Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Nora Fatehi, Prabhu Deva, Aparshakti Khurrana

Director: Remo D’Souza

Street Dancer 3D is like a very long episode of India’s Got Talent. A verrrrrrrrry long episode. Without the ad breaks, and with unnecessary hare-brained plot squeezed in between its wall-to-wall dance numbers. It’s also in 3D, which means that all manner of props are hurled at you – from hats to donuts – while you sit helplessly waiting for some respite.

I haven’t been an especially big fan of the ABCD franchise, but to give credit where its due these films have given visibility to, and brought to the forefront some talented dancers who are forever relegated to the background in other films. These movies put them front and centre of the action, even giving them speaking roles despite their limited acting skills. But the problem with this franchise is that for some reason the makers think these films need to be about something more than the dancing. Something ‘important’, something ‘serious’. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In Street Dancer 3D, which is the third instalment in the ABCD franchise, the story unfolds in London. Two dance troupes, one Indian and one Pakistani, are constantly at each other’s throats. Varun Dhawan plays Sahej, who heads the Indian troupe. Shraddha Kapoor is Inayat, who is with the Pakistani side. Both teams hang out at a restaurant run by Prabhu Deva, and spend their time exchanging barbs, squabbling over India vs Pakistan cricket matches, or challenging each other to dance-offs. Then the ‘important plot’ kicks in.

It concerns a bunch of illegal immigrants who arrived in London with big dreams but are hiding out in a tunnel, hungry, homeless, unable to make ends meet. Inayat wants to help them, and Sahej is carrying around guilt of his own. So both their teams enter a coveted dance competition.

I promise I’m not making this up.

The dance numbers in the film are slick, colourful, energetic and frequently awe-inspiring. There is real talent on display here, and that cannot be denied. But the truth is that these dance numbers are also completely interchangeable. Replace one with another from an entirely different situation in the film and it makes no difference whatsoever. One of the big ‘items’ is a performance by Prabhu Deva to his own classic number Muqabla, which makes you wistful about a time when dancing in Hindi films was about fluidity and joy and abandon, and not just back-to-back over-choreographed set-pieces.

Returning director Remo D’Souza saves the best performance for the last when – spoiler alert – the Indian and Pakistani teams unite, and the film decides to turn the British dance troupe into the villains. It’s all set to the tune of Mile sur mera tumhara, and to be fair the energy of the performers coupled with the sheer rousing nature of the track make this act the film’s big highlight.

Alas it’s too little too late. For nearly two and a half hours we’ve been subjected to corny plotting and hammy performances. Nora Fatehi is most nimble on the dance floor, but her permanent deer-in-the-headlights expression does not amount to acting. The usually dependable Aparshakti Khurrana is reduced to a slobbering mess as a down-on-his-luck immigrant desperate to return to his watan. Shraddha Kapoor does what she can with the slim material, Varun Dhawan over-compensates by overacting.

Street Dancer 3D left me feeling exhausted, and the 3D, although not bad at all, felt entirely unnecessary. Please god, let them not go in for 4D when they decide to make Street Dancer 4. The thought of sitting in a seat that’ll move and shake and vibrate to the music is already giving me a queasy feeling in my stomach.

I’m going with two out of five for Street Dancer 3D. Next time make it shorter, keep the plot simple, and just stick to the dancing, will you?

Rating: 2 / 5