ABCD 2 tries way too hard. Earnest efforts pay off in the spectacular dance numbers, but the movie’s ham-handed moral and patriotic themes only inspire eye rolls.
ABCD 2 is not a direct followup to 2013’s ABCD: Any Body Can Dance. Many of the actors from the original are in the sequel, but in different roles. Prabhu Deva again plays a choreographer named Vishnu, but he’s not the same guy, which is needlessly confusing.
Vishnu 2.0 is a drunk, washed up Mumbai choreographer. He gets a chance at a fresh start when a disgraced hip-hop crew led by Suru (Varun Dhawan) asks for his help in winning an international competition in Las Vegas.
While the original ABCD was aimed at teenagers, ABCD 2 skews younger, with sophomoric humor and more explicit moral lessons woven into the story. Yet that’s what makes the redemption arc of Suru’s crew so darned awkward.
At the start of the film, Suru’s crew, the Mumbai Stunners, is the most popular group on an Indian TV dance competition show. During the show’s finale, the judges — one of whom is ABCD 2 director Remo D’Souza, playing himself — bust Suru and his buddy Vernon (Sushant Pujari) for copying the choreography of a hip-hop group from the Philippines. The Stunners are branded cheaters and thrown off the show.
The consequences haunt Suru, Vernon, and other members of the group like Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor), even at their day jobs. That prompts Suru to reform the Stunners and beg Vishnu’s help, hoping that victory in Vegas will prove their talent to the Indian audience that shunned them.
The problem is that Suru and Vernon — though mostly Suru — really did cheat, but they never admit it or apologize for it. They are punished by being kicked off the show, but they aren’t sorry. Even as his friends are ridiculed because of his devious actions, Suru doesn’t ask for their forgiveness.
The redemption-without-remorse lesson is a strange moral to preach to children. Worse, they meet the Filipino team they stole from at the Vegas dance competition, and no one mentions the theft. The Stunners act like fanboys, and the Filipino team praises them for their heart.
If someone stole my work and passed it off as his own, then tried to act like he was my biggest fan, I wouldn’t be grateful. I’d be pissed.
Other subplots fail to tug the heartstrings as intended. Suru tries to honor the memory of his dead mother, a famed dancer. Crew-member Vinod (Punit Pathak) is not only deaf and mute, but also routinely coughs up blood. There’s a long-lost son. The crew finds their mojo only when they embrace their Indian roots and dance to absurdly patriotic/religiously tinged songs.
The most successful subplot involves the only two female members of the crew: Vinnie and Olive (Lauren Gottlieb), an Indian-American dancer who joins them in Vegas. When Olive gets too flirty with Suru for Vinnie’s liking, the two talk about it rather than devolving into a catfight. It’s nice to see the two women portrayed so positively.
Plot problems aside, the dancing is the real reason anyone goes to see ABCD 2, and in that regard it does not disappoint. These days, even big budget Bollywood movies only feature one or two large-scale choreographed numbers, but ABCD 2 has a bunch of them. On top of that, spotlight performances showcase just how skilled the cast members are. The talent level of pro dancers like Gottlieb, Pujari, Pathak, and Dharmesh Yelande (who plays Dharmesh) cannot be overstated.
Part of what made ABCD so successful was that the cast consisted of professional dancers who acted. It gave cohesiveness to the production. The integration of Kapoor and Dhawan — professional actors who dance — into the cast of dancers is mostly successful. They aren’t just good dancers as far as actors are concerned; they are very, very good dancers, period.
However, Dhawan occasionally stands out from his crewmates, most noticeably in the song “Happy Hour.” It’s not that he’s performing poorly, just that the thousands of extra hours men like Pujari, Pathak, and Yelande have spent dancing gives their movements a fluidity and crispness that Dhawan can’t precisely replicate.
Sushant Pujari was my standout performer in the original ABCD, and it’s nice to see his role elevated in the sequel. His acting has improved enough that Bollywood casting agents need to give him a lot more attention.
Even though the plot is geared toward a youthful audience, there is a ton of toned flesh on display for older moviegoers. Kapoor and Gottlieb both look amazing, and every guy in the crew is ripped. If you are a fan of hot, shirtless dudes, then the climactic dance number is for you.
