairly limited right now but many of the movies are cinematic gems. Netflix has way more international content but the Jaman player is free and there are no subscription costs. The full screen experience on my laptop was very good and I am looking forward to my third free movie. Right now, users can interact through Jaman messaging and through group discussions. These features are being updated with newer releases, Recently a successful demo was held to run Jaman on the Apple-TV set top box. Connected to a home theatre system, it can deliver a near theatre experience. Once content gets deeper and download speeds get more manageable, I would be quite positive about the future of this service and considering it was fully self-funded to the tune of $3.5 million, I guess Gaurav Dhillon is too. For your 3 free movie rentals, go here .