23 August 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
A trip to India and not one Bollywood number?
I watched the newest Cheetah Girls movie for one reason only: to see what kind of respect it paid to the Bollywood movie industry and the great Bollywood musicals that have been produced over the years, given that the plot of the movie has to do with the Cheetah Girls leaving the U.S. to star in a Bollywood movie musical being produced in Bombay (Mumbai), home of the world's largest movie industry. This was a rare opportunity to acquaint the Disney Channel audience with a phenomenon that most of them know nothing about. I was hoping the film would include at least one bonafide Bollywood musical number, sung in Hindi and danced by teams of Indian dancers, male and female. Barring that, I was hoping they'd include at least one scene showing the Cheetah Girls watching an actual Bollywood movie, giving the producers the chance to include at least a 30-second clip from a genuine Bollywood musical number, just so the audience could see what a Bollywood production looked and sounded like and get an understanding of the genre's immense popularity in other parts of the world and why exactly the three young heroines would even bother making such a trip.
Sadly, that wasn't to be. There were no Bollywood numbers in this film. Every song in the film was standard Disney Channel teen pop and they all sounded alike. Granted, two of the songs, "Dance Me if You Can" and "One World," include Bollywood elements in the choreography, and "One World," the big finale, includes significant Indian cultural elements in the production design, so I suppose you can say the audience got a whiff of Bollywood, if not exactly a taste. Still, the accompanying songs were standard Cheetah Girl material and sounded nothing like any songs you'd hear on a Bollywood soundtrack. It wasn't enough to suit me and it strikes me as a wasted opportunity. It's okay, I guess, to celebrate "One World," as long as it's the Disney Channel that's calling the shots.
For those fans who've seen this movie and are curious to follow up and see some actual Bollywood musicals, I'd urge you to look up the films of Aishwarya Rai. For starters, I'd recommend TAAL (1999), MOHABBATEIN (2000), and DEVDAS (2002). Perhaps other Bollywood fans here can give additional recommendations.