40 years ago, Disco Dancer (1982) was released and rewrote history. It made Mithun Chakraborty not just a nationwide sensation but a global star and moreover, its box office performance is unparalleled. As this dance musical celebrated its 40th anniversary (on December 10 or December 17; there’s confusion over its original release date), decided to bring to you 24 facts about the film that’ll amaze you about its success and unbelievable impact
1. Director B Subhash revealed that he had met Mithun Chakraborty, who was upset about the way his career was heading. To cheer him up, the filmmaker told him that he’ll make a film titled Disco Dancerwith him and assured him that it’ll make him a superstar. Needless to say, B Subhash’s words came true.
2. This was a time when B Subhash was shooting for Taqdeer Ka Badshah(1981), also starring Mithun Chakraborty. Subhash’s publicist, Jagdish Aurangabadkar, nudged him to announce the project immediately. In no time, a leading film weekly carried the announcement that B Subhash would be directing Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Disco Dancerand that it’ll also be his first production. B Subhash said, “Excited distributors from all over India wanted to buy the film instantly. And so the musical journey which brought the disco wave to India started.”
3. The ‘Jimmy Jimmy’song is remembered even today and B Subhash revealed that he was not happy with it after the recording. He told music director Bappi Lahiri that the song is not doing justice to the situation in the film. This is when Bappi Lahiri came up with the idea of using a double voice. It involved the artist singing the line separately after which both renditions are blended. “The result blew us away,” said B Subhash.
4. Today, we can’t imagine ‘Yaad Aa Raha Hai Tera Pyaar’in anyone else but Bappi Lahiri’s voice. But originally, Kishore Kumar was supposed to croon the track. However, the day the legendary singer was going to record the song at a studio in Cuffe Parade, the elevator wasn’t working. Since it was not feasible for him to climb up the stairs due to his ill health, Bappi decided to record the scratch version. B Subhash heard it and loved it so much that he decided to retain it. He took Kishore Kumar’s permission for it. Kishore Kumar, too, agreed with the director and gave his nod.
5. During Bappi Lahiri’s demise earlier this year, B Subhash had said, “Till date, whenever my actor friends like Jackie Shroff call me, they never say ‘Hello’, but sing, ‘Yaad Aa Raha Hai’. Such is the magic of Bappi da.”
6. Writer Dr Rahi Masoom Reza was not happy with the title. He suggested that the film be called Qawwal! But B Subhash didn’t change his mind.
7. Then, it was lyricist Anjaan who had reservations. B Subhash revealed, “Anjaan ji complained that he had no idea how someone would become a Disco Dancer and suggested I take another lyricist.” The filmmaker then visited a book shop in Mumbai’s Fort and bought pamphlets of songs from albums across the world. One pamphlet was about Michael Jackson’s mother who said that her talented son could sing before he spoke and dance before he could walk. This motivated Anjaan to write the lines, ‘Yeh log kehte hain, main tab bhi gaata tha, jab bol paata nahin tha; yeh paun mere toh tab bhi thirakte the, jab chalna aata nahin tha’.
8. The dance step at the end of the title song was shot in one take. Mithun Chakraborty went all out and collapsed after B Subhash shouted ‘Cut’. The director then asked for a retake. Mithun, however, didn’t mind, got up and said, ‘Okay Guru ji, let’s do it’!
9. B Subhash, for the title song, wanted a production design similar to the classic English song, ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. However, he learnt that it’ll cost him around Rs. 6 lakhs. This is when B Subhash came across a small cycle shop with metal rings hanging outside. B Subhash said in an interview with Mumbai Mirror, “They were selling each for Rs 16 and I bought 100 at a discounted price of Rs 14, pasted paper on them and flashed light from behind, making for a colourful set decor that cost me no more than Rs 10,000. The film was all about such innovations since we were working on a shoestring budget.”
10. The part where Mithun Chakraborty is seen dancing to the peppy title track was filmed at Natraj Studio. The scenes of hundreds of junior artists witnessing Mithun’s dance were shot at Filmistan Studio. Mithun reportedly danced on cue and the junior artists got so excited that they also started shaking their legs with Mithun. Years ago, B Subhash spoke about this incident and said, “Pran saab who was shooting for another film at the studio told me that he had never seen such a crowd before as the queue of junior artists spilled onto the road outside.”
