I love this film! I don’t care that it has a clichéd storyline and watching it feels a little like sitting through a marathon session of Fame episodes. I don’t care that for most of the cast acting is at the amateur end of the scale, while Kay Kay Menon and Ganesh Acharya take scenery chewing to an entirely new level. ABCD is a movie about dance that really is all about dance. There are actual dancers for a start – people who can genuinely move and they get plenty of opportunity to showcase their skills. Plus Prabhu Deva – I don’t need anything more.
The story is one that occurs regularly in dance-based films. Rich privileged kids versus the poor underdogs, so no prizes for guessing the final outcome. But Tushar Hiranandani’s screenplay adds in some back story for a few of the dancers featuring romance, drug addiction, parental oppression and a few other issues besides which helps make a connection with the young unknown cast. Although I say unknown, most of the dancers have competed in India’s dance competitions such as Dance India Dance, so I’m sure they are all well known within their home country, but they aren’t household names in Australia.
Kay Kay Menon is Jehangir Khan, the owner of a successful dance company (JDC) which has just won the TV dance competition Dance Dil Se despite apparently not deserving first place. JDC’s choreographer Vishnu (Prabhu Deva) is disappointed by the fixing of the competition, Jehangir’s attitude and by the introduction of a new choreographer from the US (Mario Fernando Aguilera) which also means he is out of a job (Not that the JDC dancers look terribly impressed with their new choreographer!). But before he makes it back to Chennai, Vishnu spends a few days with his friend Gopi (Ganesh Acharya) where he watches a group of kids escaping from the police using their parkour skills and sees them dancing at the Ganpati festival.
Seeing their potential, Vishnu decides to teach these kids dance for free, and such unimportant details such as how he is going to manage to survive without a paying job never really enter into the picture at all. This set up for the rest of the story takes a long time, and there are a few too many drunken discussions on the roof of their building, but finally we do get back to the dancing.
The rivalry between Jehangir and Vishnu is echoed in the initial stand-off between Rocky (Salman Yusuff Khan) and the more streetwise D (Dharmesh Yelande). Also eager to dance is Chandhu (Pumit J. Pathak) who has his own personal demons to overcome while other members of the group include Shaina (Noonin Naem Sha) a bar dancer, and eventually Rhea (Lauren Gottlieb), one of Jeghangir’s dancers who defects after Jhangir gets a little too close and personal at a rehearsal.
I was very impressed by Lauren Gottlieb who looks great dancing, but also manages very well with her spoken Hindi. In fact she’s so good that I wasn’t sure at first if she had done her own dubbing, and she was much more understandable than Prabhu Deva. Her acting isn’t brilliant, but she’s as good as the rest of the cast, so she doesn’t stand out in that regard and I like that there isn’t any need for an explanation as to why a Westerner is dancing in the group. She’s just accepted as a dancer, and that’s it.
Once Vishnu has assembled his group, he enters them into Dance Dil Se, despite his insider knowledge that the competition is rigged for JDC to win. Of course he also knows that things will be different this time! This is where the film gets much better with plenty of rehearsals, dance routines, and a fantastic solo from Prabhu Deva at a night club where he easily out dances everyone else. It’s wonderful to watch, and even if some of the choreography isn’t quite to my taste, it’s hard not to be impressed by the dancers.
While Jehangir plots and plans, his new choreographer turns the group into ballet dancers (interestingly Mario Fernando Aguilera actually runs a ballet school in Delhi in real life) and Vishnu’s group learn various life lessons while dealing with their own problems. It’s more inspirational than the trite platitudes make it seem and culminates in this wonderful dance in the rain as the group try to keep their dance studio open and keep D dancing despite his father’s disapproval.
This was ‘India’s first 3-D dance movie’ but I watched it in a conventional theatre so can’t comment on the 3D effects, although I could tell that a number of the shots had been added in solely for that purpose. The film is beautifully shot and the colours are amazingly clear and vibrant, even on the standard DVD. The dancers are all excellent and have so much energy that it’s exhausting just watching. They do show a great commitment to costumes as well, but I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t actually perform in any of these outfits!
Remo is best known as choreographer and knows how to get the best shots of his dancers. Including so many choreographers in the cast ensures that that the dancing is of a high standard, and pretty much any time there is music there is dancing. All the different dance groups that perform show just as much commitment to their routines and even JDC’s ballet routines are beautifully done. The final dance off between JDC and Vishnu’s DDR is excellent with just about everything possible thrown in.
High energy dancing, great routines and of course the amazing Prabhu Deva make ABCD a film which rises above the unoriginal story to provide entertainment for more than just dance enthusiasts. Don’t miss Saroj Khan in the end credits when she makes an appearance dancing with Prabhu Deva, Ganesh Acharya and Remo. It’s a perfect end to a film that really is all about the dancing. 4 stars.