On saturday night 14th May, in a Gala red carpet event at the Lumier Theatre, Cannes film festival will screen the documentary I produced along with UTV and directed by Rakeysh Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist. It all started with my conversation with Thierry Fremaux about the fascination of people with Music, Song and Dance in Bollywood. And his desire to find a film that he could show in the main section.We decided to make one. A documentary. Here is what I wrote for the Cannes brochure :
“We love it. We hate it. We see it as regressive. We see it as modern. We need it to breathe it to feel alive, and yet complain about it’s polluted air. Some say its melodramatic. Others call it Mythic. Some say it is the only culture that holds India together. Others say it is the greatest corrupting influence on Indians and would banish it from our shores. Some say it gives identity and individuality to 25 million Indians that have left her shores and who’s third generations that are still addicted to it.
It is certainly disconcerting sitting in the mansion of a young Indian entrepreneur in the Silicon valley that just sold his company for over $ 5 billion and see his third generation immigrant family weeping over the latest melodramatic Bollywood film. Or celebrate their new found wealth dancing together to it’s songs. Even more disconcerting is me filming in Morocco with Heath Ledger and having hundreds of Moroccan people arrive at my set in the middle of the desert thinking I might be shooting their favourite form of entertainment.
A love a affair between almost 2 billion people worldwide that has lasted over 70 years, and not only refuses to stop. It keeps growing. Embracing it’s most important, it’s most vilified, it’s most loved element. The song and dance. The music. No Bollywood film needs to be called a musical. It needs no such excuse. It just is one. Regardless of the genre’.
How does Bollywood reflect the changing history and moralities of the largest and youngest democracies in the world ? Film makers, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist try to analyse Bolywood and give up. Or give in. To it’s overpowering beat and sensuality. Preferring to give you an experience of Bollywood for or you to decide.
For how do you define a love affair ?
39 thoughts on “Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told’ at the Cannes Film Festival.”
Firstly, congratulations on the screening at Cannes! I work with India Today and we’d love to ask you a few questions about your latest outing on celluloid. Could you please reply with a phone number/email ID to the email address I’ve provided? Looking forward to a response from you!
Love it , Hate it but I can relate to it’s every emotion or lack of it some times. It’s a common threat thats unite and divide us Indians living out side India.
Dear Shekhar, I just read your message of trying to find a reason or logic about the bollywood movies. Please don’t try just accept THE FACT written on the back of trucks or buses running on the busy roads of India & i.e “Tera Rub Rakha”. I live in America (from the last 25 yrs.) & had come to India to visit the Golden Temple along with a doctor friend fom America. We were driving through Ludhiana & he was trying to figure out that how the traffic was moving in the midst of cows on the road, tractors, trailers, bull carts, rickshaw, a tea vendor tapping gently on your car to cross the road, & so on. There was truck in front of us & it was written on its tail “Tera Rub Rakha”. All of sudden, he smiled & told me that Jassi I have figured it out, I said what? He says there are no logical rules behind moving of this traffic, it is simply “Tera Rub Rakha” rule & he says funny thing is that every thing keeps moving. So, don’t try to analyze bollywood or India because everything works on the basis of “TERA RUB RAKHA”
I often enjoy reading articles on Ted.com. I did not know about you at all because I did not see any indian movie in the last 25 years while I was in america. I enjoy listening to NPR(National Public Radio) in Los Angeles. I heard you talking about your movie Elizabeth. I was impressed with your statement,” if it would not have been for Elizabeth, England would have been speaking spanish today”. In these days I am in India (Chandigarh) & request you to make/direct more movies for India & as well as for the rest of the world. With Regards & Smiles, Jassi
I am surprised. Cannes schedule is not yet out, and you have been tweeting about the film’s screening being sold out. You have even given the date and venue of the screening. I guess your insider status at Cannes provides you the exclusive access. Just one question. How do you reconcile with the term Bollywood, which according to many is a pejorative for mainstream Hindi films? Your film legitimises and re-establishes this kind of branding. Looking forward to watching it at Cannes. I hope the film will have a press screening prior to its world premiere, the red carpet event, and the sold out screening. Who among the Indian stars will be walking the red carpet? Will Mr. Amitabh Bachchan be there? I believe he has lent his voice for the film.
