ABCD 2

ABCD 2

For me to enjoy a dance movie it just needs to have a lot of dancing. Sure a story is good, some character development would be nice but as long as there is plenty of dancing then I’ll be happy. And that’s just as well, since ABCD 2 has no coherent storyline and little character development, but does have excellent dancers, inspiring choreography and plenty of hip hop. It does at times feel a little like watching an extended episode of SYTYCD, except that there is probably more drama and definitely fewer inane dialogues in the TV show. But in fairness ABCD 2 does deliver just as much dancing. Not a film for everyone, but if you don’t mind a wafer-thin plot and are happy to watch the entire cast start dancing at every possible opportunity then ABCD 2 is the film for you.

The film starts with dance group the Mumbai Stunners being disqualified from a dance competition for plagiarising their entire routine from a Filipino group. This is particularly heart-breaking for Suresh (Varun Dhawan) whose mother was a celebrated Kathak dancer who died with her ghungroos on (naturally!) and who would no doubt have been appalled at her son’s behavior if she’d been around to see it. The group is subsequently ostracised for cheating, which even includes being ridiculed and abused at their respective workplaces however unlikely that may seem. Despite these setbacks, Suresh is determined to dance and starts up a new group with an alcoholic choreographer he meets in the bar where he works. The plan is to take the new group to Las Vegas, compete in the hip-hop world championships and thereby regain their honour.

That would be fine except that the group really did plagiarise someone else’s choreography. And they never actually admit to it, or apologise for doing so. Not even when they meet the group they copied later on in the film do they ever acknowledge that they were at fault. It seems an odd omission for a film that is otherwise concerned with redemption – how can the group deserve a second chance when they never admit they made a mistake?

Suresh’s childhood friend Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor) and fellow dancer Sushant Pujari help Suresh recruit new dancers who include Dharmesh Yelande and Punit Pathak (from ABCD), and they start their quest to compete in Las Vegas. Their chosen choreographer Vishnu (Prabhu Deva), who may or may not be the same Vishnu from the first film, sobers up exceptionally quickly and helps the group gain their second chance to show they really can dance.

Varun Dhawan is an excellent dancer and impressively keeps up with the professional dancers most of the time. Shraddha Kapoor is also much better than I expected, although she does get a break (not quite literally) when the group get to Las Vegas and she injures her ankle. That allows Olive (Lauren Gottlieb) to be a last-minute substitute, which means the group can really go for it and pull out some serious dance moves. There’s a sub-plot that involves Vishnu behaving somewhat shadily in the USA but of course it all gets resolved in time for the big dance finale.

The film does follow a similar ‘underdogs fighting for success’ path as ABCD and even includes a reworking of Bezubaan, presumably because it worked so well in the first film. However Bezubaan Phir Se is very similar to the original, reprising both the music and the dancing in water choreography but lacks the spark that made the original such a standout track despite some very impressive dancing.

Sadly ABCD 2 doesn’t develop any of the characters apart from a brief glimpse of Suresh’s mother and a short interlude with Vishnu, making it difficult to develop any empathy for the dancers or get behind their search for success. Even the few who are more than just faceless performers have little impact on the story and the film probably didn’t need an actor of Varun Dhawan’s calibre given how little he gets to ‘act’. Still, there is amazing dancing at every possible opportunity and that’s where ABCD 2 wins me over. There may not be much in the way of a storyline, but the dancers are superb, the choreography different from most Bollywood films and it’s packaged with plenty of glitz and dazzle. One more for dance fans, but that includes me and I’m already eagerly awaiting ABCD 3.

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ABCD (Any Body Can Dance)

ABCD

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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. If you don’t want to know who wins stop watching the clip below at 6 minutes 50 seconds.

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.