ABCD 2 is not as good as ABCD. However, there’s unlikely to be another Bollywood production this year that has the volume and quality of dancing that ABCD 2 has. Go see it if you want to get your groove on (but forgo the 3D upcharge).
The 3D Bollywood film ABCD 2 hits Chicago area theaters on June 19, 2015. The followup to 2013’s ABCD: Any Body Can Dance is a sequel in name only, as many of the actors from the original are back, but in different roles. Prabhu Deva plays characters named Vishnu in both films, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the same guy. Whatever. The dancing is what’s important here, not franchise continuity.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Eli (Tamil) at the South Barrington 30 and MovieMax, which also carries Vinavayya Ramayya (Telugu), Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini (Telugu), Premam (Malayalam), Ranna (Kannada), Kerintha (Telugu), and Ivide (Malayalam).
When I described the plot of Mr. X to my father and brother, they both asked: “If you can’t see the hero, then why is the movie in 3D?” Good question. Having seen the movie, the best answer I can give is that director Vikram Bhatt is the market for a yacht and wants to pay for it with the 3D upcharge for tickets.
The use of a pointless 3D gimmick fits in a movie that is a collection of half-baked ideas. It’s a romantic revenge critique of the Indian justice system with a side of superhero origin story that’s also a sci-fi action thriller about an invisible cop.
Emraan Hashmi plays Raghu, an anti-terrorism agent in love with a fellow agent, Siya (Amyra Dastur). In order to save Siya’s life, Raghu is blackmailed into publicly murdering the Chief Minister.
Raghu flees, only to be cornered by his blackmailers and tossed into a pit of chemicals, a la the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. He survives an explosion at the chemical plant, but not without severe radiation poisoning.
Raghu’s friend Popo’s sister (stay with me) works at a pharmaceutical company, and she gives Raghu an experimental drug that will either cure the radiation poisoning or kill him immediately. He lives, with the side effect that he’s now invisible except in sunlight or under blue neon lights.
In the course of taking revenge on those who tried to murder him, Raghu encounters his greatest obstacle: Siya, who is all impulse, no introspection. She never questions why a good cop like Raghu killed the Chief Minister, deciding that their love must have been a lie and professing to hate him. When he finally tells her what really happened, she loves him again.
The reunion is short-lived, because she pulls a gun on him when he rejects her plan to arrest the culprits in favor of just killing them. Her feelings are absolute, until they change completely.
What’s funny is that Siya’s law-and-order approach actually works until Raghu shows up with a gun and sparks a hostage situation. He claims to be a “protector of justice” while actively working against a system that seems functional.
All this is to set up Raghu/Mr. X as a kind of folk hero, and Bhatt uses my least favorite Bollywood trope to do so: the man-on-the-street interview. A news report is interspersed with shots of everyday dopes praising Mr. X with stupid crap like, “I’ve heard Mr. X is totally cute.”
The problem — besides the sheer laziness behind this trope — is that the public doesn’t know the motive for Mr. X’s murders. They don’t know that he was set up. As far as anyone knows, the people Mr. X kills are upstanding public servants, yet the moronic interviewees hail Mr. X as a superhero.
As mentioned above, the 3D adds nothing to the film. However, the CGI invisibility effects are pretty good. Raghu appears and disappears smoothly as he moves from light to shadow, with sometimes only parts of his body disappearing. Bhatt uses the lighting to direct the audience to areas in each shot where Raghu is likely to turn invisible.
However, the practical effects leave a lot to be desired. A chase scene in which Raghu disappears leaves us with a visual of a wobbly, riderless motorbike being pulled along by an offscreen mechanism. It looks equally dumb when Raghu vanishes while holding Siya in his arms, making her appear to float in mid-air. The film’s fight choreography is awful.
Raghu is a hard guy to like because he doesn’t show much personality, except for when Siya makes him mad and his eyes get all buggy. It’s not Hashmi’s most interesting role by a long shot. Dastur is at least committed to Siya’s absolute sense of morality, but she needs to train her voice not to sound so shrieky when she screams. Siya’s wardrobe is outstanding.
