ABCD 2 is dance movie with mediocre dance. And that tells you a lot about the film makers and what they think of their audience.
Made by celebrated choreographers with cult following, it is really disheartening to see them do a half-ass job at what they preach.The dances are not path-breaking or original or even evocative. Most of the dancers do not give their 100% to the performance. You can see the lack of practice and energy in dances. The editor and cameraman do as much, if not more, movements as the dancers. Many Indian dance shows have better choreographed dances than this movie has. This is interesting because, the makers of this film are judges in at-least a few of those shows.
“Because everybody deserves a second chance.” ad infinitum.. But this is the second movie in the franchisee. One expects that they would learn story telling by now at least? or does 100cr business is a reason enough for bad film making and lazy dance choreography? (for a movie that talks about dance as worship.) (The 100cr is guaranteed due to sharp rise of stock of dance in the cultural stock exchange of frenzies. Dance shows, like landslides, are crashing down on Indian television viewer’s conscience with brutal regularity and occasional brilliance sprinkled over a bulk of drama that is extracted from the middle class’s unresolvable angsts.)
Mediocrity as virtue
The film is a template story for such movies with added regressive elements that are characteristics of a typical prabhu deva film (patriarchy, undue patriotism, questionable moral resolutions).
Its an underdog story about a bunch of dancers from humble background reaching the finals of an international dance competition.
Indian stories for the last 60 years have been about successes ‘in-spite of…’. We keep on eulogizing people who eschew strategy in favor of mindless subservience to a person. In this movie, it was a drunkard dancer, who for no good reason becomes the savior for dancers in questions. He steals from them, throws tantrums and is generally useless.. and yet they revere him. Apparently, that is somehow a good quality – to never question an authority figure and to play by his whims.
This shit is problematic because I have seen young talented people who waste their energies in singing praises for their ‘idols’ instead of strategically improving their performance. Big Dance Centre is one such place in Delhi. It is a terribly managed dance institute with teachers who have a fair bit of helium in their heads. I know of young people who have come from far off towns with great personal and material costs to learn dancing here. And in turn all they get is discouraging, discourteous behavior and middling quality of dance positioned as supreme art. This teaching is dangerous because it confuses, dispirits and weakens young individuals.
It is a cultural problem. Teacher of arts in India have mistaken idea about pedagogy. They think that their purpose is to browbeat a person into a certain other kind of person. That through brute ‘discipline’, ‘deviant’ students can be turned into pliant performers. Often these teachers are immature idiots who are high on the power they enjoy over younger individuals who come to them from a vulnerable place of trust and dream.
They get these ideas from movies like ABCD. In movies, students are always agency less empty shells. They are reacting machines whose instincts are dull. In movies, the guru shuts down the reactions and instincts altogether. He instead turns them into effective meme replicants.
Ideally, a teacher should enable agency for students – the ability to create, to decide, to see oneself more clearly. That means a teacher should be patient, she should be able to comprehend her student’s energies and motives, she should be able to give useful feedback, she should be able to see possibilities for her student that the student can’t see.
Instead in India we see glorification of ‘guru’ as a replicant manufacturer – a foreman who creates efficient cogs in the wheel. This strategy might be efficient for the purpose of making drones to be fed to the system – academia, military and such institutions. But certainly not for learning arts!
Bollywood has been needlessly glorifying the ‘tradition of gurukul’. It is a shit tradition. It cloaks insecurities of incompetent ‘gurus’ under the garb of traditional ‘respect’.
And this culture is at the root of Indians under-performing in almost all aspects of competitive performances – sports, arts, sciences… without a culture of equality, one cannot grow. Indian culture creates tiers out of thin air. It creates psychological barriers – about ‘our place in the scheme of things’.
Without a culture of equal respect and open dialogue, there is no space for feedback and no visibility of possibilities.
All that this culture enables is a never ending supply of underdog stories.. of successes ‘in spite of’.