Seven years ago, Remo D'Souza and team gave us ABCD
, which was touted to be "India's first full-fledged dance film" and "India's answer to Step Up". And despite a familiar plot, ABCD managed to entertain us enough to warrant the making of a bigger sequel - ABCD 2
, two years later - and now an even bigger successor, this timed named Street Dancer. But unfortunately, as the franchise grows bigger and bigger, its heart seems to just keep getting smaller.
Street Dancer has Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor in the lead again after ABCD 2. This time around, the movie is set in London. The first half focuses on the rivalry between two dance teams from India and Pakistan, with Dhawan's Sahej leading the Indian team and Kapoor's Inayat leading the Pakistani team. The two teams are content trying to go one up on each other all the time, until an issue much larger than them compels them to join forces in order to do the right thing. And as is the norm in D'Souza's franchise, we have Prabhu Deva playing Anna, the guiding force of the young dancers.
To put it in a simple way, Street Dancer is but an upscaled version of the first ABCD. The central conflict is the same - two rival teams learning to forget their differences and uniting to fight against a bigger enemy. Only that this time the setting has been changed from two competing teams in a small basti to teams belonging to different countries. And the stakes are also higher this time around, with their victory being the only way to help illegal migrants find their way home. And of course, we get a scene where the Indian Michael Jackson's dancing skills are questioned, paving way for him to break into an awe-inducing jig.
Despite these similarities, where Street Dancer falls short is its lack of connect with the audience. ABCD was a film that was very rooted in the Indian milieu. The setting was India, the people were Indians, and the dances were a good blend of Indian and the Western dance forms. It truly felt like a home-grown dance movie. But Street Dancer in its attempt to go big forgets the very thing that made ABCD a success - the rootedness. There is nothing that distinguishes Street Dancer from the numerous dance films already existing in the West. There is no variation in the dancing styles, either, except for the climatic dance. Many a times, it is hard to keep track of which team is dancing when, since they all dance in the same way.
And then there is the plot itself - if a few scenes interspersed among dance sequences can be called a plot. The intentions of the makers cannot be faulted - at a time when hatred is thriving in the country, it is nice to see a movie that makes you root for both India and Pakistan, and spreads the message of communal harmony. At the same time, it makes you wonder why the final dance sequence with both teams together show only the colors of the Indian flag. There is also no cohesion in the narrative - the film just tries to put various plot points together without any structure. Nothing happens organically - stuff just happens because the film wants it to happen. This just goes to show again that good intentions alone are not enough to make a good movie.
But then again, the target audience for these films don't really care about the plot. The dances are admittedly remarkably good. Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor are not on par with the other professional dancers in the movie (especially Kapoor), but they come pretty close. The choreography is excellent, and the dancers sometimes making you wonder if they have any bones in their body. But it is undoubtedly the master - Prabhu Deva - who steals the show. Compared to the other two films, he gets to dance more here, and that can never be a bad thing. It is indeed unfathomable how the man can be so flexible and energetic even in his late 40s.
When it comes to acting, everyone in the cast can be summed up in one word - earnest. This description holds especially true for Dhawan, Aparshakti Khurana and Puneet Pathak who do their level best to make you care for their one-note characters. Kapoor is not bad, but in the scenes where she is supposed to exude swag and coolth, she is barely convincing. Prabhu Deva is a fun presence, but his Hindi diction is still very poor. However, that can be forgiven here since a South Indian living in London need not be very comfortable speaking in Hindi.
The music is yet another area where Street Dancer disappoints. Music is of utmost importance in a dance movie, but none of the songs in this one makes a mark - probably because most of them are rehashes of other songs (the Muqabla remix is especially unforgivable). And it still remains a mystery why this film has been made in 3D when it would have been perfectly fine as a normal 2D experience. Things just keep coming at your face for no reason to create the 3D effect - ranging from donuts and water droplets to sweat beads from Nora Fatehi's waist. The movie keeps switching from 3D to 2D randomly, too, which gets really irritating at times.
If you are one of the people who enjoyed Remo D'Souza's previous dance films and are a sucker for dance reality shows, you would probably enjoy experiencing Street Dancer in the theatres. As for the others, you might be better off waiting until the music videos come out on YouTube.