An abridged history of India from independence to today is haphazardly tied to Bollywood musical routines in Vijay Singh's enjoyable though superficial "India by Song." As an introductory sprint through the subcontinent's last 60-odd years, the docu touches on most major events, pairing them with contempo movie numbers to illustrate changes in Indian society. Many of the connections seem either tenuous or undeveloped, leaving cinema auds wanting more, but a bit of trimming could make a pleasantly brisk TV package (narration comes in both English and French versions).

An abridged history of India from independence to today is haphazardly tied to Bollywood musical routines in Vijay Singh’s enjoyable though superficial “India by Song.” As an introductory sprint through the subcontinent’s last 60-odd years, the docu touches on most major events, pairing them with contempo movie numbers to illustrate changes in Indian society. Many of the connections seem either tenuous or undeveloped, leaving cinema auds wanting more, but a bit of trimming could make a pleasantly brisk TV package (narration comes in both English and French versions).

Singh (“One Dollar Curry”) narrates and appears as onscreen interlocutor, questioning people from across the social classes about the impact of such events as independence, partition, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the Union Carbide disaster, and many others. Interwoven among interviews and archival footage are occasional Bollywood musical numbers, giving the pic a modest “That’s Entertainment!” feel with an optimistic, politically neutral slant: Muslim-Hindu violence (though barely a mention of Kashmir), the techno revolution and a shift to Western-style consumerism all make brief appearances. Musical interludes are fewer than one wants or expects, and films sampled need identifying. Visuals are largely slick and attractive.

India by Song

U.K.-France

Production

A Silhouette Films, Sodaperaga Prods., France Television production, with the support of TV5 Monde, Centre National de la Cinematographie. Produced by Vijay Singh, Guy Seligmann. Directed, written by Vijay Singh.

Crew

Camera (color), Arun Varma; editor, Benoit Martin; music, Paban Das Baul, Mimlu Sen. Reviewed on DVD in Rome, May 27, 2010. (In Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 64 MIN.

With

Mahasha Dharampal, Mishan Singh Bhatti, Suvinder Singh Kathunangal, Romila Thapar, Bishan Singh Bedi, Uday Shankar, Saroj Khan, Tirrtha, Nishant Singh, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Anjali. Narrator: Vijay Singh.
(English, Hindi dialogue)

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