ABCD 2 Hindi Movie Review
Dance-based films are a rare breed in Indian cinema. In recent memory, all we've got is Aaja Nachle and ABCD, neither of which anyone would remember too fondly. Choreographer-turned-director Remo D'Souza's latest, a sequel to his own ABCD, tries to buck the trend and emerge as a success story, but is let down by lack of what we non-dancing commoners like to call human logic.
The dance group Mumbai Stunners in this film, based on the real-life "Fictitious" Dance Group, are contestants on a reality show that, we're reminded repeatedly, is sponsored by Adiction Deos. Tragedy strikes when they're disqualified for cheating and plagiarizing steps from a Filipino dance group, a fact that is discovered by the judges (one of them D'Souza himself) on their iPads while the performance is still going on. The plagiarism allegations are actually true, but the film completely sidesteps the question of their guilt and paints them as victims.
They become pariahs and outcasts. One of the members of the group, a pizza delivery boy, is refused payment by a customer because he cheated in the dance competition. So naturally, the team rewards themselves by hiring a choreographer Vishnu and going to Vegas to participate in an international hip-hop dance competition that, we're repeatedly reminded, is sponsored by beauty care brand Pond's.
But their Vishnu sir has ulterior motives of his own for going to Vegas, none which involve either dance or bachelor parties.
Apart from these, there are countless other such instances of lapses in logic and of absurd and amateurish writing (screenplay by Tushar Hiranandani). Everybody who isn't a part of the dance troupe is supposed to be a villain and a roadblock in their path to success, ranging from cocktail bar owners to the competing German dance group (because there are no other evil countries apart from Germany and Britain in Bollywood).
There are stray plots about an Indian restaurant owner in Vegas that befuddles you, a love triangle that is dissolved faster than a spoon of powdered drink in water, an award-winning classical-dancing mother who is referenced and then forgotten, a back story involving a wife and kid that never pays off, and a bloody cough that pays off in the most melodramatic manner in the finale. To add to that, the film never excels in the one department that promised histrionics: dance.
Dance films tend to work best when they're more reliant on the quality of dancing itself and less so on dramatics, camera trickery, gimmicks, slow motions and special effects. ABCD 2, sadly, checks all of the boxes from the latter category. For a film that preaches to let the dance do the talking, it sure relies heavily, too heavily, on all the abovementioned elements to create a sense of awe instead of placing trust in its dance pieces.
What's worse is, there are no distinguishing factors that could separate one dance performance from the other, apart from the musical score (decent but below par by Sachin-Jigar's brilliant standards). The camera work (cinematography by Vijay Arora) makes it hard to comprehend and discern the dance steps in group performances. All different levels of the dance competition are muddled together in my mind, for which D'Souza is to blame, both as director and choreographer.
D'Souza is undoubtedly a skilled choreographer, who has a great eye for visual flair and would probably make for a great music video director (which is part of the responsibility of choreographers today anyway). From the Tron-inspired opening act to the Charlie Chaplin style dance piece to the back-flipping, gas-releasing, Indian-flag-making shoes in the finale, D'Souza manages to keep your eyes on the screen, even if he has to use everything but dance to do so.
But feature film direction is a completely different cup of tea, one that cannot be sustained for long by colorful distractions. D'Souza's attempts at humor are puerile and childish, he repeatedly and unsuccessfully appeals to the Indian inside you, the love story has no heft whatsoever, the film consistently loses pace, and is prolonged by too many unnecessary injections of dance, including one on a song about tattoos.
Ironically, a film that's full of passionate characters and is overflowing with emotion fails to make you feel anything. Even if D'Souza and his writer Tushar hadn't been misguided in showing the dance group as sufferers in the plagiarism scandal, it would've been hard to sympathize with people we hardly know (since we're 5 minutes into the film). Even with the whole broken leg incident or the reunion of father and son or the final performance that's meant to fill you with pride, you could hardly care less, because D'Souza and Tushar mistake cliche backgrounds and motivations for layered character-building.
What compounds matters further for D'Souza is that he is unable to extract decent performances from his non-dancers. For every Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor (who are decent but unremarkable), there's a Prabhudheva, who singlehandedly brings down the level of acting of the whole film. It's especially disappointing to see Dhawan in such a hit-and-miss act, after he proved himself worthy of playing complex characters with Badlapur early in the year. At least he (and Shraddha) manage to dance pretty well, although he's no Channing Tatum.
All in all, ABCD 2 is too melodramatic and too impressed with itself to be able to deliver an eye-popping dance spectacle that you expect and deserve. Barring a couple of well-choreographed sequences, Remo D'Souza doesn't give you much to see here. If you're looking for that great Bollywood dance-off film, you'll have to wait and see if ABCD 3 does it for you.