Some call it Bollywood, some call it the Hindi film industry, but what are we really talking about? Grand sets, eternal love sagas, song-and-dance routines and tearjerker family dramas are just some of the terms frequently associated with Indian movies. In his blog, Indian director Shekhar Kapur, best known for his Oscar-nominated “Elizabeth,” writes that he sees it as a ”love affair between almost two billion people.” He wants others to experience this love affair, too.
Mr. Kapur, who has generated a buzz over his latest sci-fi project “Paani,” is also the co-producer of “Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.” The documentary, to be screened at this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which starts on May 11, is co-directed by Indian director Rakesh Omprakash Mehra and American documentary filmmaker, Jeff Zimbalist. The 80-minute documentary that will screen on May 14, takes a look at the evolution of Indian cinema, through its colorful use of song and dance. It showcases how Bollywood films reflect the changing social circumstances in India. The films of Amitabh Bachchan in the late 70?s like “Deewar” and “Zanjeer”, for example, were symptomatic of the frustration and anger with the political and economic situation of that time, and the protagonist represented the common man’s fight and struggles.
Mr. Kapur said in an interview with India Real Time that he first came up with the idea for the documentary during a conversation with Thierry Frémaux, the Cannes festival’s director, when Mr. Kapur participated as a jury member last year. After discussing the popularity of Hindi cinema and the international interest in the Bollywood phenomenon, Mr. Kapur decided to make a film explaining to the rest of the world what Bollywood is all about. “We love it. We hate it. We see it as regressive. We see it as modern. We need to breathe it to feel alive. Some say it is the only culture that holds India together. Some say it gives identity and individuality to 25 million Indians that have left her shores and whose generations that are still addicted to it. That’s Bollywood!” says Mr. Kapur’s description in a statement posted on the Cannes festival’s Web site.
“Song and dance …is the brand, it’s like what animation is to Japanese films and Kung Fu is to Korean films. Through the documentary we have tried to portray how Bollywood has reflected the changing history of the country,” says Ronnie Screwvala, CEO and founder chairman of the UTV Group, co-producer of the documentary. He told India Real Time that although the song-and-dance still epitomizes Bollywood, improvements have been made in this respect, with better integration between the routine and the plot. Does focusing on song and dance reinforce the Western stereotype of Bollywood? “The West doesn’t abuse Indian films. It is we who view them as inferior just because they have song and dance,” says Mr. Kapur. He adds, “The West actually celebrates the idea of song and dance, it is just that it’s a different culture for them and hence they cannot relate to it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it.”