Re-tracing pretty much the same plotline as the D’Souza’s first ABCD (2013), Suresh (Dhawan) a struggling dancer rejected from dance completion is about to give up when he chances upon Vishnu (Prabhudeva), a dance icon Suresh worships. Enlisting help from gal pal Vinnie (Kapoor), Suresh manages to coax Vishu out of his self-imposed retirement. They join forces in bringing together a rag tag dance group that sets its eyes on conquering an international dance gig in Las Vegas. The group soon learns that getting to Sin City is the easy part. The real problems are plans that take unexpected turns, alliances that bloom in strange fashion, motives that go unchecked and those darned romances that complicate just about everything.
The flash and tinsel infusion and the depth-defying 3-D touches make it clear early on that this is all courtesy the dream factory at Disney. The opening credits have neon-in-black-light body counters that Disney first used in the ground-breaking Tron (1982). From there the magic of dance takes over. D’Souza and Prabhudeva —without a doubt the most famous dancer from India—line an eye-popping array of precision group routines that seemingly bend gravity. The use of an aircraft carrier as a prop (yes, really—the retired India navy’s huge Vikrant guest stars intermittently!) also pings on 3-D radar.
The duo Sachin-Jigar’s carefree musical score fits the story hand-in-shiny-glove. Shefali Alvarez’s “Tatoo,” filmed on Gottleib’s gazelle-on-the-Serengeti silky moves, will naturally find its way to the headphone during a gym workout routine. Arijit Singh’s “Chunar” is a somber, well-done ode to a maternal promise. From there, Benny Dayal’s puppy-love struck “If You Hold My Hand” and Daler Mehndi piping the high notes in “Vande Matram” round out a fresh-sounding album.
The first ABCD, even with 3-D thrown in, was made fairly inexpensively and, given a thickly urban, youthful appeal, found its box office breakeven point (and then some) fairly quickly. ABCD 2, premised with the same demographic in mind and made with a reported $10 million budget, has so far made $30 million—a tidy sum that makes it one of the biggest Hindi movie box office hauls of 2015 so far. The combination of Dhawan’s continuing box office success (Badlapur, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania) and better marketing from the filmmakers has surely paid off.
Dhawan and Kapoor have an appealing chemistry both on and off the dance floor. To add a third, um, dimension to their on-again-off-again romance, Gottlieb is a dancing lightning bolt. First noticed on the American dance-reality show So You Think You Can Dance, Gottlieb adds a come-hither Other Woman mystique while keeping it real on the dance floor. Prabhudeva’s reluctant dance-master Vishnu nicely tosses up a hidden agenda when he gets to Vegas and Menon rolls as a conniving club patron. Where we cringe, and mercifully not often, is the shoddy writing that features sophomoric catch-phrases (“We dance to express, not impress!”).
ABCD 2—dare we call it a franchise—has a self-proclaimed hashtag as “India’s First 3D Dance Movie.” One may beg to differ since just about all Hindi movies, including other entries that have been released in both 2-D and 3-D versions (think Ra.One, Raaz, Mr. X and the recent Mexican-Indian animated fantasy and awesomely titled Wicked Flying Monkeys) feature dancing. That calling card, however, doesn’t necessarily diminish ABCD 2. If anything, it paves the way for (very likely) one or more sequels. The chumps-to-champs scenario has a sweet underdog appeal that finds a sweet spot here not as a great drama but as slam-bang dance flick with a take-home soundtrack. Like it!