A valuable lesson learnt but regretfully at the cost of a whooping US$ 13 million! While dance reality shows have undeniably increased the dance pulse of the country, it takes much more to cull out a full-fledged film. Remo D’Souza’s ABCD 2 would stoke the dance mania, Walt Disney and UTV Motion Pictures would cash in on the high production visuals but in the meantime, true film aficionados would weep over yet another cinematic disaster.
ABCD 2revolves around a Mumbai-based dancing troupe, a fictional group based on the real life dancing group Fictitious from Nalasopara who won accolades at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Son of a famous Indian classical dancer, Suresh (Varun Dhawan) looks to redeem his lost respect by participating in the international event in Las Vegas. Supported by his childhood sweetheart Vinny (Shradha Kapoor), he finds a choreographer in Vishnu (Prabhu Deva) and the film then spirals into a series of stage performances overcoming a couple of mishaps on its way.
In ABCD 2, dance and drama have been used interchangeably by the filmmakers. In the first half of the movie, this was executed more effectively than in the latter. Beginning with a dramatic point of accusation, “Chunar” becomes a powerful aesthetic expression of Suresh’s grief and memories. With the red dupatta and the dissolving image of the mother (Prachi Shah), the audience begins to understand the unique vocabulary this film intends to employ to build the emotional frequencies. Traditionally, screen entries of heroes and villains have garnered a lot of attention in Bollywood. “Happy Hour” with its hip lyrics and impeccable dance moves ensures a promising entry for Vishnu and his characteristic alcohol immersed state of being. Similarly, an item number equivalent “Tattoo” does justice to the sizzling sensation Olive (Lorean Gottleib).
As with reality shows, where there are winners, there are also losers. The Youtube liked “Sun Sathiya” has some soulful lyrics and voice rendition but its random insertion into the movie makes it too arbitrary to consume and too detached to subsume. On the winning side is the novelty of the 3D technology mixed with dance steps that indeed serve an interestingly unique cocktail to the Indian audience. Once again, there is a greater awareness on the part of the director about the technology in the first half of the movie. Thus, there are deliberate actions, gestures and shots taken that complement the 3D visual effects. Unfortunately, this much needed directorial consciousness disappears in the post-interval segment of the movie. Technology and visual effects have sometimes hindered the choreography as well- a point of criticism often doled out to the participants by the very judges who don the director’s cap in this case. The finale song “Vande Mataram” is a point in case. The powdered orange, green and white of the Indian tricolor make for great visuals but do not create distinct choreography. Also, when the “Bezubaan” song has showcased a moving human pyramid, the static formation in the end does not have a novelty factor. The lyrics of this song are too pedestrian and colloquial for an international platform. Yet, the digitally produced and supported dance sequences elicit an awestruck first response. It would be safe to say that in ABCD 2, technology has titillated but it has also truncated the organic development of the cinematic medium.
While the beats and rhythms of the dance moves are well taken care of, the building blocks of a cinematic plot and script are sacrificed at the altar of the performing arts. In fact, the plot limits itself to its building blocks, to its skeletal framework. For, the filmmakers seem to have strung together tidbits of a potential plot and used them as mere hangers to dry their dance sequences. The love triangle between Suresh, Olive and Vinny, the broken equation between Vishnu and Swati (Tisca Chopra), the medical condition of Vinod (Punit Pathak), rivalry between competitors, Vishnu’s mysterious plan and love for his son Manu (Jineet Rath) as well as Pooja’s (Pooja Batra) interest in Vishnu- the ingredients of a complex and engaging plot existed but were left undeveloped. A motley of well-directed scenes rather than a multitude of well-choreographed dances would have accrued better for the film. Therefore, after a point, it became difficult to sustain the dramatic element of the film solely through the dance sequences. The theme of patriotism is a point in case. Chanting “Ganpati Bappa Morya” and “Vande Mataram” in the middle of dance segments cannot convert extremely personal journeys of ambition into tales of Indian triumph.
In addition to foot tapping, the dancers were also doubling up as actors. Dhawan and Deva have rendered more than convincing performances and held their screen presence intensely and consistently. Dhawan has essayed the faithful lover, the angry young man and the dedicated son/pupil with equal panache. Deva on the other hand has stood on the firm ground of his understated, intense looks and expressions. Kapoor, Pathak and Gottleib along with the assortment of other dancers too have formed a good supporting cast in what seemed like a limited floor for acting. Not of appreciation for D’Souza for providing considerable screen space to the real life dancers and not let the star son and daughter steal the limelight.
The final verdict has to read as such: watch this silver screen 3D dance caper only on one condition: if you are a dance fanatic.