Director: Remo D'Souza
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Nora Fatehi, Prabhu Deva
Writer: Tushar Hiranandani, Jagdeep Sidhu
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
A dance film is not just about dance. It is about the human condition that dance brings joy to. It is about the issues, whether small or large, that the acrobatics of loose limbs can solve.
In Street Dancer 3D, the issue is literally on the streets. The image of the successful South Asian diaspora lures all and sundry to the West, many of whom find themselves lost, unemployed, and worst of all, without hope, homeless and hungry. The men on the streets (all are men, the first flight of migrants) in this movie need saving.
This story sets up its heroes, all street dancers, (but rich- the irony of the moneyed class using a dance form that bloomed from among the poor, to help the poor, isn't lost. Some people call it appropriation, some call it heroism) to win a dance competition, 'The Ground Zero Competition', where there is "no jury, only fury", the award for which is enough money to send all of the homeless back home, where they came from.
The philosophical issue of this is thus: Send the struggling immigrants back home, where there aren't prospects for growth, instead of creating mechanisms for them to find a job, community, and income security in foreign lands. The heroes here could have done that, the writing would have changed only minutely, but the emotional heft of 'going back home' is privileged in this movie, over 'finding a home'.
This is the central conflict. (Their main competitor for this competition is a mostly white street dance crew and Nora Fatehi who expertly humps the floor) But this only takes full force much later in the second half. Until then there is the jarringly silly and unconvincing India-Pakistan conflict. Inayat (a wily Shraddha Kapoor) is from Pakistan. Sahej (an earnest Varun Dhawan) is from India. Their entourage of dancers too belong to their nationality. This plays out through food-fights as they watch the cricket matches that India and Pakistan play.
The reason for the underwhelming, almost boring run-through of the first two thirds of the film is that none of these scenes 'finish'. For example, you have two competing dance teams confronting each other and one happens to win but you never feel like they won. You don't vicariously experience the satisfaction of victory, or the dejection of loss. Sometimes you don't even know who won. It just plays out listlessly, an excuse to flex those dance muscles.
What didn't help at all was the sheer onslaught of dance sequences, with no respite, and sometimes, no warning. All of these sequences in the first two-thirds, and I stress, all of them were exhausting to watch beyond the first minute; it is either the frenetic editing that didn't linger on a move for more than a moment, or the 3D effects which rendered all the moves hazy.
It was only when Prabhu Deva's dance was given the security and calm of longer takes that I was able to appreciate dance for what it is, and the sheer poetry of bones. (You don't know Prabhu Deva's allegiance in the India-Pakistan schism; he is mysteriously missing from the food-fights, and coaches the Pakistani team by coaxing the Indian team to join hands with them.)
What didn't help at all was the sheer onslaught of dance sequences, with no respite, and sometimes, no warning. All of these sequences in the first two-thirds, and I stress, all of them were exhausting to watch beyond the first minute.
This rest, per expectation, is the Remo affair- the dialogues are purposefully expository, the characters can be summed up in one line, and sometimes one expression, and the bread-and-butter coerced confrontations. His capacity to render even the most complex of dance moves into regular currency by showing it in abundance is disappointing.
But I must note that when the story picks up, I was on-board. When the conflict is finally made clear- who is exactly fighting whom for what- you know which side you have to rally for. (I appreciate the sly posturing- you start the film as an India Versus Pakistan dichotomy, but end it with the Brown Versus White divide. I cannot wait for war mongers enjoying the film to realize that by the end they are cheering for a team with Pakistanis in it.) I cheered the Street Dancer team on as the climactic dance sequence emerged from the mess. At one point, they were dancing bhangra. Bhangra? Street Dance? I'll take it.
A quick note about the 3D effects. Drop it. The colours desaturate, and the edges are hazy. Beauty (Dhawan's torso) is equally out of reach, and so is the good time I promised myself at the movies this week.