Director: B. Subhash
Music: Bappi-Lahiri; Lyrics: Anjaan-Faruk
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
If you always thought what "Saturday Night
Fever" really needed to reach that next level was some high flying kung
fu, chubby background dancers and killers with machine guns, this is the
film for you. Actually, I think this is a film for anyone with a sense
of the patently absurd and an appreciation for a movie so corny that you
will think you are stuck in the middle of a greasy Philly cheese steak
sandwich. It is gooey and delicious and completely fulfilling. Filled to
the rooftop with bad décor, bad outfits, bad hair, bad dance steps
and bad melodrama, this film is an absolute hoot – so bad and yet so satisfying.
Time has not treated the disco era with much respect
– and this film will not change that perception by any means – but from
a distance of twenty years this is a film that one can perhaps enjoy much
more now than when it was made (or not - read note below). Not for the
reasons that the filmmakers likely intended – as they seem to treat
all of this with the utmost seriousness – but from our vantage point this
film is so wonderfully campy that you have to fall in love with it. It
is the perfect midnight movie ala Rocky Horror Show and one can picture
the audience showing up dressed in their favorite bad outfit from the film,
mouthing the English lines like “Get out you bastard” and dancing awkwardly
in the aisles.
It all begins with Jimmy as a little boy – performing
on the streets of Bombay along with Rajesh Khanna (in what is billed as
a “friendly appearance”) – their guitar and drums entertaining the whole
neighborhood. From the distance a rich little girl watches the fun loving
pair in envy and one day she invites Jimmy behind her compound wall to
make music together. Her father comes home though and whacks the boy across
the face, throws Jimmy’s mother down on the ground and has Jimmy arrested.
Jeered by their neighbors, the mother and son are forced to leave Bombay
in shame and settle elsewhere – but the little boy swears vengeance – his
weapon of choice – disco.
Jump ahead fifteen years into the middle of
disco fever and the "I am so cool it must hurt" Sam rules the disco kingdom.
The adulation and success have gone to his head though as he pleasures
himself with groupies, talks about himself in the third person and yells
out in English ”Shut up. Sam is great you know. Sam is a music king. Sam
is a star”. Unfortunately for Sam his salad days are about to end. Frustrated
with Sam’s egotistical ways, his manager leaves him and goes searching
for a new talent. Not surprisingly, he spots Jimmy (Mithun Chakravarti)
sort of skipping and dancing on a street and immediately knows this is
the next big thing! In his first appearance the crowd is filled with hostile
supporters of Sam (sort of like when the Beatles came along and pissed
off the Elvis fans) and Sam's sister (only billed as Kim) leads the other
women in throwing their shoes at Jimmy – but our Jimmy calmly catches them
and soon has the crowd eating out of his hand with his white stretch outfit
and his crab like dancing – and the occasional roll on the ground. It doesn’t
look great as he performs some really odd moves – but at least compared
to Sam it is a marked improvement. Sam sort of moved like the Energizer
Bunny – all stiff armed and mincing steps – and enjoyed jumping into and
out of the frame for no reason. Soon Jimmy fever breaks out all over India
and everyone is buying Jimmy T-shirts, Jimmy Perfumes, Jimmy Ice Cream
and Jimmy Fabrics. He is the new disco king! Meanwhile Sam descends from
bad fashion sense to heavy drinking to shooting up in heroin in his depression
at having no more groupies to grope.
Of course life being the perplexing bowl of cherries
it is, it incredibly turns out that the girl throwing shoes at him was
the very same girl he played with so many years before! This means of course
that her father is the cruel and wide tied creep that so shamed Jimmy.
What a conundrum – he of course soon falls in love with the girl but the
father and son are trying to kill him so that Sam can once again regain
his throne. Yes, they take disco very seriously in India. So they hire
a gang of thugs to beat poor Jimmy up. In a truly classic scene they surround
him – each snapping their fingers in unison as they pour blow after blow
on Jimmy – soon he is a bloody helpless rag doll in the dirt – until they
make the big mistake of smashing his guitar. Don’t break a man’s guitar
when he is down – that is simply poor etiquette. Jimmy pulls himself up
– and begins SNAPPING his fingers – the hooligans pause – in fear of the
snapping fingers – and Jimmy uses his astonishing kung fu skills (which
he had apparently previously forgotten he possessed) and wipes them all
out. Bruce Lee would be proud. Later these same hooligans beat him up with
hockey sticks and throw him off a cliff – but that’s not enough to stop
this Disco Dancer. He is soon throwing them through windows and kicking
them across the room.
The film has many such bad but enjoyable scenes
– an electric guitar that literally electrocutes, Jimmy developing discophobia
and screaming in agony when he touches his guitar, Rajesh Khanna showing
up out of the blue to perform a double twisting flying somersault from
twenty feet away to save Jimmy and the bad guys just mowing down the audience
with a machine gun. Of course, during the disco period I think a lot of
us would have liked to have done the same!
Add to this, the very fun dance numbers with
the flashing lights, the spinning disco balls, the wonderful background
dancers in tinsel and the disco beat. The music is actually very catchy
– some seven songs and each one of them a little pop delight. I had come
across the music first and enjoyed it so much that I finally had to see
the film – and from nearly the first scene to the last I had a big silly
goofy smile on my face that returns each time I think of Sam and his female
partner (squeezed into her hotpants like an overstuffed sausage) singing
“Bang Bang” or Jimmy with some weird little Batman mask around his forehead
crooning “I am a Disco Dancer”.
The DVD has no English subtitles (since I wrote
this review a version with subs from Bollywood Entertainment has come out)
but that truly doesn’t matter a whole lot and makes the occasional English
phrase really stand out – “Jimmy I hate you. You coward. I hate you Jimmy”
which translated into any language means " I love you, you big lug".
My rating for this film: This is a tough call
- 6.0 on the technical/film level - 9.0 on the pleasure meter!
Note - I looked for some information on the
film and found this article
about the composer (only accessible I think with Explorer), but it mentions
that Disco Dancer was actually very popular in India and began a disco
craze and made Mithun a huge dancing and film star!
And an article