Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Movies I Like: Dance Dance

I have done film posts in two different formats: one is a detailed analysis (!) of films of a certain period/genre/theme, usually running into several thousand words. And the second is a quick take on a film, remembering bits and pieces of it. This post started under the second format and somehow in the course of writing it, it sneaked into the first format.
Pointless - check. Rambling - check. Avoidable - check.

Story 1: A boy's parents are killed by an evil rajah. The boy grows up and takes revenge.
Story 2: An elder sister helps her little brother become successful. When she dies, the brother is shattered. However, he comes back to regain his success.
Story 3: An extremely talented musical group rises from rags to riches. In-fighting causes them to split. They eventually unite for one final hurrah.
These three stories have been repeated infinite times in the history of Bollywood. And really, there is no novelty in them anymore. The film in discussion - Dance Dance - stands out not because it used any of the above plots but because it used all three!

However, before we get into the detailed description of the plot and scenes, a brief background is necessary.

A lot of people worship Mithun nowadays as Prabhuji and his later films have found a cult following on the 'net. These films - which proliferated literally by the dozens in the mid-1990s - were darlings of the distributors because they were commercially super-successful and rewarded their investors manifold.

But the seeds of Mithun's divinity were sown much before these films. It started off somewhere in the early 80s, when B Subhash directed the movie Disco Dancer with Mithun Chakraborty in the lead and it became a monster hit. Bappi Lahiri’s music and Mithun’s sinewy dance moves became the toast of every Ganpati / Durga Puja pandal in the country and we had the country’s first male dancing star (not counting V Shantaram)!

A couple of years after Disco Dancer, the same actor-director-composer trio came together for Dance Dance – which became an even bigger hit than the earlier movie. This was the late 80s when people were still unsure about the difference between ‘disco’ and ‘rock’ and teenagers believed that being able to ‘break dance’ is the ultimate sign of coolness!


The film opens with an impoverished family of four - musician parents and their son and daughter. The parents are about to leave for a musical show, which is supposed to bring in 'dher sara paisa' and solve their woes. The son - suffering from fever - is a halwa fan (hint - hit song ahead!) and in an attempt to divert his sorrow at the parting, a container of halwa is thrust in his hand. A heartless landlord appears magically to demand rent and on being told to wait, he promptly snatches the halwa from the kid and vanishes. Logic: rent defaulters don't get their just desserts.

Just before the parents hop on to an auto rickshaw (from the same set where the TV serial Nukkad was shot), the son hands over a letter to the mom and asks her to open it when she is on stage!


The parents and their dance troupe are supposed to perform in front of the Maharajah of Jalpaiguri (huh?) - a role essayed by Amrish Puri with a silver mane and his customary gusto. The son message turns out that he wants his mother to sing a song which starts with Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi. (Double huh!)

Anyway, the mother promptly starts off on a ritzy ditty, which goes Mera dil gaye ja Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi / Masti mein gaye ja Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi... which is all fine except the Maharajah of Jalpaiguri has developed the hots for her! So, all through the song, he fantasises bumping his substantial cheeks on her voluminous hips with his usual eye-enlargement-as-lewdness trick. The mother tries to inject a bit of seriousness with words like masti mein chur ameeri, bebas majboor gareebi and patthar dil daulat waale but when a song ends with words like Zu Zu Zubi Zubi Zubi, Amrish Puri's hormones are bound to go into an overdrive.

The song ends. They leave for Bombay (presumably with the dher sara paisa). Their bus is hijacked by Rajasaheb's henchmen. They are made to perform in front of Rajah. Rajah tries to act out his fantasies. Father (on keyboards, hitherto unseen) behaves in true Bollywood fashion i.e. protests meekly and gets bumped off. Mother runs off into the Jungles of Jalpaiguri. Bus blown up and news of parents' demise spread through newspapers.

800 words... and we have just gone past the titles.


The heartless landlord (see above) returns this time with a copy of the newspaper and chucks out the siblings. To increase the HWS (Heart Wrench Score), the boy now has high fever and no halwa. The sister manages to carry him to Juhu beach, while he is mumbling for halwa. Only in Hindi cinema do we see orphans with high fever pining for gaajar ka halwa, boondi ke laddoo and such ghee-laden monstrosities.

In an attempt to show that the boy's twin passions are halwa and dance, the kid is made to totter through a couple of (presumably) disco steps. And a passerby is impressed enough to throw a coin. The sis picks up coin and...

Poignant Dialogue (by sis): Ramu (oh - did I mention that the bro's name is Ramu? No? Well, I just did!), halwa khane ke liye paisa kamaana padega. Aur paisa kamaane ke liye tujhe dance karna padega... Dance Dance.

