From a cinematic tradition overflowing with mama’s boys, by far the biggest to emerge is Disco Dancer‘s Jimmy. He only eats if Maa hand-feeds him, he dances like a girl, he sulks, he sucks his thumb, he lets women poke him in the belly, he is a failure at adult relationships with women (seriously, just ask Rita Oberoi, she’ll tell you), and he can’t go on when his mother dies while saving him from Death By Guitar. This film sends terrible messages to both women and men: you have no value, ladies, except as a downtrodden and self-sacrificing mother, and if you are lucky to have such a mama, men, you should never cut the apron strings. It is no coincidence that the bad people in it (the Oberois) have no mother figure in their household. Oh, and also: you should always carry a grudge. It will keep you going and help you succeed.
So why does this movie’s legend endure? Why does almost everyone who comes into contact with it come away a changed person?
Because for each bad message sent, there are at least five equal and opposite utterly ridiculous ones, deadly serious in their lunacy. This movie reeks of sincerity. It is trying to help you. These are the lessons I have learned, thanks only to Disco Dancer, in no real order of importance:
I learned (somewhat to my distress) that there IS such a thing as “too gaudy”. This whole film is that thing. I blame these people. Especially YOU Kishore Bajaj.
I learned that Disco is a religion, with Gita Siddharth as its Goddess Supreme and Mithun as its Messiah. Their initials are no accident. (What? You thought it was Donna Summer? Or the Bee Gees? No no no.)
I learned that red jumpsuits can be paired with gold lame boots, but a white jumpsuit paired with a red scarf just looks angry.
I learned that Om Puri was young once! Sort of.
I learned that you can blame an inanimate place like Bombay for all your troubles and it owes you for whatever you endured within those city limits. That is all the focus you will ever need.
I learned that two men can loathe each other and feel compelled to discuss their loathing in English.
I learned about handsome Rajesh Khanna. I had no idea who he was the first time I saw this, but I knew he was the best-looking thing in it. And he seriously milked his death scene for all it was worth, too. I wanted more.
I learned for sure that the Cat Wall-Hanging House is really real! Except the Cat Wall-Hanging has finally been replaced *sad face*. Everything else—the stained glass, the stairs, the altar by the door, the gaudy bar, the portrait above the purple sofas—remains the same though.
I learned more about the exterior of it too, thanks to Oberoi’s penchant for abusing people in his yard. Someone, somewhere, has got to remember those gates.
I learned the perfect thing to say (and exactly how to say it) on my birthday:
Above all, I can now state with perfect certainty that Mithun cannot dance, although I will give him kudos for the comic perfection of several signature “moves”. Here, from just one single song, are some highlights. Do be sure to watch all the other ones for more shenanigans he passes off as dancing.
But as many answers to serious issues as I have gotten from this movie, some things still leave me with questions, only questions.
Did Kalpana Iyer’s costume designer hate her? How else can these outfits be explained? I do love that she is allowed to be a woman obviously living in sin (and with the only bastard son of a vealthy father at that) but remains a sympathetic character throughout. She gets a great Nahiiin! Face moment with an assist from Bob Christo too. But my GOD, her clothes!
Happy Mithun is so handsome! Why was he never allowed to be happy in his movies? Why is it always sturm und drang for the poor guy? This is the only time we see him smile in this entire film (and I give Tun Tun the credit for it).
How did this…TING…pass muster even with Babbar Subhash and Bappi Lahiri? The only word I can think of to describe Sam’s dancing is excruciating, but that doesn’t even come close. Do you think there were any rehearsals? Or did the dance directors just give up? Maybe everybody hoped that we’d all be too blinded by the mirrors and spandex to notice.
I actually didn’t ever plan to write this movie up at all, because it had been done so brilliantly already that there was no need. But now that I have, maybe I won’t need to watch it again. Oh, who am I kidding. Of course I’ll watch it again. And learn.