If a character helps poor people, feeds the homeless, leads a team to victory in a dance competition, and says dialogues like, “No rules, no jury… Only fury,” isn’t he the hero? When a character helps her boyfriend’s dance team learn killer dance moves, looks like a million bucks, dances like a dream, and is sensuous to boot, isn’t she supposed to be the heroine?
But in ABCD 3… I mean, Street Dancer 3D, the kind-hearted dancer, Prabhudheva, and the… well, kind-hearted dancer Nora Fatehi, play supporting roles to Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor’s Sahej and Inayat, an Indian and a Pakistani, respectively. While I was afraid this angle would be milked to give us another jingoistic chest-thumping clarion call for a ‘surgical dance strike’ on our neighbouring country, writer-director Remo D’Souza saves us from this cliche. Unfortunately, this is the only cliche he saves us from, as he goes to town on every dance movie trope that has existed since the Step Up series was unleashed on an unsuspecting audience in 2006.
After taking a detour to make a superhero film and a drab addition to a franchise that has overstayed its welcome, Remo returns to what he does best — assemble one dance-off after another to string together a film that has its heart in the right place. In between this, lies an emotional tale involving illegal immigrants, shattered dreams, and rigid stereotypes. But the film, which is based in London, takes too long to get there.
We understand the teams — Sehaj’s Street Dancers and Inayat’s Rule Breaker — are rivals. They constantly clash at Prabhudheva’s pub while watching cricket matches. They clash in the middle of the roads taunting each other. However, we know there will be a common point where they join hands. And that point marks one of the highs of Street Dancer. The fact that it is inspired by a true story lends the whole proceedings some unlikely gravitas. In these emotional scenes, Varun brings his acting chops to the table. Otherwise, it is his abs and limbs that do most of the talking. Prabhudheva being the one who walks, or rather dances, away with the best lines of the film. He even does a better job of uniting India and Pakistan than… well, let’s not go there.
On the dancing front, Varun and Shraddha give their best alongside Salman Yussuf, Punit Pathak, Dharmesh Yelande, Raghav Juyal, and Sushant Pujari. Even the competing teams from Germany, UK, Nepal, and Africa, are no pushovers.
However, the dance-offs, though extraordinary in 3D, get tedious. It also begs the question as to what constitutes filmy dance anymore. Is it only pop-locking, mannequin, and acrobatic styles? Why are our dance films becoming increasingly about jaw-dropping formations than reproducible movements? What ever happened to the styles made famous by our very own Govinda, Jeetendra, and even Varun in non-ABCD-type films? Nevertheless, there are only so many lasers, Shehenshah-suits, and rain dances a 3D viewer can take. It is fun to see Prabhudheva swing his hat towards us after finishing his moves in the Mukkabla remix.
It is even amusing to see confetti, sand, water, dust, and donuts flying towards us in 3D, but a sweat droplet off Nora’s hips being flicked towards us might be pushing things too far… for some.
As the Indian and Pakistani teams dance together and conjure up a tricolor to satiate the nationalistic fervour that seems to be at an all-time high, I couldn’t help but smile. Who’d have thought that in this current political climate, it will be Remo D’Souza and Prabhudheva who would bring to us a film that basically cries out loud — United we stand, divided we fall.