Movie Review: ANY BODY CAN DANCE (2013)
Renowned Bollywood Choreographer Remo D’Souza turned Director and debuted with his first movie in 2011 in the most horrible way imaginable: by ripping off a Hollywood movie. Titled F.A.L.T.U., this ‘remake’ Justin Long‘s ACCEPTED focused on the concept of education in India, and how repressing it can be, in contrast to students that flourish given the opportunity to choose their careers based on interest and talent; same as the original Hollywood movie, but with a lot more bad. For a more comprehensive and angry rant about how bad it was, check out my full review here. So 2 years later, it’s surprising to see how much the Director has grown with only his 2nd film. Here is my Movie Review of ANY BODY CAN DANCE (ABCD)…
Blank Page Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pivots
The movie is exactly how it sounds; the Bollywood equivalent of a typical dance movie with an urban and stylized young cast and a whole lot of kung-fu fight—- I mean dancing. However, ABCD is able to build on the formulaic with some pretty innovative concepts never before seen in a Bollywood film. The story starts with a dance academy group winning a competition despite not giving the best performance among the rest of the finalists. Their win was due owner, Jahangir Khan, paying off the judges, the revelation of which doesn’t sit well with his partner and Dance Guru, Vishnu, played by real life choreographer and Director, Prabhudeva. My one complaint with ABCD would be, that despite the implied inner workings behind the world of Dance, the film fails to fully expose us to the Industry. Similar to sports, having fame and fortune, causes ripple effects and repercussions motivating the antagonist Jahangir Khan to be so greedy and corrupt, but this is never actually shown. Given the subject matter, a bit more screen time featuring the overwhelming pressure and monetary value that is placed on the talent in such an industry, thereby driving parents and coaches to act in the extremes, would have better suited the context of the initial conflict between Vishnu & Jahangir. It also would’ve provided deeper motivations for Kay Kay Menon‘s evil corporate sell out routine instead of the obligatory villain he ended up portraying.
Moving on, Jahangir’s attitude of corporatizing what Vishnu believes to be self-expression, causes a major rift between the two. After being humiliated and kicked out of the academy that he himself founded due to these differences, Vishnu is all set to return to his home village as a failure, when he comes across some neighborhood hooligans, with some severe potential. Watching a group of kids have an interest in, and show some amateur skills, Vishnu decides that he will teach and train them to become dancers that rival Jahangir’s. The rest of the movie follows a very typical approach to storytelling as we’re shown the usual stereotypes, crazy dance sequences and parental disapprovals to their kids involved in something so ‘frivolous’.
Where ABCD really excels is the story, which is emotional while not trying to be exploitative; endearing and inspirational without becoming self-indulgent and has an incredibly social message for the youth of today without being preachy. There are great scenes that encourage acceptance and does an amazing job of interweaving characters from different walks of life, finding a sense of direction and purpose in this physical art form. India rarely presents individualistic career choices for their youth, and even rarely focuses on the importance of community programs that can engage and dissuade middle class kids from a life of addiction, crime or other forms of trouble. ABCD hits all these notes very seamlessly within the narrative of the storyline.
The most amazing thing of ABCD has to be its cast. They are not a phenomenally talented bunch, nor are they supermodels or star kids, but I suspect most of them were selected for their dancing abilities, and I wouldn’t be surprised further if they were students of Remo D’Souza himself. However, despite this obviously amateur cast, everyone performs so well within the scope of their roles that it’s another feather in the cap for a film showcasing a different perspective. Most notable of these actors has to be Dharmesh Yelande who is one half of a neighborhood rival crew that has to learn to work together while being part of this dance group that Vishnu attempts to form. One more worthy mention has to go to Punit Pathak, who plays a drug addict who has to overcome peer pressure and the misdirection of life to find meaning through dance. His story arc is amazingly well done and kudos has to go to Remo and screenwriter Tushar Hirannandani, whose every movie I’ve hated thus far, but seems to be on the upswing of his career having written recent films like MAIN TERA HERO & EK VILLAIN. It’s a credit to the entire team of ABCD that a pretty formulaic story was executed so well by an amateur director with an entire ensemble cast of young and amateur actors.
ANY BODY CAN DANCE is not devoid of cheesy moments and simplistic filmmaking, however the heart and soul of the film lies in its intentions and its portrayal of the youth of India who find meaning and purpose in something that is usually dismissed and derided as being lofty and unrealistic. The South Asian industry is one of rich culture, heritage and arts, yet they are also a global stereotype for contributing the most careers to the industries of Engineers, Medicine and Technology. Films like ABCD go a long way to educate the masses of how important extracurricular and otherwise artistic interests can be to enriching to the lives of youth. I, for one am eagerly awaiting the recently announced sequel!