Dance and music are two inseparable parts of Indian films – no Bollywood flick or Tollywood drama is complete without a few jazzy dancing numbers, songs and dance. Given and combined in the larger tradition of the country, that with native forms of dance, forms of celebration for different occasions and festivities, it is not a surprise that the media produced here have embraced and reflected this social- cultural phenomenon of song and dance. Every region in the country has its own unique dance form, Bhangra in Punjab, Bharatnatyam in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Dandiya in Gujarat, Kathak in the north and many more. It is a globally accepted and adored Bollywood feature – people in the screen just bursting into dance for no reason. This essentially is their appeal as a total entertainer and it emerges from the early theater of the masses.
Although dancing appears in every Bollywood film, unlike Hollywood where films like Footloose, Step Up ,or even more serious ones such as Black Swan, have been made and appreciated world over, there have been a very few in India that have explored the field of dance or portrayed it as a career, a field acknowledging its ‘mainstreamness’, its existence as a valid career option and its presence in the country beyond the scope of film stars’ dancing stints, their ways to weave romance or just to side pop from the plot.
In 2013 renowned Indian choreographer Remo D’Souza, known to the masses through his work in reality shows, created the Indian equivalent of Step Up or Footloose, called ABCD: Anybody Can Dance that was widely viewed and accepted. The film earned positive reviews from the audience as well as the critics as it featured some unique dance sequences, even though with a very basic plot line, the dance numbers were to be relished and it also brought together some big names in the industry such as D’Souza himself, and ace choreographer Prabhu Deva. It gave the audience an opportunity to view dancing in a light different from what they have always known and it worked.
The film starring prominent dancing names such as Prabhu Deva, Ganesh Acharya and also Kay Kay Menon in lead roles also had the participants of Dance India Dance, whom the audiences recognize and have loved in these reality shows, like American Lauren Gottleib who earned national acclaim in India, appear in supporting roles. A Tamil and Telugu dubbed version titled Aadalam Boys Chinnatha Dance and ABCD respectively were also released along with, the makers and actors remaining true to their origins.
The story revolves around dancer Parbhu Deva who after having a bitter disagreement with his friend and manager Jehangir Khan played by Kay Kay Menon about the latter's blatant misuse of his authority and influence to wrongly win a dance competition called Dance Dil Se for his team Jehangir Dance Company, decides to leave his job as the choreographer of the dance company. Out of work and unable to pursue his passion ,he spots some street boys in Mumbai doing great dance moves and decides to train their raw talent into something worthwhile with his dancing expertise. Their dance lessons are interrupted by their differences and tiffs. And despite many obstacles, personal differences etc the team manages to overcome these and defeat Jehangir’s team in the prestigious dance competition with a glorious dance performance. The film features different types of dance, a wide variety with contemporary dance and street dance etc.
The film also made a sequel, ABCD 2 that was less liked even though it had a bigger cast, acting names involved. The film explored the career journey of Suresh and Vernon of the ‘fictitious dance crew’, who went on to win the World Dance Championship in Las Vegas. The merit of this film was that it featured a vast variety of dance styles, from Hip Hop to Krumping and Kathak, freestyle dance, popping, and other contemporary dances as well with the dancers showcasing some dazzling fusions and dance moves.
Dance centered films in India are a definite upgrade and are to be appreciated. Earlier too films like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dil To Pagal Hai, Naache Mayuri, Nach Le, Chance Pe Dance have explored the themes of dancing, choreography, dance competitions, but lacked the centrality and directness of this production and they are lesser in sync with the current forms.