You'd wonder why it took so long before Bollywood finally came up with its own dedicated film about dance. With dance incorporated into just about every film, perhaps that was reason enough not to have a movie that dwells within the confines of a dance premise, which the US has in its Step Up franchise and UK with its StreetDance equivalent. But the lucrativeness of these franchises mean untapped opportunity, so why not make one and dabble with the 3D technology as well? The result is the aptly titled ABCD - Any Body Can Dance, because if anything, every character here does show off a thing or two, of the rhythm within.
And not to mention the success of the wildly popular Dance India Dance television series that also made that final push for box office potential, with some of the participants also making it to the film in leading roles. The storyline by Tushar Hiranandani is kept functional, and really simple. After all, all you need is an excuse to assemble a crew, and have them put through the paces in rehearsals and competition whether underground or official, to have highly choreographed item numbers to thrill the movie going audience. It begins with the rivalry within Jahangir Khan (Kay Kay Menon) and Vishnu (Prabhu Deva), the brains behind JDR, a dance troupe who is once again crowned champions in the nationwide Dance Dil Se competition, only for the former to kick out the latter through the employment of foreign talent.
It took a while before things started to pick up, because of the necessity for Vishnu to go through the motion of moping about what he should be doing, whether to go back to Chennai and continue teaching dance, or hang around in New Delhi to take another potshot at Dance Dil Se, with a vastly different crew. And helping him assemble something is good friend Gopi (Ganesh Acharyaas), although the members they finally get into their troupe are hardly any professional to begin with.
Like any self-respecting dance movie, this is again the requisite characters necessary to impart values like teamwork, camaraderie, trust, loyalty, and more essentially, dance skills through various training montage. And having a rag-tag crew also allowed little subplots to creep in, such as romantic rivalries, parental objections to all things modern and deemed destructive to culture, envy, melodrama, and drug abuse even, that allows individual characters their respective share of the limelight, given so many supporting ones who will inevitably fall by the wayside.
As far as competition goes, we don't really get to see much of JDR in action, especially since they're progressively turned into a balletic outfit courtesy of their new choreographer from the US imparting something that's quite lacking in the imagination. After all, they're an outfit who are dancing to impress, moving away from Vishnu's, and their original philosophy of dancing to express. So we follow DDR for the most parts, in watching how Vishnu whips up a motley bunch into a well oiled machine able to take on some of the best, especially with its inventive choreography.
Which in truth belonged to the multitude of choreographers that Bollywood is no lack of, providing an opportunity to showcase various dance forms through DDR's execution and their march towards the finals of the Dance Dil Se competition. Even Prabhu Deva playing Vishnu has to put his foot where his mouth is, given once central spot before the interval to dance and demonstrate a thing or two why he is and still at the top of his game. Unlike the HOllywood counterparts, the camerawork and editing here all combined seamlessly in providing the audience with the best possible vantage point in which to observe the dance and dancers, and nary did any put on the wrong foot such that you'd miss something crucial to their movement. It's only a pity though that there's no screen in Singapore showing the 3D version, as you can tell that deliberate care has been taken to craft this for the 3D medium.
While some dance choregraphy and sub-plots may have already been suspiciously experienced before in other films, there's no doubt that the key ingredient to the film's success is its ability to blend culture into dance, which will whip up any audience into a frenzy. And I suppose that is the key message, that while things we share and experience can be universal, culture is what will truly make a people stand out and differentiate themsleves for the better. And in this case, if others can make a dance film, so can India, and doing it even better! For those venturing into dance movies fo the first time, ABCD should be on the top of your list, and for fans of dance movies, this is something you'll not want to miss!
P.S. It's interesting to note that besides the Smoking is Injurious to Health warning at the start of every Bollywood movie of late that features scenes that have characters smoking, a little warning also appears at the bottom of the screen just when the deed is about to be done!