Movie Review: ABCD: Any Body Can Dance (2013)

Anybody-can-dance3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Indian production houses have recently been fumbling with attempts to make movies targeted at urban teens with disposable income. ABCD: Any Body Can Dance is the first film to really hit its target audience. It’s vibrant and fresh without feeling condescending.

ABCD follows a familiar formula. An adult with something to prove whips a scruffy bunch of kids into shape, helping them grow as individuals and as a group of friends. It’s Chak De India, but with dancing instead of field hockey. This isn’t a knock on ABCD. The formula works, so why not use it? A good formula executed poorly results in a bad movie. Thankfully, ABCD is well-executed.

Prabhu Deva anchors the film as Vishnu. Booted as the lead choreographer at Mumbai’s most popular dance studio to make way for a flashy new choreographer from New York, Vishnu contemplates returning to his native Chennai. His friend and fellow dance teacher, Gopi (Ganesh Acharyaas), talks Vishnu into staying in town for a few more days, during which time Vishnu spots some talented young people dancing at a religious festival.

The dancers are divided into two rival factions headed by Rocky (Salman Yusuff Khan) and D (Dharmesh Yelande). Rocky’s crew immediately accepts Vishnu’s offer to mentor them, but D’s crew needs more convincing. Vishnu must get Rocky and D to set their egos aside for the group to have any chance of beating Vishnu’s former studio, JDC, in the national televised dance competition, “Dance Dil Se” (“Dance From the Heart”).

Vishnu’s new school gets a boost when a former student, Rhea (Lauren Gottlieb), defects from JDC after the head of the school, Jahangir (Kay Kay Menon), makes a pass at her. Menon is great as the slimy director of the studio. Gottlieb, a former competitor on So You Think You Can Dance in the U.S., does a nice job in her debut role in a Hindi film. Obviously, she’s an incredible dancer.

The dancing is ABCD‘s selling point, and it does not disappoint. All of the routines — from flashy stage numbers to solo performances in the rehearsal space — are really entertaining. The 3D effects added to the big routines don’t add much, but they aren’t distracting either.

For the most part, the acting is solid. All of the younger cast members — many of whom made their names on dance competition shows in India — do a great job, as does Prabhu Deva. Ganesh Acharyaas overacts as Gopi, turning what could’ve been a warm character into a source of distraction. Also distracting is Pankaj Tripathi in a minor role as a politician in a neck brace who speaks in an inexplicably bizarre voice.

Another problem in ABCD is the lack of development of all but a few characters. There are about a dozen additional dancers in the Vishnu’s group, and only a few of their names are spoken in the movie. Director Remo D’Souza could’ve dispensed with a needless anti-drug subplot to at least give the supporting characters names.

Something about the ethnic makeup of the dancers at JDC struck me as funny. The Mumbai school, which performs a style that is mostly Western contemporary, is made up of Indian boys and white girls. There isn’t a single Indian girl in the company. There’s no explanation for why this is, nor does it keep JDC from being the most popular dance group in India. It’s weird.

What I especially enjoyed about the dancing in ABCD is the way the numbers refrain from objectifying the women in the cast, treating them as equal members of the company. There are no item girls in ABCD. It’s refreshing.

If anything, the men in the cast are the ones being objectified. The dance crew is mostly made up of young, fit dudes who spend a lot of time with their shirts off. As a woman who sees a lot of Hindi movies, it was nice to be the target audience for a sexy dance number for a change.


30 thoughts on “Movie Review: ABCD: Any Body Can Dance (2013)

  1. Vivian

    This comes as a surprise to me, 3.5 stars. I wanted to watch this movie as I enjoy the reality show Dance India Dance,the actors in this movie were contestants in this show, but the reviews I read made me change my mind. So opted for Special 26 this week. Now that u have given it 3.5 stars, will surely we watching it the coming weekend.

    Thanks for the review Kathy.

    1. Kathy

      Vivian, this is one of the cases where I like a movie because it gave me exactly what I wanted. I didn’t expect to be blown away by an intricate story; I just wanted to see some cool dancing. The movie is full of great dancing and good-looking dudes, so I was happy. After you watch it, please come back and let me know if any of the other dancers besides Rocky and D were from “Dance India Dance.” I’ve never seen the show. I hope you enjoy it!

      1. Vivian

        Sure Kathy, I know for a fact that there are 8-9 (mayhe more) other contestants from the reality show. Remo was a judge of the show so he had announced ABCD on the show itself and introduced the casts too. Salman was a winner of season 1 and Dharmesh was a contestant of season 2. Dharmesh was my fav from season 2 but he did not win. Once I see the movie I will definitely tell u who else were from the show.

  2. meeradarjiyr1

    Great review! Need to watch this, theres been a lot of hype and promo’s of this film, just hope its as promising. Im glad, well more like relieved that there’s no item number songs, as it would just make it simply frustrating and yet again, stereotypical. In fact I actually though this film may be familier to Step Up? Once again, great review!

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  4. Vivian

    Hi Kathy!

    Am back and this time I did watch ABCD. Completely agree with your review now that I have watched it, enjoyed the entire movie. The acting was nothing much to talk about but as u said its a dance movie and as a dance movie it was awesome in Vishu Sir words. Loved every dance sequence from the movie the final act was just brilliant including the music, also liked the rain dance sequence and the song Bezubaan.

    Thanks for the review, had it not been for your review I would have given it a miss.

    Majority of the casts were contestants on the dance show, Chandu (Punit), Mayur (Mayuresh), Rushali (Vrushali), Biscuit (Prince), Polly, Bhavna. There were others as well but their names were not taken even once in the movie, so u might not recognize. I know the real names of few. The curly hair guy in Salmans team was Kishore, the starting act the girl in orange from Lawrence dance school was Mohena and one guy from D’s team his name was Saajan. There was another guy dont remember his name though. Its quite a popular Dance reality show in India running for over 6 years.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks so much for the info on the cast, Vivian! And I’m really glad you liked the movie. When ABCD comes out on DVD, I’m going to watch it again with a cast photo in front of me so I can match up the names of characters with the actors. I really wish they would’ve said the minor character names more than (or at least) once. The curly-haired guy with the tattoos in D’s gang is cute, and I hope he gets more movie work. 🙂

  5. Vivian

    You’re welcome Kathy. No problem at all, its one of my favourite shows, been following every season, I watch episodes on youtube too, am that crazy for the show, hence I know the names of most of them. I dont know if u remember but one of the three girls from the item song of Rowdy Rathore, Aa re pritam pyare was the winner of season 2 (Shakti) and Salman winner of season 1 had a song in Wanted.

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