During a key scene in ABCD2, Varun Dhawan’s character Suresh, while delivering a pep talk to his dance troupe, emphasizes that “we dance to express, not to impress”. But don’t be taken in by that naïve declaration. Every little moment in this film is over-styled and over-scripted to the last detail – from the elaborate dance sequences that go on and on and on, to the emotional moments in this true-life inspired journey of a Nalasopara troupe that’s accused of cheating on a reality TV dance show. Apparently the only way to redeem themselves is by participating in a global hip-hop competition in Las Vegas. No prizes for guessing what happens at the end of this predictable scenario.
Like the earlier film, 2013’s ABCD, this sequel has some incredible dancing…that psychedelic opening sequence, a Chaplin-inspired routine, and even the dramatic Ganesha-infused climax. To be fair, everything is amped up in ABCD2, starting with the casting. Matinee idols Varun and Shraddha Kapoor step in to play the leads, a bump-up from the last time when professional dancers took central roles. The story and dialogues have more cheese than a double margarita pizza. This is 1980s melodrama wrapped up in 21st century hip-hop. In one scene where Suresh is chastised by a judge for cheating, he’s told that he has brought shame on his Padmashri Award-winning dancer mother who “died with her ghunghroos on”. I kid you not; they use those exact words!
Things look up when the disgraced troupe convinces Vishnu Sir (a returning Prabhudheva) to become their guru. In just one fluid sequence at a club, the veteran shows that he’s still got what it takes, easily outshining an entire bunch of dancers half his age. His acting is patchy, not unlike the professional dancers in this film who express so much more when they’re matching beat for beat. The script too, packs more clichés than I could count – a ‘bad’ German dance troupe that trash talks, a pivotal team member who betrays Suresh’s troupe, and a minor accident that results in the appearance of ABCD’s Lauren Gottlieb. This is the kind of movie where a deaf mute dancer coughs so incessantly that when he spits blood into a Turkish towel one morning, you’re hardly surprised.
Expectedly, ABCD2 makes up for its amateurish storytelling with its often jaw-dropping set pieces and the sheer hard work of its leads. Varun and Shraddha are so earnest, you’re willing to forgive their less-than-convincing histrionics because their dancing – particularly Varun’s – is mighty impressive. Both actors hold their own against the professionals without losing face.
If only director Remo D’Souza had curbed his enthusiasm and trimmed this film by a good half hour, it wouldn’t feel like such a slog. Despite all the high-energy up on screen, you feel drained after 155 minutes of non-stop song and dance. I’m going with a generous two-and-a-half out of five for ABCD2. Sure anybody can dance, but it takes more work to keep an audience consistently engaged.