11. Disco Danceralso featured Rajesh Khanna in his first ever guest appearance. The superstar had agreed as his career was down and out and B Subhash had persuaded the producers of Thodi Si Bewafaii (1980) to cast him and not Sanjeev Kumar. The film was a success and gave his career a much-needed boost. This prompted him to give seven days to shoot for Disco Dancer and as per B Subhash, he didn’t charge any fee.
12. Parvati Khan made her debut as a Hindi playback singer with ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja’. Interestingly, she was married to cinematographer Nadeem Khan and her father-in-law was Dr Rahi Masoom Reza, both of who were involved with Disco Dancer. It was a time when she was upset as she was supposed to do a song with music composer Biddu but it fell through. Dr Reza requested B Subhash to let her sing a song. This is how she landed a chance to sing the iconic track.
13. Bappi Lahiri had admitted that recording ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja’was a challenge. He admitted that “The song took a long time to record because I introduced disco beats in Indian antara, to come up with an innovative sound. I also experimented with a new singer, Parvati Khan. But see, almost four decades later, people around the world are still playing it as a rare tribute to an Indian composer. I’m overwhelmed and feel proud to be accorded this honour.”
14. B Subhash had confessed that two months before the release of Disco Dancer, a film called Star(1982), starring Kumar Gaurav and Rati Agnihotri, was released and had bombed. Since it was in the same zone as Disco Dancer, many in the industry had doubts that the Mithun Chakraborty-starrer would also not succeed.
15. However, Disco Dancerbecame a huge hit in India, earning Rs. 3.20 crores, which was a huge number for that time and also for its budget.
16. In 1983, a Mumbai-based agency, Sovex Fort, invited B Subhash to screen Disco Dancer at a film festival in Moscow. B Subhash stated, “I was hesitant because it was a modern film with modern music and mostly dark films such as Do Bigha Zamin(1953) have been successful in Russia but Smita Patil convinced me otherwise.” It’s thanks to the talented actress that Disco Dancerwas then able to cross the Rs. 100 crores mark, the first Indian film to do so.
17. In the Soviet Union, Disco Dancer, as per reports, sold 120 million tickets. Forbes states that it grossed Rs. 90 crores in USSR.
18. While the industry looked down upon Disco Dancerbefore its release, they did the same for its Russian run as well. B Subhash said, “Industry colleagues argued that Disco Dancershould not be allowed to be released in Russia as it did not depict Indian culture! I was anxious and went for the first 3 pm show at Mir Theatre with a lot of trepidation. I was overwhelmed when, in the end, Russians were dancing to ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and besieging me for autographs. I set out to bring disco to India with my first production and ended up creating the world’s eighth wonder.”
19. Besides Russia, Disco Danceralso had a huge run in China. In all, it collected Rs. 100.70 crores worldwide and at that time, it was the biggest hit of Indian cinema of all time, surpassing Mughal-E-Azam(1960), Sholay (1975) etc by a huge margin. If the reports claiming that Disco Dancer was made on a budget of Rs. 2 crores are true, then it means that the film earned 50 times more. In terms of ROI, it’s in the league of films like Jai Santoshi Maa (1975) and the recent The Kashmir Files (2022).
20. WhatsApp’s co-founder, Jan Koum, has admitted that while growing up in Kyiv (modern-day Ukraine), he had seen Disco Danceras many as 20 times.
21. Even today, people from this region continue to dance, perform and discuss Disco Dancer and its songs. Restaurants named ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ can be found in Vladivostok, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia. In 2019, the ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ restaurant in Tbilisi was inaugurated by Raj Kapoor’s son, Rajeev Kapoor.
22. Recently, the people of China made use of the song ‘Jimmy Jimmy’to protest against the prolonged lockdown. ‘Jimmy Jimmy’sounds similar to the Mandarin term ‘Jie mi, jie mi, which translates into ‘Give me rice, give me rice’. Two Chinese women, dressed in Indian wear, were seen lip syncing to this song on TikTok, holding empty bowls, to indicate how they are deprived of basic food items due to the extreme measures taken by the government of China to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. This video went viral and reminded people that the craze of Disco Dancer refuses to die even after 40 years.
23. Even places like Tajikistan were charmed by Disco Dancer. Bappi Lahiri once stated, “I realized the enduring popularity of the songs ‘Disco Dancer’and ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja’in Tajikistan when I visited the country a few years ago. They refused to let me step off the stage.”
24. In 2020, it came to light that Disco Dancerwas going to be remade as a musical on stage. B Subhash confirmed that he had given the screenplay rights of the film to the music director duo Salim-Sulaiman.