ABCD: Any Body Can Dance, India’s first 3D Hindi dance film starring the 39-year-old dancer/choreographer/director Prabhu “Jackson” Deva, will be out on Thursday.
Deva has had a good run in the Indian film industry – he’s been around for more than two decades now – but the last couple of years have treated him exceptionally well.
This sensation from southern India made his directorial debut with 2009’s Wanted, starring Salman Khan, which was a box-office hit. His next venture, Rowdy Rathore (2011) with Akshay Kumar, did equally well. Deva had finally got into Bollywood’s elite 100 Crore Club.
“I’m not bothered about the whole game of crores,” says Deva. “If it were in the hands of the director or producer, every film would make 100 crores, 200 crores or even more. I don’t get stressed out about my films because the box-office collection is not in my control. I just want to deliver creative work – believe me, the audience will appreciate it.”
If Wanted and Rowdy Rathore are anything to go by, it would seem that Deva has a penchant for action films. His forthcoming projects –involving top-billed actors such as Ajay Devgn, Shahid Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha – are all action-based.
In a few days, though, he’ll be seen on screen in the avatar India first came to love him for – dancer -extraordinaire.
ABCD, written, directed and choreographed by Remo D’Souza and produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ronnie Screwvala, has Deva playing the role of Vishnu, a dance teacher from Chennai who wants to redeem himself after his wily business partner throws him out of their co-owned dance academy. He comes across a group of street dancers preparing for an annual citywide dance-off, and takes them under his wing, determined to see them fly high.
Deva’s role in the film gives him ample chance to show off his skills as one of India’s best dancers. Being a choreographer himself, did he ever find himself wanting to do things differently from D’Souza?
“I never interfered with Remo’s work,” claims Deva. “Our love for dance is what brought us together. This is true of everyone else who worked on the film, from [the choreographers] Saroj Khan to Ganesh Acharya. We got together to make a good film on India’s modern dance culture. We all have our own styles but just because I am a choreographer, it does not mean I will dictate to the others. In ABCD, I trusted Remo. There was no reason not to.”
The last time Deva was seen on screen as an actor in a lead role was opposite Kajol in Sapney (1997).
“I did feel a little out of practice when we started shooting,” says Deva, as he recalls the first few days on the set of ABCD. “Also, I was around so many young people. To be honest, the one thing that made me nervous was recording my dialogues in Hindi. I knew there was no question of dubbing so I spent hours practising the dialogues, just to be able to emote with expression and emphasis.”
The “young people” Deva refers to are the amateur actors who play the street dancers in the film – all winners of the Indian reality dance show Dance India Dance.
Deva says they might not have experience in front of the film camera but their “passion for dance outshines any lack of acting experience”.
“These young boys and girls are so talented and passionate about what they do that it comes across on the screen,” says Deva. “ABCD is a very good film – the story, the production value – everything is excellent.”
Deva is not the only one optimistic about the film’s prospects: D’Souza has already announced a sequel. Why? Because there is so much to say about modern dance in India. One film, apparently, isn’t enough.
ABCD: Any Body Can Dance will be showing at Vox Cinemas in Ajman City Centre, Ajman, and Deira City Centre, Dubai, from Thursday