Mr. X rates high in terms of novelty, but its execution doesn’t justify an overpriced 3D ticket.
There’s only one new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area May 23, 2014, but it still faces stiff competition. Heropanti — an action vehicle intended to launch the career of Jackie Shroff’s son, Tiger — opens on Friday at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.
Heropanti‘s competition comes from Kochadaiiyaan, the long-awaited animated feature starring Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone.
Although the film has been dubbed into multiple languages, the version showing in the Chicago area and across most of the U.S. is in Tamil with English subtitles. Many theaters are carrying the movie in both 2D and 3D, so check the schedule in advance before heading to the theater. Also check the schedules to see if your local theater is one of the several running an early preview showing of Kochadaiiyaan on Thursday night.
Movies about killer animals are rare in Bollywood, and that lack of familiarity with this particular sub-genre of horror movies is evident in Warning. The movie contains many of the elements required for a successful horror film, but they are organized so inexpertly that Warning is devoid of dramatic tension and scares.
A motley crew of school friends reunite as young adults for what is supposed to be a fun weekend at sea on a luxurious yacht. The group consists of the nerd, Fatty; the long-haired rebel, Aman (Varun Sharma); beautiful and ambitious Gunjan (Madhurima Tuli); sweet Sabina (Manjari Fadnis); her husband, Deepak; their infant daughter, Sarah; Bakshi, the owner of the yacht; and his French girlfriend, Jeanine.
There’s lingering romantic tension within the group. Gunjan and Aman broke up when she left town to start her career. Sabina and Bakshi had wild times together before she settled down and met Deepak. With Bakshi’s attention focused on his former flame — much to Deepak’s frustration — Fatty tries to create some romantic tension of his own with Jeanine.
Through a series of blunders, the group finds themselves stranded in the water next to the boat while baby Sarah snoozes peacefully on board. With no way to get back on the boat — apparently no one bothered to drop the anchor, yet the boat stays conveniently in place by magic — the pals just have to wait there. And wait some more.
While stranding is a perfect scenario for testing the bonds of friendship and setting up some grisly deaths, it happens way too early in the movie. The friends are stuck in the water next to the yacht by the thirty-minute mark, and they quickly run out of ideas for how to get back on the yacht. That leaves another seventy-five minutes of runtime with nothing for the cast to do but bob around in the water.
Plus, it’s hard to create any real tension for the audience when we know that the friends have no option but to wait out whatever trouble comes their way, hoping that someone will come to save them. When Jeanine needs medical attention, pleas for help are futile since all of the useful resources are out of reach on the boat.
Revealing that Jeanine runs into problems won’t be a spoiler to anyone who’s seen a horror film before. Her character is introduced while showering topless aboard the yacht. (Her back is to the camera, so you don’t see anything.) Then she sips champagne while cooking breakfast the next morning. According to the rules of horror movies, Jeanine the Slutty Drunk will be the first character imperiled.
Her suffering provides the perfect opportunity to include some of the T&A one expects from a movie about sexy people in danger. Jeanine’s condition apparently requires her to arch her back so that her fake, bikini-clad breasts protrude from the water. It’s hilarious.
There’s other dubious medical advice in Warning that provokes chuckles. When little Sarah’s screams bellow through the baby monitor Sabina left on deck, Deepak freaks out, fearing that Sarah will choke to death while crying. Uh, that’s not the way things work, Deepak.
Sarah’s crying punctuates the soundtrack for the entire second half of the movie. It is really, really annoying.
What’s most disappointing about Warning is the failure to utilize its two selling points: 3D and sharks. The 3D effects are virtually non-existent, except during a conversation between Bakshi and Sabina in which some books feature extra prominently in the foreground.
Sharks are also largely absent from the movie. They don’t become much of a factor in the story until after the hour mark, and even then, the characters aren’t that concerned about them. The characters are all more worried about baby Sarah, who’s likely suffering from nothing more than a dirty diaper.
Also, the sharks in Warning are easily avoided by swimming to the other side of the boat.
Warning has all the necessary pieces to make a good horror movie, they’re just assembled incorrectly. The novelty factor alone makes Warning worth checking out, but not for the inflated 3D prices charged by theaters.