This message is for Trishya Screwvala, Rakeysh Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist. I hope in the documentary you shed some light on Bollywood’s export, Shekhar Kapur, who can be considered as India’s answer to Sir Richard Attenborough. One made Gandhi in Hindi/English produced by Westerners, and the other made Elizabeth in English, again produced by Westerners. Convincing Western producers to let him make an all out British film, I think is an achievement greater than Sir Richard’s. I am not implying Sir Richard’s Gandhi is any less, but giving Mr. Kapur due credit.
Besides, I could go on and on about Bollywood, but just wanted to highlight the above. There is still time to edit the documentary, to add our Mr. Kapur, if nor already included.
Bollywood is unique. I await its telecast in one of our TV channels. I am sure it would not be as long as some of our films. It will help in spreading Bollywood-mania to other countries. The language Hindustani (Hindi+Urdu) and Hinglish are its contribution to get over the language barrier both within and outside the country and even to other oriental and middle east countries. Wishing you success in such path breaking efforts.
Please take a look at this article:
The World Of Bollywood as seen through American diplomatic eyes –
This reflects the ground reality.
Bollywood movies these days no longer evoke the kind of emotions that the movies of the 70 s, or the movies you made, still do.
And, If you go by Karan Johar’s show, it might seem like the psychology of the whole of bollywood’s who’s who can be clearly understood depending on which song “does it for them” – Is it “Sheila ki jawani ” or “munni badnaam hui” !
This is one stale question he asks all his guests on his show !
One song is “in your face sexy and come-hither” and the other is “I give a damn, am hot and sensous, bordering on sexy, and if you can’t satisfy me, I’ll do it myself ! ”
No points for guessing which is which !
There is nothing romantic in the movies that bollywood dishes out these days.
Btw, Did Karan johar ask you to choose between the two? 🙂
Best wishes at Cannes !
Sir, pls take a look at this article too :
Congrats. I grew up in Mumbai (then Bombay) but never really saw the inside of a studio except, we lived next door to one in Dadar. Would love to see how Bollywood ticks. Tell us some more about the movie. Sounds like fun. When will “Bollywood..” be available for the public? CAN’T WAIT.
Can it be captured?
or, Zindagi khwaab hai…
Congrats! I am truly eager to watch the film. Bollywood is surely one of few things that binds Indians. You criticize it, you whine about it, you like it or you love it… Bollywood is inseparable from India.
What about making a film/documentary on Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement? It is history in the making so it will be worthwhile to document it moreover live!
Well said jassi, but there is method in India’s traffic madness. It is a left/right hemisphere of your brain thing. West works more through left/reason/laws; East/India works more through right/intuition/what-is-happening NOW, in front! Both are right at their places.
Different is visible maybe.
You might be thinking that most of what i write on your blog sounds like me pissing on your party, as it were.. but its not.
Most of my real education came after I finished my formal education , when i had a breather( of sorts)- in between economic activity and found time to think critically about the state of affairs of the world around me – trying to define my identity , which most thinking Indians go through – trying to make sense of the ‘human condition’ , ‘indian condition’ , ‘global condition’ , and my own ‘ individual condition’.
And dare I say , I have a very clear idea of the root causes of ailments , causes of successes and failures and possible solutions for everyone of those conditions.
Bollywood is a factor among other things , that has a significant direct impact on the Indian condition in the post British Indian world.
