Bland and inoffensive; Bollywood Beats feels like a classic bait and switch. You're lured in by promises of fun and frothy dance sequences before being served up enough drama to choke a horse (I'm making the bold assumption that horses hate drama). I have no problem with films that carry messages but writer / director Mehul Shah approaches his material with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, crushing all nuance into smithereens in the process.
The film revolves around a core group of 6 characters. We first meet Raj (Sachin Bhatt) who dreams of being a dancer and goes to plenty of auditions in order to make that a reality. His parents aren't as supportive as he would like and give him an ultimatum: he has 6 months to find a paying gig or he has to start working for his dad at the family jewelry store. To make matters worse, Raj's long time gal pal dumps him because they are 'not on the same wavelength'. Of course, when Raj gets mad, all he can do is dance (like hulking out...but not). During one such rage-fueled dance session, he is spotted by Jyoti (Lilette Dubey), a middle-aged woman who would love to get some dance lessons. Thus, Bollywood Beats is born.
With Jyoti as a vocal supporter, Raj attempts to drum up interest in his fledgling dance troupe finally attracting a few new faces. There's Laxmi (Pooja Kumar), the timid housewife; Veena (Sarita Joshi) and Pooja (Mansi Patel), a feisty grandmother-granddaughter duo and finally Vincent (Mehul Shah himself), a gay schoolmate of Pooja's. The rest of the film charts the many misadventures of the group as they enter dance competitions, go clubbing together and form a small support group of their own. To keep the melodrama quotient high, they also squabble, break up, reform and go through all sorts of plot-necessitated contortions. Did I mention there was a lot of drama?
It's fairly evident that Mehul Shah is eager to please. It explains why he feels the need to give every single character a tortured back-story. Unfortunately his willingness to share the focus evenly exceeds his ability to tie together character arcs in a meaningful way. This manifests itself every single time a serious situation arises only to be resolved in a trite fashion or completely off-screen. Laxmi struggles with an unfaithful husband but you'll never know how much since he is barely deserving of screen time. Pooja's dad abandoned her after her mom died but that only requires a teary conversation between Pooja and her grandmother. Most troubling is the way Mehul treats his own character, Vincent. Vincent's dad doesn't approve of his dancing and completely flies off the handle when he discovers his son is gay. To see him in the audience during the finale without any explanation, smiling and clapping along, is a disservice to the character of Vincent and the issue he faces.
Once you get past the sitcom-level hijinks (Spying on Laxmi's husband in disguises? Really?) and endless sermonizing on society's ills (sample exchange: "When did you become pro-gay?" "When I realized they're just like you and me."), you're left with the question of whether the film actually features any dancing at all. The answer is kinda. You see, the film makes it perfectly clear that these aren't highly trained individuals. Rather than detailed choreography, we get plenty of training montages and a few goofy sequences that play up the joy of dancing. This would be perfectly fine if it weren't for the climax that makes misstep after misstep. For no good reason, a key character is injured and unable to dance in the big finale. Why make a big deal about the group coming together if you're going to splinter them in the most critical scene? To make matters worse, this also requires a nonsensical sacrifice on the part of another character. Why? More drama.
With a sharpened focus and a bit more care, we could have ended up with a film that was sweet and unassuming rather than cloying and obvious. Mehul Shah has taken the worst aspects of the everything and the kitchen sink approach that is often seen in Indian cinema and applied it to his little independent feature here. The only problem is that it can't handle all that weight...the kitchen sink is the straw that breaks this camel's back (metaphors successfully mixed...I think).