Something is rotten when we aspire to be underdogs.

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.
Why suck?

“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’.

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On why it took a firang to start FabIndia/ OR Why India still can’t chart its own modernity

Exhibit 1a. Girl wearing a chuda, off for clubbing late at night

This is one of those simplistic visual tropes one might expect in any ‘tradition meets modernity’ narrative.
In one of the automobile brand ads, I believe there is one such shot too.
(the brand champions the insight about modernity being tempered by the Indian youth in Indian terms. What this assumes is – to be Indian is to be ritualistic. and to be urban/modern is to reject the rituals. Brands come to rescue us here and provides an in between truce. ‘Adjust kar lo‘.)

Usually the narrative is set in the premise of ‘victory of the young’, as ‘smart strategist’.

Smart strategy – yes – to the extent that traditions and modernity, both are reduced to mere symbols that are entertained for maintaining the status quo. That’s the strategy- to strip our acts off their meanings.

Why wear a chuda? ‘I am supposed to. must be the right thing. I am confident now of being Indian. This is ethnic cool.’
Why go dance to yo yo Honey Singh in crowded clubs? ‘that is what i am supposed to do to have fun.’

Both acts – wearing chuda, clubbing regularly – seem to be acts whose will is outside of the person doing it.
A part of the society wants you to wear Chuda, so you do that. Another part of the the society tells you that you cannot really be ‘free’ and have ‘fun’, unless you spend a quarter of your income in expensive clubs.  and you do it too.
There is no ‘victory of the young’. The young are supplicating to whatever forces they are subjected to.

They are supplicating to not just one god, but many gods! and that is being a true Indian.
Second misreading – its not the confidence of being Indian that is allowing people to continue practicing old rituals. Its the permission from the western image that ‘allows’ us to feel confident about our own rituals. We look to west for what is acceptable and what is not, for we deem ourselves incapable of charting our own modernity.
(why is the image of a man wearing a mundu,woman wearing a salwar kameez in corporate offices, sacrilegious? why wear coat and tie in the hot tropical climate? if modernity is about rationality, what is the rationality behind the uniform of coat and tie for corporate image?)
When the western image accommodates an Indian images (that it cannot understand) as ethnic/ exotic, we in return also see our own traditions and rituals as ethnic/ exotic.
See how us city folks pronounce the words ‘Mahabharata’ or ‘Ramayana’,
or how we tend to act as outsiders at traditional events, we literally keep ourselves at the periphery.
Or how there is still an audience for ‘America returned do-gooder’.
It took a firang to start FabIndia and such. The cultural industry of Indian identity is almost entirely run by Firang, for firang.
The visa to ethnic pride still gets stamped in the western image. 
Another observation by Saba Dewan – 

“Why are the new jingles based on a reworking of old Hindi film songs sung in this fake, ‘firang’ accented Hindustani? Regular desi speak not good enough uhnn? We need to sing even good old Hindi filmy songs in some phony nowhere accent to match our ‘global’ aspirations?”

What does it mean to not being able to see ourselves with our own eyes? that we need a western eye to recognize our own  self?
We Indians can accept ourselves, only ironically. Its as if we do not exist outside the conscience of the white man. If we are not recognized/interpreted by the west, we probably do not (should not) exist. (Imagine Dongria Kondh’s fight without Survival international’s image building. Imagine the futility.)

P.S. – Again.. wearing chuda/ going to club – both acts by a woman. Tradition and modernity, both hold women responsible for transacting with symbols of meaning. A man’s act is invisible to the civilizational meaning, but a women’s is not. heavy unfair imbalance.