If you think this is the kind of movie for you, it is. If you don’t think this is the kind of movie for you, it isn’t. There are no surprises here, it is exactly as promised.
This movie is so good/bad!!!! It’s good, because the plot is tight and logical and moves forward at a straight pace, the dance numbers are epic, and it even has a nice message (the immigrant community should unite to help themselves instead of fighting between each other). It’s bad because Varun Dhawan does a shirtless Dance of Torment alone in his studio.
So this is not a film to go to for emotional depth, realism, or even three dimensional characters. But it is a film to go to in order to see an underground dance battle held in a cathedral. I will absolutely go to a film for that!
This is also pretty much the perfect film for Shraddha and Varun as a couple. They are both very hard workers and decent dancers, so you can really believe them as leaders of rival dance crews. Well, “believe”. If we pretend we are in a world where rival dance crews is a thing, then I can easily make the further leap to believe Shraddha and Varun as rival leaders. They are also both playing rich kids, thank goodness, because I couldn’t believe Shraddha and Varun as poor struggling street kids. And their interactions tend more towards the teasing and pulling pigtrails side of things than deep romantic moments, which also works well for Shraddha and Varun, they’ve got a great teasing friendship sort of vibe.
Mostly it is perfect for their acting range. Varun has a nice broad range, he can go all the way down to broad comedy, or all the way up to Badlapur. Shraddha is pretty much a two note range, she can play a sweet nice girl, or she can play a sweet nice girl with a physical ability. Varun coming down to Shraddha’s level in this lets him relax and really find his sweet spot, and Shraddha just does her Shraddha thing next to him, and they are a perfect match. In a limited way. Watching this movie wouldn’t make me go “oh wow, they are the next big thing! I will cast them in my deep romantic comedy!”, but it does make me go “Hey, those two kids are kind of cute! I like them! I will caste them in my toothpaste ad!”
And then there’s Prabhudeva. Remo D’Souza really REALLY knows how to use him. This film is clearly pulling a Krrish, it changed the title but it is “3” because it is the third movie in the ABCD series. Since the first ABCD, where Kay Kay Menon did the job of acting for both of them, through the second ABCD where Prabhudeva played it grumpy and reserved so he never had to talk, and finally this one where he just kind of stands there and mostly acts with his face, Remo understands that Prabhudeva is a not a “dialogue” kind of guy. In this movie, he has no backstory really, no explanation, he just appears, gives gyan in a few words, does a spectacular dance number that blows everyone’s mind, and then steps back and let’s the lessor humans deal with stuff like “dialogue” and “plot”.
This is such a fabulous film, I suppose it might bring in people less aware of Prabhu’s background. He comes from a classical dance family and a film family (his father was a choreographer), finished his classical training around 12 (as is traditional), and had his first featured dance in a film at 14. After 7 years of being a featured dancer, at 21 he was given his first lead roles and broke through with his songs “Mukkabla” and “Urvashi” which blew up in a way I can’t really describe. South Indian songs just don’t go national, ever, and those two song videos not only became a national crave, they broke through internationally into the diaspora. At 21, Prabhu was acknowledged as the greatest living dancer in India. After that, his films were consistently middling hits, as people would line up to buy tickets just for his dances even if his acting was never good and most of the films weren’t terribly well-written or directed. It was a big big deal when he came north to choreograph and dance with Madhuri Dixit in Pukar, and again to choreograph Hrithik in Lakshya. In the mid-2000s, he switched to directing and doing smaller roles. I suspect partly because of personal issues, his son died at age 12 and after that he had a scandalous affair with an actress that eventually fell apart (horrible for his grieving wife, but then Prabhu was also grieving so maybe we give him a pass?). And then finally moved to Bombay and started directing, a complete change of scene for himself and his family.
Since his directing switch, Prabhu hasn’t totally stopped acting, but the ABCD series is something special. It is directed by Remo D’Souza who is a Hindi film choreographer that Prabhu would have know from the industry. The first film along with Prabu starred Ganesh Acharya, another choreographer, along with Prabhu. The rest of the cast was clearly filled in by dancers from Remo’s troupe, the kind who are super talented but usually get stuck standing behind the star instead of shining on their own. Prabhu did the lead role, it included a big featured dance for him to his first massive hit “Urvashi”, the whole film we a tribute to Prabhu. The second film in the series, ABCD2, brought in Varun and Shraddha to star with Prabhu and gave them move of a plot and more featured dancing to do, although the troupe dancers were still there and still featured more than usual. And now we are here, Varun and Shraddha have oodles of plot, Nora Fatehi is there to do way more dancing than she usually gets to do, plus the usual “not great actors but great dancers” cast, and Prabhu still gets his big moment in the sun because ultimately, that is what we are here for.
See this movie because it is a fun silly dance film, see this movie because it is a good Varun role, see this movie for all those reasons. But remember the real purpose and meaning of the film is a tribute to Prabhudeva. His dance is about an hour and twenty minutes in, post-interval, and in my theater as soon as the music started the cheers got so loud you couldn’t hear. But the biggest tribute was that as soon as Prabhu’s dance was over, three guys sitting in my row got up and walked out. They bought their tickets, drove to the theater, sat through the whole first half, just to see Prabhu dance. And now they were ready to go home, because what else was there to see?