The explosion and popularity of dance shows on Indian television have encouraged choreographers to turn directors and hit movie-going audiences with a plethora of dance films. So, we have had “ABCD” and “Street Dancer,” and now, the most recent to join the brigade is “Time To Dance.” Directed by Stanley Menino D’Costa, it blends melodrama with Ballroom and Latin dance, overused London locations with romance and, a sub-par script with a pounding headache…mine. D’Costa is choreographer-director Remo D’Souza’s long-time associate.
There are times when you wonder whether tolerance is a quality or a curse. If you can finish watching the Sooraj Pancholi and Isabelle Kaif starrer “Time to Dance” without any sort of fast-forwarding (I failed), you will reach that point I mentioned in the beginning. This underdog dance story is so bad that you will wonder which element in this story made them believe that there is potential in this film. At one point, I was expecting the film to reach the “so bad it’s good” zone, but even that didn’t happen.
Rishabh (newcomer Sooraj Pancholi, son of yesteryear actors Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab) works as a waiter and moonlights as a flash mob performer (people get paid to do that?), wedding dancer etc., around London. He shares a neat and spacious penthouse apartment, with a to-die-for skylight (where a waiter gets money for that who knows!) with his colleague and friend Sada(nand) (Rajpal Yadav), who doesn’t spare a moment to proudly reminisce about his home state of Uttar Pradesh in his tooti phooti angrezi.
Rishabh and Sada wait tables at a restaurant, Bailamos, the dance venue selected to host the prestigious Great Bradford Ballroom and Latin Championship. Bradford, in the North of England, is about 167 miles from London where the film is located, but if one is expecting logic, continuity or finesse, then look elsewhere.
Isha (Isabelle Kaif, lil sis to Bollywood glam queen, Katrina Kaif), a dance instructor who, along with her sister Meher (Waluscha D’Souza), is struggling to keep her mother’s dance academy open. A kindly bank representative, Navdeep Singh (Saqib Saleem), warns them of the foreclosure while also helping guide them out of their dilemma. Isha has her hopes pegged on winning the championships with her dance partner, and reigning champion William (Martin Rycroft). But an injury upsets her plans. Politics in the dance world, orchestrated by William’s racist upper-crust mother, Lady Cottenham (Natasha Powell), who surprise, surprise heads the Dance Council, also put a spoke in the wheels.
Rishabh, who loves to dance and has a soft spot for Isha, glides in like her knight in sequined high-waisted pants and steps into William’s dance shoes. They battle all odds to gain entry into the competition. The Indian duo (the first-ever in the Bradford dance show) becomes an instant sensation. William’s ambitious and unscrupulous mother is not going to give in without an unfair fight, which gives didi Waluscha D’Souza another opportunity to be highly strung, agitated and plagued by some bad over-acting. Throughout all of this drama over one dance competition, Isha is a despondent victim and Rishabh, who is carrying the weight of his own past issue and PTSD, makes all the sacrifices.
The professional dancers and some expertly handled dance sequences offer respite from the unexceptional story, prosaic dialogues and colorless performances by the leads who come alive only when waltzing or doing the rumba. Ballroom and Latin dance may not be mainstream in India so, if anything, “Time to Dance” is a sincere attempt at showcasing these elegant and energetic dance forms. It is also a platform for the gorgeous Kaif to show us her limited expressions and acting skills and for Pancholi to show off his ripped tattooed torso. Fortunately, when the pair is asked to dance together, they do present graceful and impressive form, the only highlight in this drab affair.
Other than dancing, which is marginally good, there is nothing appealing about this movie. With its cliched storyline, what makes it worse is the makers somehow found a way around to make it more miserable with terrible acting. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. True to form Yadav is decent, but wish I could say anything encouraging about the leads. Kaif can surely dance but acting is not her cup of tea. Pancholi tries hard but is barely convincing. Pancholi seems to prescribe to the Salman Khan school of acting – show a stoic, stubborn expression on your face and call it intense acting.
Newcomer Kaif is stunning and her screen presence will remind you of her sister, Katrina Kaif. The expressions are limited, but the movie isn’t bothered about that at all, only focusing on her plentiful good looks and long legs. Her dance poses are perfect, yet she still has to work on her comfortability in front of the camera. However, Pancholi and Kaif’s chemistry is palpable and together they seemed quite compatible, especially in their stage performances.
D’Costa’s directorial debut, “Time to Dance,” is scripted by Deepak Dwivedi, who wrote a script for some Hindi daily soap, pasted the Hindi dialogues on google translator, made the English actors say those lines, threw in some gorgeous locales and spiffy editing and called it a Bollywood masala flick. The script is very predictable from the start. Despite being a film that is truly based on dance, its music disappoints to the core, except for the mix of two romantic melodies “Mein Agar Kahoon” and “Bol Do Na Zara.”
Do yourself a favor, please don’t waste your time on this movie. The only thing worth watching is the dance performance at the end and you can fast forward the rest of the movie. “Time to Dance” is streaming on Netflix.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India, she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters andPhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at OakGrove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.