The sequel to the popular 2013 movie inspired by Hollywood dance-themed franchises such as Step Up spins on plagiarism. ABCD 2 (an acronym for anybody can dance) opens with Suresh (Varun Dhawan) and his Mumbai Stunners group giving a sparkling performance at a talent hunt show on television that is discovered to have been copied from a Filipino troupe. The Mumbai Stunners are disqualified and labelled as cheaters. The entire city of Mumbai turns against them, and it gets so bad that one of the dancers, a pizza delivery boy, cannot even get his offended costumers to pay for their orders.
Enter ace choreographer Vishnu (Prabhudeva), who united two warring factions and pushed them to television glory in the first part. In this episode, Vishnu helps the Mumbai Stunners overcome their shame and realise their dream of becoming the first Indian team to participate in the World Hip Hop Championship in Las Vegas. The storyline is inspired by the Fictitious Group dance outfit, set up by Suresh Mukund and Vernon Monteiro in Mumbai’s north-western Vasai suburb. Like in the movie, Fictitious Group survived humiliation and the odds to qualify for the hip hop championship in 2012. They reached the finals and were placed eighth.
The story of how a group of determined dancers from Vasai made it to Las Vegas should have been dramatic enough to power an entire movie, but choreographer Remo D’Souza’s sequel to ABCD, which he also directed, is a strictly by-the-numbers affair. ABCD 2 boasts of a couple of popular young stars, 3D and higher production values, but it is mostly a hollow spectacle. The characters are underdeveloped, the 146-minute narrative drags, and all the energy is reserved for the elaborately staged and eye-popping dance sequences that have been choreographed by Mukund and Monteiro.
The proceedings are hobbled by writing that leaves nothing to the imagination. As Suresh gazes into the distance on the eve of a qualifier event in Bangalore for the Las Vegas contest, his partner Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor) asks him what he is thinking. “I am thinking of the Bangalore event,” Suresh replies.
ABCD was also an underdog-top dog journey, but it worked better because it was more firmly rooted in an identifiably working-class neighbourhood and was packed with relatively unknown faces who compensated for their average acting skills with outstanding dance skills. The performers in ABCD were dancers trying to act, while its sequel is more starry-eyed and tries to pass off Dhawan and Kapoor as street-wise kids who want to conquer nothing less than the world.
In addition to the differences from the original, there are also similarities. The first film was set up as a tribute to the can-do spirit of its dancers, but it muddied its message by ending with a performance inspired by religious fervour. In ABCD, devotion to the god Ganpati came handy in reminding the dancers and audiences that for all their training, discipline, and hard-won skills, they needed a nudge from the One Above to win a crucial contest.
Since ABCD 2 aims to be bigger than its predecessor and magnifies its spectacle to 3D proportions, it takes no chances. Apart from God, Vande Mataram is also invoked to help the Mumbai Stunners conquer hearts in Las Vegas. All that is missing from the rousing climax, in which all races and nationalities rise to applaud this Make in India moment, is a Swachh Bharat message.