Song Situation: Aa gaya, aa gaya halwa-wala aa gaya / Rang jamaane aa gaya / Dhoom machane aa gaya...


In between the song - exactly at a jazzy musical interlude - the small legs of the brother segues into the white-shoe-clad, white-trousers-encased snazzy legs of Mithun as he sings a disco-version of the Halwa-wala song, dressed up as Santa Claus!

This is also the time to introduce the 'heroine' of the film - who is not the love interest of the hero, but his sister. The posters proclaimed 'See dear Smita Patil in her last role' and people who remember the magnificent actress from Arth, Khandahar and Bhumika should see Dance Dance because she matched Mithun step for step, lip-synch for lip-synch in this film. Her awkwardness in filmy dancing (so visible in Namak Halal) was all gone.

During the course of this song and a couple of scenes, we are introduced to Mithun and his band. Mithun is the lead performer, Smita provides supporting vocalists and Shakti 'Casting Couch' Kapoor on drums. There may have been a few other assorted characters as well but there was no answer to the plaintive cries of 'who's the bassist?'


Smita - also the brain behind the band - decides that they needed to make some money pronto and they devise a plan to entertain a very exclusive and stiff-upper-lip club. Now, for some strange reason, the club seems to have only Parsi members.

Anyway, POA is Smita dresses up as a rich dowager and plants herself as a member. Mithun and Shakti sneak in and shake a mean leg. Club members are suitably impressed and tip them large amounts of money. Err... but why is Smita dressed up as a member? Offoh... so that she can start the tipping process as 'one of them' and the others can join in.

Song Situation: Everybody dance with pa.pa.pa / Everybody dance with maa.maa.

Highlight: When the ancient Parsi community stares at Mithun's steps bewildered, he says - "You don't know break dance? Okay - tequila!" And the famous tat.tara.tat.tara music starts off and the bawas join in enthusiastically.


Now, it dawns on the band (which either has no name or I have no memory) that the above money-earning tactic has achieved only one thing - add one more hit song to the film. So, they decide to enter a Disco Championship, which is the rough equivalent of Indian Idol in the 80s. Or so it looks like. Except that it has two hitches.

One, they band has to kow-tow to Dalip Tahil to enter the contest.

Two, a band led by a singer called Janita (not to be mistaken for Janitor) seems destined to win.

You can add a third to the list - Dalip Tahil has the hots for the aforementioned Janita, played with mini-skirted aplomb by Mandakini.


Obviously, in true filmi tradition, Mithun and gang sneak in from the service entrance and crash the show - right after a superb performance by Mandy and Co (of the only song in the film, which I have forgotten which means it can't be that good a performance). And whatay performance they give... man oh man, whatay performance!

Song Situation: Super Dancer (pronounced: Soup-ah Dyan-sah) nachenge nachenge / Super Dance gayenge gayenge

In the only song he sings in the film, composer Bappi Lahiri surpasses himself and comes up with a rendition that would occupy positions 1 to 100 in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Only if they agreed to count this song as rock.

Important Info: All the songs of the film are sung by Vijay Benedict and Alisha Chinai, both in one of their earliest films. Vijay seems to have vanished into thin air but Ms Chinai is still going strong.


Post this Soup-ah performance, Ramu promptly becomes Romeo and the band becomes the hottest property in tinsel town. Having lost this all-important contest, the super-hot Janita vanishes into oblivion and Dalip Tahil eats tonnes of humble pie. Because Romeo now insists on taking pie pie ka hisaab. Har har...

1600 words and we are at around the interval now.

Romeo and sis move into swanky bungalow. Kaamyabi kiss their toes. Romeo learns to drink.
Poignant dialogue: Bachpan mein jab paani mangta tha, gaaliyan milti thi. Ab paani mangne se whiskey milti hain.
Drummer Shakti spotted getting fresh with sis. Romeo about to beat him to a pulp when sis guiltily confesses love for drummer. Undoubtedly, the lowest point of Smita's cinematic career, this is where indulgent Romeo agrees to the marriage. In standard filmi tradition, sis gives up showbiz and embraces happy matrimony. For some reason, drummer-husband also follows suit. Sneaking suspicion that Shakti Kapoor - hitherto heroic - might just live up to his image.

Romeo - after a drunken binge (Fast learner! See alcohol initiation, three lines above.) - walks into a shady bar. The cabaret artist is eminently recognisable and she professes her ambition to emulate Romeo one day.
Song Situation: Romeo oh Romeo. Jaaneman, tum number one ho / Har jawaan dil ki dhadkan ho / Hain sitarein tum par meherbaan / Tum ho tum to hum bhi hum hain / