Time to Dance: What Just Happened?

Watch if: you enjoy improvising drinking games (e.g. “Take a shot every time something realistic happens.” would be ideal for teetotallers)
Don’t watch if: you have anything else to do at all
Best song: Aaye Haaye
Soundtrack overall: pretty forgettable; I’ve certainly forgotten it

Let me preface this by saying: I really wanted this film to be good. I am not, by nature, a hater and I would love to see Isabelle Kaif succeed. She seems adorable.

Even when the negative reviews started rolling in, I held out some hope. For one thing, my tastes are often not mainstream, and I’ve been known to love films that other people hated: Jab Harry Met Sejal, for one; and if that’s not weird enough for you, Mela, for another. (Yes, that one, with Aamir Khan and Twinkle Khanna.) It’s also far from guaranteed that I’ll appreciate films that everyone loved: I couldn’t sit through Mohabbatein, although I’m sure I’ll try again some day. So many of the one-star reviews on imdb were left before the film’s release that they didn’t seem to be worth taking into consideration as genuine assessments of the film’s merit. Plus, I quite fancied a ballroom-dancing themed movie.

The trailer, in true let-it-all-hang-out style, made it clear exactly what we should expect: a film about a failing dance school being rescued from the jaws of bankruptcy by a dance contest. It could have been good, right?

So, a little over a week ago, I sat down to watch Time to Dance on Einthusan. It’s taken that long to get over the dumbfoundedness, sit down, and write this review. We may as well start with the good, because there’s a lot of bad and even more ugly.

The Good

I think that the non-ballroom dances are enough to show that Isabelle Kaif has been taking some pointers from big sis Katrina when it comes to dancing. The opening number, not featuring Isa, is also quite fun. It certainly made me smile and feel a little optimistic, which, it turned out, was a waste. Here’s Aaye Haaye, from the film.

The Bad Weird

Firstly, the English made me want to crawl into a hole in the ground. Time to Dance was filmed in London, so it really couldn’t have been been that difficult to find someone to take a glance at the script to check whether any British person, whether of Indian extraction or not, would ever say these things in a million years. Instead, the supposedly born-and-bred British characters spend most of the movie coming out with Indian English idioms, such as “Don’t mind.” for “Excuse me.” When it’s not that, it’s stuff completely out of step with the kind of character they’re supposed to be, such as a tieless young guy ending a casual conversation with “I’ll take your leave.” Also, the English dubbing is as bad as that bit where the captain’s mouth doesn’t even slightly match his words in Kaho Na… but for minutes at a stretch.

Not content with this level of linguistic muddle, we also have Evil White Racist Woman No 1 speaking Hindi, which she has apparently learned to a level where she can spontaneously produce long sentences, to other characters who also speak English. Clearly, the writer of this film has a lot of experience with posh British people, who are definitely characterised by their linguistic interests and abilities, especially the Evil Racist ones. (Hint: this is sarcasm.) Random white women eating in an Indian restaurant have also learned Hindi, badly; as a random white woman who has also learned Hindi, badly, I didn’t find this too unbelievable, but the waiter reacting as if this was an irritating situation that happens to him every day (::eyeroll::) was a bit much. Anyone watching this film could come away with a seriously over-optimistic opinion of British people’s engagement with foreign languages.

This graph shows British people’s actual engagement with foreign languages.

British people’s actual engagement with foreign languages.

The Ugly

The race relations in this film are…dubious. They’re also confused; the racism level of the characters constantly dips up and down. Evil Racist White Woman No 1 is not the only person with multiple prejudice personalities: even the discriminated against cannot decide whether they experience racism or not. At one point, the head of the dance school declares that “no-one wants to learn ballroom dancing from an Indian”; then ten minutes later (in viewer-time) she decides the solution to the absence of one of her teachers is – a new Indian teacher! During the dancing final, the commentator refers to most competitors by their name, except ‘the Indian couple’, which she repeats in every sentence – last time I checked only one of them was actually Indian, but anyway! No matter!

The only black character is a one-dimensional simpleton who, despite having the wherewithal to have learnt really quite good Hindi – apparently it’s just the national language now – needs the whole concept of ballroom dancing explained to him on his fingers. Um.

Of course, the advantage to being one-dimensional is that he is at least consistent, whch is more than can be said for most of the rest of the characters. Evil Racist White Woman No 1’s son is absolutely mad. Or at least he would be, if it wasn’t totally clear by halfway through the movie that his character didn’t get so much as a mind-map during the writing stage. He swings wildly from kind and helpful behaviour to sabotage and intimidation. It isn’t a character arc; he doesn’t get progressively more evil or see the error of his ways. He just does whatever the writers felt like on that day! Because why not?

Speaking of possibly crazy people, the treatment of mental health issues is very much not approved by any applicable organisation ever. Considering a major trauma and its fallout are supposed to provide about three-quarters of the tension in the plot, the lack of research that seems to have been involved is spectacular. It gives some scenes a very first-draft feel, like maybe they ran out of time and had to use the version of the script originally scribbled on the back of a receipt in the pub.

To watch, or not to watch?

I mean, on the one hand, it has to be seen to be believed; but on the other, I can’t honestly recommend this movie to anyone. Maybe watch it if you’re a filmmaker having a crisis of confidence in your abilities. You can think to yourself “WELL, I may be rubbish, but at least I haven’t made this!”

And then you can go to sleep peacefully, like her:

By Koko Curio on Unsplash

This review was originally published on Vocal Media: Geeks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s