On its fourth day, the 64th Festival de Cannes screened Bollywood — The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Outside, there were starbursts in the sky not especially for the film but symbolic of the "experience" that its producers claim for the film.
It all began with a remark made last year by Thierry Fremaux, the all-powerful Director General, to Shekhar Kapur, at the time a member of the Jury of the competition, that he would like a Bollywood film in the Cannes Official Selection. Shekhar set to work at once and, just one year on, this documentary is being shown Out Of Competition, produced by him and Ronnie Screwvala (UTV).
What is being celebrated is conclusion of an impossible task beginning in black and white and exploding today in depiction of a Special Effects land. What has emerged under the direction of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist, the terrific editor, is a track of 70 years of a unique industry, with a culture of its own, a dream tinged with a nightmare, something that may not be taking over the world but may indeed be the only culture that holds together its country of origin.
There are moving touches as the socio-political surround of Indian cinema, Gandhiji and Nehru (the latter's midnight-hour speech providing a voice-over for a couple of sequences) and the betrayal of those visions of democracy by a generation of political looters. Bollywood doesn't even try to hold a thought line, you are left neither satisfied nor unhappy — like the experience of Indian cinema.