The songs of Bollywood - from "Aao bachchon tumhe dikhayen" to "Kajra re" - best portray India's journey since independence to the present day when it is fast emerging as a major power, says a Paris-based historian-filmmaker.
Vijay Singh has chronicled the journey of India through eight enduring and much-hummed Bollywood songs in his 64-minute documentary movie, "India By Song". The docu-feature, an Indo-French production, will be premiered Aug 14, a day before India celebrates Independence Day.
"My movie is not a straightjacket documentary - an overview of 63 years of Indian independence. There is a higher truth in it. I have tried to tell history by using Bollywood songs from the 1940s till date," Singh told IANS in an interview.
"Film songs are not just songs, they represent the emotions of the country. The songs are the best examples of women's emancipation - how the role of the woman has changed over the decades. Earlier, the woman acted coy while enacting love scenes but now the woman makes love to the guy from the top - virtually," he said.
"India By Song" features eight film songs and 11 interviews, he said.
"The movie features 12 minutes of songs, 12.5 minutes of interviews and four minutes of archival footage. I went on a 4,000-km journey by road from Mumbai to Amritsar with my French and Indian crew shooting India," Singh said.
The eight songs showcasing the changing socio-cultural and economic milieu of India include "Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaye" from "Jagriti", "Awara hoon" from "Awaara", "Pyar kiya to darna kya" from "Mughal-e-Azaam", "Inhi logon ne le lina" from "Pakeezah", "Dil ke armaan aansuon mein" from "Nikaah", "Choli ke peeche" from "Khalnayak", a short choreography by Saroj Khan, a sequence from the movie "Dhoom II" and "Kajra re" from "Bunty Aur Babli".
Explaining the choice, Singh said: "While Indians could relate to 'Awara' in its early decades of austerity and poverty, they could identify with the song from "Mughal-e-Azam' in the years after Jawaharlal Nehru's death.
"For the decades that India was trying to make it big, I chose a song from 'Naya Daur'. I tried to portray the Michael Jacksonisation of India through Saroj Khan's choreography and 'Dhoom II'," Singh said.
The people interviewed include historian Romila Thapar, cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi, Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy, Mumbai domestic help Anjali and Punjab farmer Suvinder Singh Kathumangal.
"The movie is a flip-flop - the songs punctuate the history of the country. It has plenty of pretty young women to balance the semantics with glamour to lure GenNext," Singh said.
Singh, a historian-cum-journalist-turned-filmmaker, has made critically acclaimed movies like "Jaya Ganga", "One Dollar Curry" and "Man and Elephant".
He has finished work on the screenplay of his new movie, "The Opium Symphony", based on his novel, "The Whirlpool of Shadows", which tells the love story between the second King of Awadh, Nasiruddin Haidar, and his European girlfriend.
He is in talks with big names in Bollywood for "The Opium Symphony" over the "the last two years".
"The movie will have five Indian characters and will be an international production," he said, pointing out that the script has earned praise from filmmakers Jane Campion, George Lucas, Shyam Benegal and Yash Chopra.
"Casting for movies in Bollywood cannot be dictated by the kind of actors I want, it depends on the availability of actors," Singh said. "It will be a big budget movie," he said.
Singh has written several books, including "Jaya, In Search of the River Goddess", "The Wounded Night" and "Authors, Places of Inspiration" (as co-author).