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The flips and their splits are spellbinding, but the moment the dancers step on an emotional turf they fumble, stumble and land splat on their faces.

Welcome to actor Varun Dhawan’s dance-fuelled drama ‘Street Dancer 3D’ that tries to integrate the illegal immigration crisis in London with dance-offs.

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Subtlety is trampled upon as actors try to evoke the humanity in you by showing us street dwellers with no papers or rights. Empathetic music also plays in the background, in case we didn’t get the drift that the homeless from countries like India and Pakistan are trapped on foreign soil. But all of it feels hopelessly synthetic.

Shraddha Kapoor as Inayat, who plays the consummate dancer from a conservative Pakistani household, gets her conscience nicked when she sees a few hungry homeless feeding off the crumbs left behind by her troupe who are constantly warring with Dhawan’s dance troupe from India. The India-Pakistan nation rivalry seeps into their interactions with each other and they are blinded by their mutual disdain.

So like overgrown children, they throw bar food in each other’s faces to express their displeasure. The owner of the restaurant, Anna, played by South India’s ace dancer Prabhudeva, is the restaurateur who pricks Inayat’s ego and nudges the charitable bone in her by showing her what he does with their leftovers. He feeds the poor. It’s all so sanctimonious and contrived that it makes your eyes, and not your hearts, bleed.

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Prabhudeva is saddled with rhyming lines like ‘confidence thrills, but overconfidence kills’ and Dhawan — who plays the dashing dance leader Sahej Singh — gets some more inane lines like ‘the only rule of number 1 dancer is that you can never be number 2’. Such insipid one-liners make you wonder if the writers gobbled up those doughnuts Kapoor and Dhawan kept flinging at each other during their heated exchanges.

While Dhawan looks splendid shirtless and has some killer moves, it isn’t enough to keep us invested for long. Kapoor and Nora Fatehi are equally fierce on the dance floor, but their collective agile moves — that would put a rubber band to shame — isn’t enough to keep a movie alive. Since they are based in London — with certain portions that sees Dubai dressed up as the UK — the whites are severely stereotyped. They are either racist or resort to foul play to win dance contests. The characters are collectively tinny.

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Had director Remo D’Souza stuck to the brief of making ‘Street Dancer 3D’ a purely dance-centric film, it may have gained a smoother landing. The dance moves hit home and it’s awe-inspiring to watch the dancers execute killer flips and pyramids, but trying to insert an emotional core around hapless immigrants was a terrible idea.

While Kapoor is given very little to do, she tries hard to inject life into her role. Fatehi proves she was born to dance, but they are let down by the haphazard storyline.

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Dhawan and Kapoor becoming dance champions to be saviours of undocumented immigrants is almost laughable. A few songs, with complicated dance moves, are intriguing, especially while watching it on a 3D screen, but the story and narrative have two left feet. Watch this only if you have blind faith in Dhawan and Kapoor and they are beyond reproach in your eyes. Otherwise, hop, skip and jump over this film.

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Out now!

Film: Street Dancer 3D

Director: Remo D’Souza

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Nora Fatehi and Prabhudeva

Stars: 2 out of 5