Both the South Barrington 30 and Golf Glen 5 carry Chennai Express ($5,294,853) this weekend. South Barrington also holds on to Satyagraha ($736,826), while the Golf Glen 5 is showing Shuddh Desi Romance. As if to underscore what a lousy weekend this is for new Hindi films — no offense, Warning — Golf Glen is even bringing back the July release Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Note: This review covers the 2D version of the movie, not the 3D version.
I am not a fan of horror movies. I startle easily, and I’ve been known to walk out of the theater if a film is too intense. With that in mind, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed Raaz 3.
Despite being the third film in the horror series, Raaz 3 isn’t a true sequel. None of the characters from the previous Raaz (“Secret”) films carry over into this one, though actors Emraan Hashmi and Bipasha Basu are back for a second round.
This time, Basu plays Shanaya, a superstar actress who sees her fame being usurped by a new starlet, Sanjana (Esha Gupta). When conventional prayers don’t work, Shanaya turns to black magic to dethrone Sanjana. Shanaya enlists her boyfriend, Aditya (Emraan Hashmi), to help her carry out her evil plans.
Aditya, himself a successful director, helps out of love for Shanaya and obligation to her for furthering his movie career. He casts Sanjana in his new film as a means to poison her with an evil concoction that traps her soul in the spirit world. When the spell starts to have real world consequences beyond Sanjana’s emotional torment, Aditya realizes that being loyal to Shanaya was a mistake.
As with most horror films, the scares are the gilding on a traditional morality tale. Raaz 3 is really about the dangers of ego, jealousy, and the pursuit of fame, embodied by Shanaya. A neat shot early in the film captures Shanaya sitting in her luxurious apartment in front of a wall-sized photo of her own face. Her whole apartment is a tribute to herself, and Shanaya sees a threat to her standing in the industry as a threat to her very existence.
Basu is magnificent as Shanaya. She strikes the perfect balance of rage, vulnerability, and egomania. Her fear is understandable, and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Basu plays every scene perfectly, shedding tears as Shanaya reels Aditya in, turning ice-cold the second he consents to help her.
Hashmi likewise hits the right notes with Aditya, a guy whose good nature makes him an easy target. There are some great shots of Aditya as doctors and priests speculate as to what’s wrong with Sanjana, his face revealing his internal debate over whether he should admit his role in her suffering.
Esha Gupta is outshone by her costars. It’s only her second role, so I’ll cut her some slack, but she plays Sanjana all wrong early on. Sanjana, who’s supposed to be the innocent young actress uncorrupted by fame — the foil to Shanaya — aggressively pursues Aditya romantically on the set of their film. She comes across as desperate for love, almost as desperate as Shanaya is for fame.
Even though it’s nearly 140 minutes long, Raaz 3 is paced well enough to never feel slow, and characters are given time to develop. Director Vikram Bhatt doesn’t miss an opportunity for a callback (you didn’t think you’d seen the last of that creepy clown in the photo with Sanjana, did you?). There are some cool sets as well, from Shanaya’s glamorous apartment to the eerie pond in the slum where she bargains with the evil spirit.
The fact that I was able to endure the whole movie inside the theater indicates that Raaz 3 is probably tame by the standards of hardcore horror fans. There are a number of jump scares that are (mercifully) predictable, and those don’t even start until 30 minutes into the movie. It’s minimally gory, but its R rating is reason enough to leave the kids at home.
Despite opening to dismal collections of just $105,865 from seventy-four U.S. theaters, Joker gets a second week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17. For comparison’s sake, the Tamil film Mugamoodi earned $55,501 from just twenty-two screens in its U.S. debut last weekend.
I’m sad to report that the streaming video service Mela is shutting down on September 15. I updated my article on the best ways to stream Bollywood movies on the iPad to reflect the news.
In the days that Mela remains active, I recommend using it to watch the exceptional documentary Supermen of Malegoan. If you’re a masochist, check out the Hindi horror film Ghost, the current leader in the race for my worst Bollywood film of 2012. Other movies I’ve reviewed via Mela include Hate Story, Bumboo, Chaurahen, and The Forest.