DISCO DANCER, COLA & I
Updated: Jun 28
By age 12, I was doing everything that my family couldn’t have ever imagined.
My father, though a shippie, never drank or smoked. So whenever there was an overseas guest who would gift a bottle of malt, it would straight go on the topmost rack of his cupboard. And later, I would sneak them out and the rest is another story for another day.
But this was a time when I was living two lives. One, who would spend most of his time dreaming of large concert arenas, stand in front of the mirror with a guitar in hand and sing Deep Purple, Springsteen, Led Zep, etc off tune, learn the Blues scale on the guitar, practice Lobsang Rampa, read Sartre and not understand a line while the other Anupam had no clue of this guy!
The other guy was and is still an ardent fan of Hindi cinema. So when I was growing up, Rajesh Khanna would still be on the cover pages of film magazines. I even saw the transition when Amitabh Bachchan took over the reins of popularity and began to appear on the covers and Kaka, as Rajesh Khanna is referred to in the cine industry, sadly began to fade away into oblivion. And the audience too soon began to forget the first superstar of India. The man never got his due!
But something different too was happening other than Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. There were some really nice movies with Amol Palekar in the lead. I loved all of them.
And I had no clue that there was more hidden inside me!
Subhas Ghai announced Disco Dancer with Bappi Lahari doing the music and Mithun Chakraborty in the lead. Those days, the LP vinyl record would be released long before the release of the film. And Mithun Chakraborty was already a rising star with Surakhsha, Gun Master G9, etc.
The songs of Disco Dancer were already super hit in the masses with veteran singer Vijay Benedict riding high.
So I saved some money that I’d flick from my mother’s wallet and bought an LP of Disco Dancer. That was the first time, my mother ‘too’ began to get suspicious.
This was also the time when we boys wanted to explore alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, barbiturates and so on. But we didn’t have much money to indulge.
I would often break into my dad’s rejected bunch of alcohol bottles but then we had to find a permanent way to buy ourselves stuff regularly!
Soon, Disco Dancer was released.
This was the era of Campa Cola. Also, all our sideburns had disappeared with Mithun Chakraborty kind of hairstyle; much to the disgust of my family. My father had even stopped talking to me when he saw me dancing to ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ on the streets.
An aristocratic Capt. Sen Gupta not only found this cheap but also had allergy to street-side gossip or ‘adda’ with friends. We were not even allowed to go out of the house in flip-flops. And I was breaking all this. A rebel without a cause.
Opening day. Premier show of Disco Dancer. We stood in the line 7 days in advance and had bought tickets for the premier.
The night before, all of us went to different cigarette shops and collected a huge pile of Campa Cola crowns. We filled our pockets with the crowns and headed for the premier.
Those days, nobody frisked you with a metal detector. And we easily walked in and found our seats. We had bought seats in clusters of 3. So the trios had seats away from one another. All this was a part of the larger plan.
Disco Dancer opened with thundering applause. And by the time the protagonist grew up dancing on a bridge in the middle of the night to ‘Jesus, Come back to Us’, the theatre went beserk with some vague nutcases dancing in the aisles.
So the story progressed and Jimi, the protagonist gets signed up and lo, and there was Mithun Chakraborty in glittery shimmery dazzling outfit singing, ‘Say D, say I……..Disco, Disco’. The audience went nuts. Absolutely nuts. Actually, one could hardly hear anything else but the commotion in the theatre.
Between all the cat calls and the whistles, we began preparing for our assault.
While the song was still on, the first trio who was seated a fit far from us took out the cola crowns and began to throw them toward the screen. Soon, the other gang on our right too began to throw the crowns toward the screen. And then, it was our turn.
Soon, the audience began to throw coins thinking money was being thrown toward the screen in appreciation. This was an old tradition practised by ardent cine lovers.
The theatre was filled with the sound of the rain of cola crowns and currency coins. In each trio, we had a guy who we would bully. So it was their job to look around and gather all the coins in the commotion.
This process continued for all the songs. And by the end of the film, we had gathered enough money to go to nearby lakes while those kids who we would bully went to alcohol stores and bought some cheap rum.
And all this was happening when, as a guitar player, I was trying to understand the genesis of R&b, Funk and Disco as an aspiring musician. Frankly speaking, non of the Disco Dancer songs are in the genre of disco. They are straight on pop !
Thankfully, till his demise, my father had no clue about this vagabond, street urchin kind of a lifestyle that I was leading outside the house. And by the time, my family could gather, it was too late. The rebel had run away from the house by then!
(disclaimer - images have been sourced from the internet. we dont have any claim on them. used as reference)