Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told [ Documentary Review ] ★★1/2

For ScreenSingapore's Bollywood night, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is the sole feature that getting the Red Carpet Gala Premiere treatment. Producer Shekhar Kapur (शेखर कपूर) who directed Elizabeth and The Four Feathers was in attendance to present this documentary to the audience. 

He spoke of who he became accidentally involved in this documentary and what this piece of work meant to him. He became intrigued with the aspect that for every negative stereotypes about Bollywood movies, it's being counterbalance by the energy that still moves billions of Indian viewers today. Bollywood movies are still reaching out to Indians who left India years ago and those third generations of Indians who lived aboard are still addicted to it. With that in mind, he set off with Rakeysh Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist to try and define this unique Bollywood love affair.

Personally, Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is hardly a documentary. It's more of a string of musical video snippets that been extracted out from selected Bollywood movies to form a musical montage that lasted 81 mins.

Even for someone who is totally new to the Bollywood movies, these montages were a clear representation of the charms of Bollywood movies. The cinematography were breath taking with vibrant colors and excellent choices of picturesque scenery. The artists from this generation and decades before have a common trait and that's the charismatic x factors to light up the big screens. The dance choreography and music are well designed to reel in the viewers time after time.

On the flip side, even after experiencing 81 minutes of the best that Bollywood movies have to offer, I don't think I came any closer to understanding the charms of Bollywood movies or understood why the intended audience love them so much.

It's a documentary that is lacking a narrator to explain the videos that were chosen and what they are supposed to represent. It sporadically splice in interviews with Bollywood filmmakers and actors that showcase why they love Bollywood movies and what those movies meant to them. It just felt like it's superficially scraping the various well known elements of Bollywood movies and it never really goes any deeper than that. Or is that all there's to it?

In a way, I could understand what the documentary makers were trying to do when they chose to minimize explicit explanation. It's like a hybrid documentary that provides an experience of what is Bollywood movie all about, without trying to explain too much about it. But it ended up a little too vague and it felt like a video montage that put together without any narrative flow. It could be a tiring experience but with the right frame of mind and patience, this can also be a rewarding experience.

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