Friday, June 19, 2015


Release date:
June 19, 2015
Remo D’souza

Prabhudheva, Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Lauren Gottlieb, Raghav Juyal, Sushant Pujari

The first half of Any Body Can Dance (ABCD) 2 seems to be precisely what it set out to be: a tribute to musicals of the Broadway and West End – not Bollywood – style, meaning: a very slim yet not insubstantial story woven through a series of great dance routines. No better introduction is needed to the intended promise of this film than that superb performance by Prabhudheva in a bar  to the song Happy hour hai.

And then it peters out for a sizeable part of the second half.

In a film of this genre, a complex storyline is neither expected nor necessary, but you do need to wrap up loose ends and maintain an unrelenting momentum with your dances. ABCD 2 does not. In some aspects, it seems not to be even trying. Fortunately, after faltering post-interval, it picks itself up to do justice to some of the most fantastic dancers ever to be assembled for a Hindi film.

No, ABCD 2 is not quite what it could have been, but it’s only fair to point out that when the going is good it’s so bloody darned good, that I’d rewatch it without batting an eyelid.

Director-choreographer Remo D’souza’s ABCD 2 is sort of a sequel to ABCD, the sleeper hit from 2013 that featured Prabhudheva as dance guru Vishnu struggling to cope with the politics in his troupe and the games being played by a rival. “Sort of a sequel” because Prabhudheva is back as Vishnu but other actors from the previous film return playing different people.

Vishnu is an alcoholic and a genius who is pursued by disgraced Mumbai dancer Suresh (Varun Dhawan) to train a troupe for a world hip-hop championship in Las Vegas. Suresh’s team had earlier been thrown out of a major Indian contest on charges of plagiarism. Desperate to regain his honour, Suresh courts Vishnu until he relents. The road to the finale in Vegas is filled with potholes, not the least of them being Vishnu’s past, but the central characters, including Suresh’s childhood friend Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor), refuse to give up on their passion for their art.

This being a film directed by a choreographer with multiple choreographers in the credits and several career dancers in the cast, it is not surprising that the dancing in ABCD 2 often boggles the mind. The cinematography is designed to inspire awe towards the dancers. Particularly interesting is the camerawork for the song If you hold my hand, deliberately designed to make Shraddha, Varun and Lauren Gottlieb seem like Lilliputians in a magnificent natural setting.

Both the cinematography and the choreography are well-suited to a 3D film. In fact, the choice of 3D was clearly not casually made. At many points in the film I felt I was part of the audience on screen. On other occasions it seemed like the audience on screen was seated among us.

The cast too is well chosen. Prabhudheva’s elastic body is part of Indian cinematic lore. Though he does not get enough scenes to showcase his legendary skills in ABCD 2, when he does dance he threatens to bring on a national epidemic of goosebumps.

Varun’s films so far have repeatedly showcased his considerable dancing talent. Though it is easy to separate the god from the disciple when Suresh matches steps with Vishnu, it is still evident that this young man is one of contemporary Bollywood’s best in that department.

The surprise package here is Shraddha. We already know she can act. Well. ABCD 2 shows us that she is a fluid, graceful dancer. It might be an over-statement to describe her as incredible, but it is obvious that she has the potential to get there. In fact, it would have been nice to see a greater focus on Vinnie in many more of the dance items in this film. 

The star dancer of ABCD 2’s youngsters though is Lauren playing the half-Indian Olive (not Rhea, the character she played in ABCD). The impact she makes is a measure of her considerable dancing skills, considering that she makes an appearance late in the second half. Yes the supporting players in Vishnu’s troupe are all amazing – in particular Raghav Jhuyal, Sushant Pujari and Dharmesh Yelande – but the one who chews up the screen with her moves during a solo act is Lauren. Tere naam ka tattoo is one of ABCD 2’s highlights.

The centrepiece of this film though is Hey Ganaraya which the entire team performs in Vegas. It must rank as one of the most beautiful stage dance sequences ever seen in Bollywood, complete with a stunning musical composition and rich costumes. This worthy tribute to Lord Ganesh is a brilliant Indian adaptation of hip hop which is an all-American freestyle dance form.

I wish the film had ended here. It did not.

I wish I could end this review here. I cannot.

ABCD 2 has too many flaws to be ignored. Firstly, too long a portion in the second half feels like a Las Vegas tourism ad. The dancing too, which is stupendous until the clock strikes interval, gets sterile for a while, with the early post-interval performances seeming more technically polished than drawn from the heart. All that changes, thankfully, with Olive’s arrival.

Lauren’s fire underlines a question begging to be asked: why do Remo’s films as director (F.A.L.T.U., ABCD, ABCD 2) have space for only one or two women in large male dancing line-ups. C’mon Remo, women are not exceptions among humans, they are a norm, just like men.

It’s inexplicable too that in a film filled with lovely songs by Sachin-Jigar and imaginative costumes, the director chose to end with a manipulatively patriotic number in which the men are togged out in awkward-looking outfits. Their semi-toplessness somehow does not work (despite the nice bodies on display), and the deshbhakti is just too high strung.

On the story front, the film seems often to be on the verge of telling us why Suresh indulged in plagiarism, yet it does not. How can a cheat be painted as a sweet soul without any explanation? Was the imitation unintentionally done at a sub-conscious level because he idolised the source and immersed himself in their work? Suresh and Vinnie seem to think he was unfairly accused, yet they don’t say why. This glaring loophole contributes to ABCD 2’s less than satisfactory feel.

An air of suspense is also sought to be built around Vishnu in Vegas, with him speaking on the phone to someone about money being arranged, yet we never find out why he needed that cash.

While the screenplay by Tushar Hiranandani and Remo can be faulted on these fronts, elsewhere the writers seamlessly inject sweetness into the proceedings, especially the Olive-Vinnie relationship which threatens briefly to blow up into a clichéd love triangle but does not.

Similarly, I just love the fact that a big deal is not made of Vishnu’s roots. Considering the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai, it’s strange that there are so few non-North Indian, non-Marathi characters in Mumbai films. From an industry that might once have caricatured Vishnu, it’s refreshing to see that a song and dance is not made about his being a south Indian, or for that matter about his heavily accented Hindi.

It’s just as nice to see notoriously non-inclusive Bollywood feature a significant deaf-mute character (Punit Pathak) in the story. It might have been even better if we could have understood exactly how he operates. There are actually some interesting technicalities involved here, as I learnt from watching Neerav Ghosh’s Soundtrack starring Rajeev Khandelwal as a DJ who loses his hearing, and the film on which it was based, It’s All Gone Pete Tong. ABCD 2 leaves us with this grandiose explanation: if you feel the music anybody can dance.

If only a teeny bit more attention had been paid to the writing of ABCD 2, this could have been a great film. Well, even with its blemishes, it is remarkably entertaining. Now waiting for ABCD 3.

Rating (out of five): **1/2

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
154 minutes

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