The odds this motley group encounters is right out of a film script – poverty, injuries, personal tragedies, racism, and basically the absence of any kind of a supporting platform to help them achieve their goal. We travel through this journey with the group, getting an insider’s view on all the events that unfold as they dance their way to the ultimate prize
The triumph of the underdog is at the heart of ABCD 2, a thoroughly inspiring and motivational documentary on a group of under privileged dancers from Mumbai who recently participated in, and almost won, the World Hip Hop Dancing competition in Las Vegas against all odds.
The odds this motley group encounters is right out of a film script – poverty, injuries, personal tragedies, racism, and basically the absence of any kind of a supporting platform to help them achieve their goal. We travel through this journey with the group, getting an insider’s view on all the events that unfold as they dance their way to the ultimate prize. The director, Remo D’Souza, is a leading choreographer himself, and clearly identifies with his chosen subjects, such is the honesty with which he captures their trials and tribulations.
The highlight of the documentary is of course the incredible talent of the group of dancers, who call themselves the Indian Stunners. They come from modest beginnings. The film begins with quick cuts of employers, family members, and friends of these dancers, who tell us a little about their passion for dance. It is a classic documentary trick, taking us right to the emotional center of the film through a set of objective characters, but the aching honesty of what they say overcomes the cliché associated with it.
This in fact is the pattern of the film – dance performances and extravagant set pieces shot at the various stages of their progress to the world championship finale, intercut with behind the scenes footage of what actually went in these performances. This is an extremely effective editing technique – blowing us away with larger than life dance items and then keeping us engaged at an emotional level with the reality of what happened backstage. Truly, if one did not know better, this seems more like an emotionally manipulative, melodramatic big budget Bollywood film rather than a hard-hitting documentary on the struggles of performance artists in India! No wonder they say that life is stranger than fiction.
Key sub-plots integrated seamlessly into the documentary’s narrative further add to the layered story telling, and give it depth and character. There is the very non-jingoistic portrayal of patriotism and pride in our country, as the group understands what it is to represent India, culminating in a showcase of the orange, white and green colors in their final act. Subtle touches like the group touching their teacher’s feet almost go unnoticed, and are specially emphasized by the director by shooting them in super slow motion so that we don’t miss it. There is the almost filmy love triangle between the group’s two leads – Suresh and Vinnie – and the other female dancer in the group, Olive, who comes in as a replacement for Vinnie when she injures herself in a rehearsal. Especially touching is the story of Punit Pathak, a dancer who does not have speech or hearing, but can just feel the music. Not only is he differently abled, but he also has a yet unexplained affliction because of which he coughs blood, and which actually costs the group the final of the championship. Painstaking research by the director and the writers to uncover and research these realities and write them into the narrative set ABCD 2 apart from your run-of-the-mill documentaries.
In a country where we are only used to celebrating cricketing victories in sports and fashionable appearances at the Cannes in arts, ABCD 2 is an important documentary because it brings to focus international success by Indians in a field that has so far been relegated to tawdry reality shows and over-the-top Bollywood films – dancing as a performance art. One can only hope that this inspirational story finds a taker in a major production house, because it has all the makings of a blockbuster feature film production already built into it.
Hindi, Drama, Color