One would imagine that even as he sat down to chalk out the movie outline, Remo would have worn two hats for ABCD2 – Remo the director and Remo the choreographer and dancer. And each hat pointing him to a different direction for the movie. The director and story writer in him nudging the way to a stirring, emotionally uplifting story about the true story of the “Fictitious” dance group from the Mumbai suburbs of Nalasopara – about how Suresh and Vernon fought ignominy and hardships, and actually went on to participate and reach the finals of the World Hip Hop Championship in 2012. On the other hand, maybe Remo didn’t bother putting on the aforesaid hat and jumped into making ABCD2 with the skillful twirl of a master dancer that he is. Once realization pirouettes on his approach to the movie, you try not to bother about what this movie could have been and instead go with the hip-hop flow of what’s on the screen.
After a relentless social media expose’, the Mumbai Stunners group face sniggering humiliation at their respective workplaces and are close to disbanding as a dance team. The upshot of all this is that their leader, Suresh (Varun Dhawan), decides to seek redemption in an international hip-hop dance competition to be held in Las Vegas. Giving him company is his childhood friend Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor) along with Raghu (Raghav Juyal), Vernon (Sushant Pujari), Chotu (Praveen Bhosale), and others. But the road to Vegas is filled with booty-poppin problems, beginning with the search for a guru who’ll moonwalk them to success, getting all finances in place, and of course, building a new team because, barring some folks, all others have abandoned the team, not wanting any association with a publicly-hounded plagiarist team.
As the drunken master who begrudgingly accepts to coach the Mumbai Stunners, Prabhu Deva is in almost the same quandary as his director. Emotions or dance? In his case, the answer’s preordained. Prabhu Deva’s entry is a sizzling one, with the catchy, funny “Happy Hour” number. Watching him slither, slide, bounce, bend his legs as if he’d replaced his joints with rubber parts, and yet be so graceful, it’s hard to take your eyes off him. And look at him in wonder, knowing within that you’re watching someone who is, arguably, India’s best dancer. However, we don’t see him dance after that, save for some tantalizing glimpses now and then. Which then leaves him to act. As the character who turns a shade of black in the second half, Prabhu grapples with scenes that are not always comfortable for him. He can be an effective tummler (as he is in some very silly scenes), but an overpouring-emotions-of-an-actor he is not, although that look in his eyes as he watches his team compete is something.
Varun Dhawan is extremely likeable throughout, and some of his dance numbers are fantastic. His anguish comes across superbly in the soul-baring “Chunar”, where he displays his emodancing skills with convincing grace. What he is strait-jacketed by is the story that doesn’t give him a chance to come into his own emotional space. Much like Shraddha Kapoor, who dances like a dream, spraying a stun gun on the audience with her moves. She’s a winner in the “Sun Saathiya” number, as she glides and flows, spinning and landing on her feather toes. And as the song ends, she gives a melt-your-heart look to Varun, just a glimpse, but absolutely dreamy. Again, Shraddha could have done more with more material, but she’s boxed in too.
Even as Varun and Shraddha hold your attention, it is the other dancers who lockstep their way into dazzling you. There’s the superb Raghav Juyal (who also delivers some good lines effectively), Dharmesh Yelande (with a knock out solo as he auditions for the team), Punit Pathak (another brilliant solo dance piece), Lauren Gottlieb (who wins it with her “Tattoo” dance sequence), and others. It is to Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor’s credit that they manage to hold their own amidst this dancing ensemble.
Director Remo whips out one dance after another from his hat and lets the rest of the movie and story flow around the dance sequences. In other words, he shortchanges emotions for spectacular dance arrangements. So there’s no time to mull over the initial cheating allegations that the dancing team faces. Or the love story between Varun and Shraddha. But if the climax is headed for a dance face off, there has to be disaster making its moves on stage. Remo throws in the cue for this pretty early in the movie, and coughs it up right when you expect him to. To me, the climactic dance sequence was more the requisite patriotism checked off the list than rousing. However, the semi-finals sequence, set to composers Sachin-Jigar’s superbly moving “Hey Ganaraya” is a beautiful experience. The choreography is stunning, the dancers have a mesmerizing emotional baggage here, and as Prabhu Deva watches them from the audience, his eyes brim with tears. It just might happen to you as well.
If you’re someone who gets their re-up by binge watching “Dance India Dance” episodes, this is your bingo ticket to ecstasy. Even if you don’t, ABCD2 just might warm your heart to see such fabulous talent that’s jiving and kicking in India – especially when you know that just like the group they represent onscreen, these dancers have their stories of struggle, some even harder than the story they danced in.
#VarunDhawan #ShraddhaKapoor #ABCD2 #remodsouza #LaurenGottlieb
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The trailer for ABDC2: