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.