Of course, there are days when you want to crawl under the lowest coffee table in your house and stay there forever. It is on those days that you put in Disco Dancer into your DVD player, and watch your world explode with starlight. It does not matter that in 1982, the craze for disco had already subsided the world over. Disco Dancer creates a world of its own, a world where disco dancers are loved, revered and paid huge bucks, a world I never knew existed in India then or now. But who cares?
In Disco Dancer, cinematographer Nadeem Khan creates a universe full of light through crystal balls, car headlights, streetlights, spangly costumes, crystal studded guitars. Anything that can possibly glitter is there in every frame. Circular tracks and low angles, weird lightning like effects, build up a dizzying pace of the film. You feel as happy as if you were on a long ride round and round on a carousel and a world full of lights and fun was spinning around you.
The film too is circular in more ways than one. With the first scene, Rajesh Khanna, singing Goron Ki Na Kaalon Ki Duniya Hai Dilwalon Ki, proclaims that the world is for the large-hearted, the ones who can ‘enjoy’. He comes back at the end of the film, to perform the death scene of a lifetime. “Sing!’, he says, with closed eyes, face to the right. “Sing”, he says, with closed eyes, tossing face to the left. “Sing”, he commands again, eyes closed, face in front. Jimmy croaks out a few lines, and Raju Chacha croaks it!
Jimmy aka Anil is a strange disco dancer, whose sad face contrasts with the energy of his pelvic thrusts. He wants to take revenge on mankind in general and PN Oberoi in particular, who have insulted his mother and him for being poor. But he wants to take revenge through disco dance, and he does. The mother has the same expression as a hung computer throughout all the travesties that befall her son and her. At first, I kept thinking of all the other screen mothers who could have done a better job, Nirupa Roy maybe, or even Kamini Kaushal. But later I realized that Geeta Siddharth’s frozen face exaggerates the bizarreness of everything else around her, including her death by an electric guitar.
While Mithun’s is an iconic role, Kim is nothing but a sidekick in tube tops and hot shorts. Kalpana Iyer has a more complicated role and costumes which surpass even those of Mithunda, including a fish like costume complete with frilly fins which she wears to lounge around at home with her drug addict boyfriend Sam (Karan Razdan). She puts in a piece of fine acting when she opens the door to her father David Brown (Om Puri) who used to work as a manager to Sam, a former disco star fallen to ruin because he doesn’t know the difference “between a green room and a bedroom” (to quote from the film). Her father asks her what happened to her, she used to have a life of her own, and she makes a small shrug in reply, which conveys everything, her obsessive love for Sam, and the fact that he has consumed her life, and that she knows it, and is helpless. But it is the blustering performance of Om Shivpuri as PN Oberoi with his liberal sprinkling of the word ‘Bastard’ that stands out. It’s been a long while since I heard ‘Bastard’ used with such vehemence, and so often. We never quite figure out why he is angry with poor people in the first place, though his anger and disappointment seem more justified as his son Sam falls off the track.
It is this dichotomy between a sadness that seems to permeate each character and the energy of the music, costumes and setting that makes Disco Dancer more complicated and layered than it seems on the surface.
Of course, what takes the film to another level altogether is Bappi Lahiri’s music and the lyrics by Anjaan, Farooq Kaiser and Indeevar. This, right from the credits that go ‘D’ se Hota hai ‘Dancer’, to Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aa Jaa, Aa Jaa, Aa Jaa and Krishna, Dharti Pe Aa jaa Tu. Watching the film after many, many years I realized how etched the words were in my memory when better, more meaningful songs have faded away.
In my imagination, B Subhash and the cast and crew must have turned up on the sets every day and said, “OK, let’s see how crazy we can get today.” But what keeps the film from being downright nonsense is Dr Rahi Masoom Reza’s dialogue. “Mother, I have my music. I will sharpen this music like a sword and stab the city’s heart with it.”, says Jimmy. And indeed we are stabbed in the heart forever.
Hindi, Drama, Musical, Color