The way I see it , Bollywood sets up the “path of highest resistance” for Indic cultural ethos – this may sound like I am taking the piss to far , but actually I can see it playing out every day in the national and daily life of India. While Bollywood Genre reflects the Age-Old love of Theatre and Drama in the Indian culture and the Narrative of the Nation’s story – we like personalities and conflicts and invent a bit of Drama, in everything we do. Bollywod both influences and caters to the needs of a very varied Indian tastes.
But one thing is for sure. I am not sure , Bollywood as an Industry is not fully aware of its soft power status , its power to convince , its power to bleed , the Indian psyche. With great power comes great responsibility. Is bollywood up for it ? It has many shady characters and every shadier financial grapevine. Who is going to hold Bollywood by its balls and squeeze them to make sure , Bollywood is not a plaything of the Underworld ?
Bollywood is also still a reflection of India trying to define its rise in western terms – the day Bollywood renames itself to something more desi ( Bharat Nautanki Sangh doesnt sound to good ).. it will only be a weak reflection of what it can really be – a truly global story teller , and better still , with the right philosophy at ats heart , it can project great cultural values and help educate a rapidly Americanising ( or Earth-Trashing) world.
I’m saying , Bollywood can save the world , but does it have the humility and the courage for that?
fascinating insight, Rudra. The term Bollywood has gone into mythology and become a brand that is difficult to erase, so why not live with it and raise it to much higher levels of influence.
Bharat nautanki sangh!! LOL!!
I saw in one of the TV channels that Rakeysh’s documentary has been chosen for Cannes. Didnt know you produced it until I came here and read this. Am so happy and wish I get to see it. It will be something to look forward to. Having you and Rakeysh’s name attached to it by itself makes it interesting. Like you say love it or hate it you cant escape the effect of bollywood!!
Rudra, as Nike’s slogan says, just do it! & Toyota/Lexus, ” The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” I took the liberty to add to Lexus’s slogan, ” The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, Knowingly We will Never be Perfect but the Process of Pursuing the Perfection will keep Improving us”. I feel that time is now to take an action as Shekhar said, ‘Let’s Raise it to Much Higher Levels of Influence.” I assure you it can be done.
With Regards & Smiles,
sir i m really eager and looking forward for your ramayana series…i have already collected 2 seazon issuez….watz gonna happen in the 3rd one?????????
Hello, I live in the same town as the Institut Lumiere, of which Thierry Fremaux is the head, and I was wondering why he could NOT put Bollywood movies in the program of the Institute. I’m glad you had this conversation with him because , at least in France, we don’t see Iindian films enough (in movie theaters or TV). Your description is probably correct because you come from there , still the Indian movies have something very special to bring to all the new generations, not only the Indian diaspora, but all over the world. When will we (in France) have the chance to see your movie/ documentary ? Best wishes for this great project.
thank you, Brigitte, i know the world is getting more curious about ‘bollywood’ films. There was a time when they truly represented the social environment of India, but we still have directors that express their concerns through their cinema. I will certainly pass your message to Thierrey, and ‘Bollywood, the greatest Love story ever told’ was his idea ! shekhar
Hello, I’m very happy for you! now we need to know when your movie is released in France and other countries! Please keep us posted! Brigitte
Thanks for this post. I had asked a question, a few posts ago. ‘Place of Indian movies–in Indian culture’ I think, this one sort gives the answer. I agree with what you say. My love for bollywood, came only after I lived in Fiji, where people removed from India for over a century still considered it their ‘culture reference’. And in remote, small, often forgotten island countries like Tonga and Samoa, people play bollywood songs at weddings. Bollywood, represents feelings and emotions, in cheesy and yet very human way….we can love it or hate it, but cannot ignore it….As I heard on an NPR story, by a bollywood follower, ‘bollywood is different, it has a heart!!”
Thanks so much for this.
I think my most interesting memory about bollywood was when I was visiting a friend in Rwanda a few years ago. We went to visit someone in a small town by the foothills of where the majestic mountain gorillas live. My jaw dropped when I saw her friend watching the bollywood film “Dhadkan” dubbed in Kinyarwanda (Rwanda’s national langauge).
