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Golddigging at Palika Bazaar

While visiting India after an age at the invitation of the Osian Film Festival in July 2008 I took the opportunity to try track down some of the films that I had been literally dying to add to my collection of video masterpieces. High on the list was everything that Ajit ever appeared in as a villain of loinesque proportions. Sadly I found Palika Bazaar reeling from a recent wave of chhaapas and thus the selection was threadbare at very best. They didn’t realize that I was visiting from the Mecca of Piracy, Pakistan and would be least interested in their crappy pirates when ours were the best!

I wanted genuine Bollywood movies – wonders that may have fallen through the cracks and was also on the look out for Tamil and Telugu potboilers and of course horror movies but I failed horribly in my quest for the latter, drawing quizzical looks wherever I went. Even mentioning to the shopwallahs that I worshipped the films of screen goddess the late great Silk Smitha failed to evoke a measurable response. 

Undeterred I soldiered on and returned with an Ajit film starring the inimitable Raaj Kumar and Leena Chandavarkar which even my elder brother (the Living Bollywood Encyclopaedia) had missed in his quest to watch every single frame of film ever exposed in a Bollywood studio. Dil Ka Raja was the film and as we threw it on the DVD player post a sumptuous dinner at cousin Fawzia’s Big Chill Restaurant in Kailash, there was much anticipation in the air, after all the music was by RD Burman and I had never even heard a single song off this film. An RD song from another relative obscurity also starring Leena Chandavarkar Imaan contains one of my favourite ever Asha Bhonsle numbers, so I was hoping lightening might strike twice.

However it was not the music but other aspects (no pun intended) of the film that had us reeling in awe as the director chose to expose (I love that expression) not his female star but his male hero to sublime levels. There was one song which had us cooing in delight as Raaj Kumar danced sumptuously with his chooridar pajama half fallen off his posterior! Now, this was progressive film-making way ahead of its time.

Ajit was not quite in Loin form but deliciously evil none the less, and what style – the man has no peer in that department, no offense to Pran sahib or Amrish Puri but Ajit had that extra suaveness that remains unmatched to this day. Dil Ka Raja was a stupendously successful post dinner treat, the perfect end to a perfect evening in Delhi.

My greatest triumph at Palika however was not Dil Ka Raja but quite possibly one of the greatest films ever produced anywhere in the world during my lifetime. High praise indeed but the B Subash Movie Unit is a name synonymous with unparalleled quality and Dance Dance is quite possibly the Jewel in a glittering B Subash Crown. When we first watched this movie back in the 80s, all of us crazed brothers and sisters nearly expired upon the sight of dear old Smita Patil in a B Subash movie swaying to the disco beat of my life’s inspiration Bappi Lahiri. How could this have happened? Raj Babbar probably has the answer to this unfathomable oddity – Smita Patil in a B Subash movie also starring Mandakini, Mithun, Shakti Kapoor and all the other 80’s usual suspects.

One could possibly have expected Samantha Fox or Kalpana Iyer or even Disco Shanti, but what on earth was poor Smita doing in the surreal disco-boogie zoo zoo zoobie zoobie Dance Dance? I guess even such great artistes such as Smita Patil had to pay rent and electricity bills just like the rest of us mere mortals, yet it remains a subject of great conjecture and discussion. Not that she would have anything to be ashamed of as Dance Dance is without a shadow of a doubt the finest Disco Boogie Crime Thriller Socio-Drama the world has ever known.

One can only dream of a sequel starring hopefully Mimoh – Son of Mithun and with music composed by Bappa Lahiri with Reema Lahiri on playback. I know who would be first in line for this one.

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