Summary: Remo is a Dilletantish Storyteller But A Virtuoso Choreographer; With A Committed Cast Who Give Honest Performances, He Gives Us A Mildly Yet Consistently Entertaining Work
Remo D’Souza is a dilettante in the art of storytelling. He isn’t able to proficiently explain and construct his character motivations and narrative respectively nor is he able to write something truly novel. His films’ themes are predictable and visibly repetitive, his plots have hardly any complexity and both his works are I believe borrowed from Hollywood ideas (his first feature film disaster ‘F.A.L.T.U’ was the Hindi version of a 2005 movie ‘Accepted’). The only difference between his debut attempt and sophomore effort is that the latter has its heart in the right place for the obvious reason that the movie is all about ‘dance’ and not some faltu ‘s.h.i.t’ (those who’ve watched Accepted will get the pun).
Yes, Remo D’Souza is a dilettante in the art of storytelling, but he is doubtlessly a virtuoso in the arts of dance and choreography and with the perfect theme to complement his talents, he is able to put up a mildly albeit consistently entertaining work that has a clearer vision and cleaner execution than his dismally wonky ‘F.A.L.T.U’. His cast in ‘ABCD’ also has a major role in realizing his vision successfully, mainly because the actors who played dancers are dancers themselves in real life and so they are able to understand their characters and their struggles much easily without looking too artificial or schmaltzy.
ABCD, acronym for Anybody Can Dance, uses the classic theme of competitive rivalry with Jahangir Khan (played by Kay Kay Menon) the pompous, calculative and ego-maniacal head of a prestigious dance academy clashing with Vishnu (played by Prabhu Deva), the former head choreographer at his academy who quits after Jahangir relegates him to desk-job duties just to accommodate a new foreign choreographer. Jahangir’s monomaniacal ambition is to win awards, name, fame, money and personal glory and he heedlessly crushes anyone who comes in his way. Vishnu on the other hand believes that the best man should win, and so he leads life righteously and encourages his protégés to do the same. When Vishnu moves in with his old buddy Gopi (played by Ganesh Acharya), he discovers immense latent potential in some of the youth there and makes up his mind to teach them everything he knows for free. The motley of youngsters is divided into two rival gangs, one led by Rocky and the other by D; Rocky’s gang is less tapori (street) than D’s gang, and they are the ones who readily accept Vishnu’s offer. Slowly, Vishnu’s team builds with D’s gang joining in first, then a few others in the locality and lastly Rhea, the lead dancer of Jahangir Dance Academy who quits after being fondled by Jahangir during rehearsals. Both the rival groups enter a national dance event similar to the popular Dance India Dance show (most of the dancers in the movie are former contestants of the show) and try giving their best shot at winning the prestigious title, but Vishnu’s group has to overcome many obstacles on the way.
A surprising thing about ABCD is that its story is’nt flat. I liked the way they used Ganesh Chaturti as an important motif in the film and was impressed by the manner in which Jahangir and Vishnu’s ongoing rivalry parallels with Rocky and D’s. There is a scene towards the climax of the film when we realize someone from Vishnu’s group has switched loyalty and joined hands with Jahangir’s group, and here we are kept in suspense for about a minute where we are keen to know whether the person whom everyone suspense indeed turns out to be the Judas. Well, I do not intend to reveal the suspense which is surprising in an effective way, and the entire sequence leading to the climax is well shot. My personal favorite dance sequence is when Vishnu’s group perform dressed as clowns after being told off in the previous round that they were only selected to ‘entertain like clowns and get TRPs’. The movie does drag in the middle and I feel it is because the screenwriters didn’t have much in mind about what to do with all these dancers and so they added some uninteresting and trivial subplots that don’t really add up to anything consequential.
The thing that’s helped a lot in saving the film is the cast, which is quite likable. Everyone in the theater except me knew the dancers since I’m the only guy who doesn’t watch Dance India Dance, yet I smiled often at the cast’s peppy presence and genuine attempt at filling their roles; it shows that despite being paid comparatively marginal fee and having zero or little acting experience, these dancers at least bother trying unlike those mega- stars like Salman and Akshay Kumar who’ve being doing every new role on autopilot. I felt throughout ABCD that Prabhu Deva really cared about the film, and this could be seen in his performance; he is no Gene Kelly, he has little of Kelly’s suaveness and charisma but in this particular film, his lack of screen presence works to an extent as his character is supposed to be selfless plus he does compensate for that in his lengthy but exciting dance number. Ganesh Acharya’s casual charm made him noticeable but he has got to lose some weight. The dancers all try hard, especially the guy who plays the alcoholic (but his solo creeped me out) and bubbly Lauren Gottlieb whom I instantly recognized being a fan of So You Think You Can Dance. Kay Kay Menon has the best part in the film, and he shines during the movie’s resolution which I won’t reveal!
- With ‘ABCD…’ sequel, there’s pressure to surpass set standards: Remo (indiavision.com)