I truly look forward to seeing the documentary.
European movies are so much cooler to bad they don’t get as much promotion and publicity i honestly think they are better
I’m a Big fan of Mr India, Masoom & Bandit Queen. Have been following your blog on and off. Untill today when I saw the trailer of the documentary which has been produced by you and co, and directed by the “acclaimed director” (have seen him at conferences and am sure he regards himself as one, for having gifted the people of this country THE seminal film – Rang De Basanti) Mr Rakyesh Om Prakash Mehra.
Needless to say, I was thoroughly, thoroughly dissappointed.
Hope you do read on this open letter to you
sad that shekhar kapur should fall into this kind of trap – equating Bollywood with Indian Cinema ! ON top that Sheila ki jawani! so very un-cool! thats the soundtrack for the world to listen to and identify indian cinema with? mega sad – this is ! btw – just a thought – is this actually a showreel for UTV movies? with a few exceptions here and there thats all u see in the trailer !
Great article, keep writing
One can gauge the popularity of Bollywood by the fact that even theatre has turned its sights on it. In the West, there was Bombay Dreams and now there is the Merchants of Bollywood. EarIier, there was Shil[pa Shetty’s musical on the film industry. In India, what producers do is to loosely string a story together as an excuse to place as many popular Bollywood numbers as they can, in a 95 minute production. Ila Arun did it with complete success in Australia, Sanjoy Roy did it in Germany and Italy (he has an agent who regularly gets him shows), there was a Bollywood dance troupe from Mumbai which was sent to China and South East Asia by none other than the cultural wing of the Ministry of Culture, which was a huge hit and, in fact, was preferred over works of theatre stalwarts like Ratam Thiyam, by the local populace. My own play, Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan, a spoof on retro Bollywood and perhaps the very first attempt to marry Bollywood to the stage, was invited by the Arts Council of England to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2002 when the British were not familiar with this genre, because of its quaintness and entertainment value. The following year it was invited to a five city tour of the UK, because of its success. I remember Scotsmen getting up to dance with the item numbers, during its premier at the prestigious Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. Since then, the play, now in it’s second avatar, as Mahim Junction, has travelled to other countries precisely because of Bollywood’s popularity.
I work with TV and even during serious interviews with ministers, or cultural ambassadors from foreign countries, there is always a mention of their favourite Indian stars and movies. I remember the premier of Ontario, Canada, happily shooting off Shah Rukh and Aishwarya’s names and Ehiopians, Moroccans, Egyptians, Saudi Arabians also mention the stars, movies and songs that are popular in their respective countries. Shilpika Bordoloi, the heroine in Sanjoy Roy’s production, recently told me that she is regularly mobbed by audience members in Europe, after a show and was taken aback to discover weeping women who told her that they were moved by the song and drama and that the entire exercise was a catharsis for them. They actually came out feeling hopeful and happy, which is more than they could say about their own theatre that delved too much into reality, they declared. So yes, love it or hate it….seems like Bollywood is here to stay.
–Sohaila Kapur (Writer, T.V. Anchor, Theatre Director
– Show quoted text –
Sohaila’s blogs: http//:theatretime.wordpress.com and http://www.mahimjunction.blogspot.com
Mr Shekhar Kapur!
Simply was mesmerised and canot forget your ‘ELIZABETH” . What a master piece of art and narration of period and cult cinema. You certainly deserved an Oscar for that creation. There is enough proof that there is apartheid and discrimination in awarding true talent in international cinema. This was a creation when you were in your hey-hep phase( not that you are not now) equally loved watching your MR INDIA too and oh! not to forget MASOOM. Your themes always makes the masses stand up and notice.
Having being part and parcel of Cannes and Oscar like the Amritraj one apprehends to get a true picture and opinion of how Indian cinema and Bollywood is rated at these platforms. Although the media likes to cover and pamper only a few BECAUSE of their personal likes and dislikes. As you rightly said on the electronic media when questioned by Koel that these festivals are just like high tea parties where people meet, gossip , have good time and forget very soon what took place at these gatherings till they meet next time. It certainly is a lobbied event and merely an excuse for the fraternity to come together. The fact of the matter remains that even if Jonny Depp and Penelope Cruz didnot promote or be present at the event make any difference for their film to be a hit ? Pirates of Carribean – On Stranger Tides with so many series is already a BRAND and irrespective of any publicity or promotion every one will go to watch the film because they are guaranteed that they will be seeing worth their penny. It requires no promotion. So are our Bollywood directors people will always go to watch Yash Raj, Or Raj Sippy or Karan Johar or Sanjay’s etc. etc. films. It is only the new entries that need promotion. Moreover the promos on the electronic media already hypes up the curiosity. You will mark all the movies in the recent past which were personally marketed by big-wigs of Bollywood in context of the directors and stars failed drastically at the box office – reason over dose of marketing . As far as cinema is concerned people in India like surprises be it also an Amitabh movie.. Now why did they promote and market their movies is a question which can be answered very conveniently. The Directors got insecure and non confident of their projects because of the new young players and hence they started doubting the masses’s reaction and therefore wanted to capitalise their returns in the very first week of the release like any business house. This precisely is the reason why they have become repetitive and complacent in their plots and stories making sequels and remakes as a comforting zone to gratify their creativity and collection. Whereas the TV has prospered with some fantastic serials on real day -to -day drama of rural epitome because the masses wanted a change from saas bahu sagas. Reality shows got dreaded-draped because of repetitive formulas.
The fact that movies like 3 idiots, Tare Zamee Pe, Paa, Stanley Ka Dabba, Jodha Akbar,Jab We met , Dabaang etc. stupendously embraced public approval reflects that the audience of today is savvy, informed, aware, and craves for variety not only in technical aspect but also in form of story and entertainment. It is very encouraging that our talent is gettting noticed and recognised but it is in a very small ratio viz. Ms. Ashwairya Rai, who certainly has come a long way to enjoy the royal treatment at the festival but can we be just complacent with this ? The outside world likes us as INDIAN and we should offer them Indian palate but in a varied form now …….this doesnot necessarily mean we should always project our stars in contemporary Indian attire or rural gettos but fusion it with east meets west, let the ELEMENT OF Indian be always there…….like you said our gaana bajana because that what is our IDENTITY as Indian cinema………….
Dear Mr Kapoor,
I just discover that you present your documentary in Festival Lumière 2011 in Lyon next october. I’m so glad French people will see it. I can’t wait to watch it. I’m sure we’ll have a great time. all the best
I was privileged to see your documentary at Cannes and I was absolutely thrilled! I will be at TIFF in Toronto and I am disappointed it will not be presented. I have been seeking your film in DVD since then and have not found it. is it possible to point me to where i could acquire the DVD? all the best and again, thank you for the marvelous journey into Bollywood!
You might also want to visit here too https://shekharkapur.com/blog/2011/04/bollywood-the-greatest-love-story-ever-told-at-the-cannes-film-festival/ to expand your knowledge on this topic.
Dear Mr. Kapur,
Bollywood is almost in my veins, I have known it since my first word possibly, so I am intrepidly dying to watch this documentary. Does UTV have any plans to releasing it on DVD? I am from UK, and am eagerly awaiting for an original print, so I can experience the first documentary on bollywood.
I’m glad it received great reviews.
Good luck for Paani, can’t wait to see it. Do you envisage Elizabeth 3 coming in the future?
Just got back from watching the new movie! It is very good. My friend already has already downloaded it. I want to go watch it a few more times.
I am glad to be one of the visitors on this great website (:, thanks for posting .