The London musical Bombay Dreams is a classic love story, the tale of a poor boy in love with a rich girl, whose father holds the key to his dream. Salaam Bombay Dreams is the story of telling that story. From the writing of the book to the creation of the music, to the opening of the theater doors, this documentary covers every angle of the show's development from idea to blockbuster production.
There's no art form quite as collaborative as the musical, due to the massive number of principal talents involved. That makes the perfect breeding ground for a behind the scenes look, as there's plenty of activity going on, lots of interaction and the potential for disaster. Well, two out of three ain't bad. This DVD is put out by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's own production company, so the chances of seeing anything go wrong are slim to none. But that doesn't mean this extended EPK is boring. There's tons of fascinating information about the creation of a musical, as well as a look at some truly talented people.
Webber put together an All-Star team of non-musical talent, including composer A.R. Rahman and choreographer Farah Khan, both from the Indian film industry, a.k.a. Bollywood, and British/Indian writer Meera Syal. With their fresh points of view and Webber's experienced crew, they had the right ingredients to succeed. The production moves from London to Bombay and then back to Britain, and, as a result, the film provides a good look at the differences between the cultures, and the ways in which they are very similar as well.
The majority of the film focuses on Rahman, a massively talented young man, who is the biggest composer in Bollywood. Watching his non-traditional style amaze the staid West End creators is a treat, especially when he improvises songs. Watching the creation of art is a wonderful opportunity, and his techniques are among the best their are. Several times I caught myself tapping my foot to the tunes he creates on the fly. I entered this film with at least a decent knowledge of both Broadway and Bollywood, and left it knowing so much more. This is a terrific, if sanitized history of the creation of a beautiful musical.
Presented on one DVD, the main feature is included without chapter stops, which really should be a standard for all DVDs. On the main menu screen, which has a nice delayed animation that dosn't interfere with the menu's use, you can choose from the three special features areas.
The video shot for the main feature during interviews and behind the scenes is crisp and colorful, while the film footage of the stage show is a bit soft and grainy. The entire disc is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. There's nothing troubling on this disc, while the colors are some of the most vivid I've seen in some time.
The sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0, which is somewhat disappointing, considering how important the music is. Being able to immerse oneself in the theater experience would have been nice. What we get is very good, though, giving the disc the right feel at all times.
The main feature is supplemented by a wide array of extras that give you over four hours of Bollywood-inspired fun. First up, are the extensive interviews that were edited down to make the main movie. Listed on the main menu as Creative Team Interviews, the interviews include A.R. Rahman, the composer; Meera Sayl and Don Black, the writers; Steven Pimlott, the show's director; Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan, the choreographers; Mark Thompson, the designer; and, of course, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. These aren't just the full-length interviews though. Each one has rehearsal and production footage edited in to give each piece a nice flow. These are very well done, and only repeat a small amount of footage from the film.
Sights and Sounds is a selection of four of the show's musical highlights, as performed by the original London cast, including Chaiyya Chaiyya, Shakalaka Baby, The Journey Home and How Many Stars. The songs are shot with multi-camera set-ups that are well-directed and edited, giving a better presentation than you would have seen being in the theater. Also in this section are music videos for the radio versions of two songs, Shakalaka Baby and Love's Never Easy. All six clips are in Dolby Digital 2-channel sound and anamorphic widescreen, though the aspect ratio used on the music videos requires letterboxing. Considering that this DVD is about a musical, this is obviously one of the DVD's best features.
Also available are a pair of featurettes, "From the Page to the Stage" and "All Rise". "From the Page..." takes a look at the rehersal process, as cast works on one of the more elaborate scenes in the show. It does a good job at showing the repetitive nature of rehearsals, while also showing the final product, so the evolution of the acting can be seen. Meanwhile, "All Rise" documents Queen Elizabeth's night out at Bombay Dreams, the first musical she attended in 10 years. Plenty of backstage preparation goes on in advance of her arrival, and this feature shows you every step, from the ushers to the lights to the carpets. Of course, her majesty's arrival is presented in all its glory. It's hard to understand the reaction, if you're not British. It's all rather anticlimatic. Cast reactions follow, and its not clear that they are really into either.
This could be the perfect tool for introducing young people to the musical process, due to its unique subject matter, multicultural interest and wonderful production, not to mention the fantastic music itself. As it is though, it is a very entertaining and informative behind the scenes look at the musical. If you have any interest in musical theater or Bollywood for that matter, this DVD serves as a terrific inside look.
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Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.