Remo D’souza is a brave man. He mostly resists the temptation of going for ‘typical Bollywood’ choreography and dishes out some lovely psychedelic, hip-hop, Broadway and other western dance forms in ABCD 2, sequel to his 2013 hit ABCD (Any Body Can Dance). I am not an authority to comment on the quality and level of dancing, but as an average movie lover seated in the theater, much of the choreography in ABCD 2 gives you goosebumps. Your limbs twirl a little and a bit of shiver runs down your spine during several dance sequences in the film – especially during Prabhu Deva’s stunning introductory dance number and the exhilarating Ganesha formation towards the climax. More on that later.
Despite song and dance being an integral part of syncretic Indian culture and particularly Bollywood films, genuine Hindi dance films are as rare as rains in Rajasthan. Director-choreographer Remo bucked the trend with ABCD in 2013, which featured an ensemble cast of relatively unknown reality show dancing gems. With ABCD 2, Remo ups the ante by assembling perhaps the finest bunch of dancer-actors, led by young stars Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor. The film is not exactly a sequel but rather a new installment in the ABCD franchise with only Prabhu Deva reprising his role of Vishnu – a dance guru like no other.
Like any other dance film, ABCD 2 has a wafer-thin storyline that traces the real-life journey of a disgraced dance troupe from Nallasopara, Mumbai that resurrects its reputation and represents India in the World Hip-Hop competition in Las Vegas. The troupe is led by Suresh (Varun Dhawan) and comprises his childhood friend Vinnie (Shradha Kapoor), Raghu (Raghav Juyal), Vernon (Sushant Pujari) and a host of other talented dancers which we have seen performing in numerous television shows.
The film has a breezy and hugely entertaining first half where, rather surprisingly, Prabhu Deva walks away with all the whistles courtesy his dancing and comic timing. The legendary dancer’s elastic moves leave you in awe in the song ‘Happy Hour Hai’ and you wish you could have seen more of Vishnu sir’s fabled dancing in the film. There are some other lovely dance routines in the first half and a neat little twist towards the intermission to keep you hooked.
However, things get a little haywire post intermission when the story and screenplay of the film start to crumble under their own weight. There are some unpolished and needless subplots that only add to the overall length of the film and prohibit it from becoming truly great and spectacular. Things change for better after Lauren Gottlieb makes a late but electrifying entry through the song ‘Tere Naam Ka Tattoo’. The song is so energetic and embellished with superior and glamorous dance moves that you almost forget and forgive the twenty odd minutes of agony post interval. Full points to Lauren for making a massive impact in what is a pretty shortened role. Her dancing caliber is amply displayed in the mesmerizing hip-hop tribute to Lord Ganesha in the song ‘Hey Ganaraya’. This dance sequence is so beautifully choreographed and conceptualized that you wish it could have been the climax of the film. But sadly, even after reaching this crescendo, the film meanders along for quite some time and the dance performances never really attain the same ‘high’.
Talking of loose ends, the film never reveals the motive behind the alleged plagiarism against the protagonist and his dance team. Some of the dance sequences in the second half seem to be stretched and attaining the climax becomes quite a task towards the end! These loopholes aside, the film gets its casting spot on with Varun Dhawan stamping his authority as one of the finest dancers in Bollywood. The young actor, however, is no match for Prabhu Deva, in the only sequence where the two share the dance floor, but you got to give credit to Varun Dhawan for being the heart and soul of ABCD 2. Shraddha Kapoor surprises with her dancing talent and does a fine job of role as Vinnie. All the other actors in the film are terrific dancers or should I say vice-versa? Specially, for Raghav Juyal whose comic timing is very much aimed at the galleries.
The scale and canvas of ABCD 2 is mind-boggling with top-notch choreography – something that you expect when Remo and other top names collaborate, fascinating cinematography (Vijay Arora) and intelligent use of special effects. Much of the film’s soundtrack is enjoyable, thanks to Sachin-Jigar’s soulful compositions. Editing, one feels, could have definitely been tighter and the screenplay could have surely avoided some of the deviations.
But, all said and done, ABCD 2 is a thorough entertainer that takes Indian dance films to an all-new level. A film that gets your heart pumping and your body grooving even while you are seated, and never really lets you down despite its near three hour long run time. Go out in the theater with your dancing shoes on, grab your popcorn and behold the spectacle of dancing brilliance!
Rating: ***1/2 (Very Good)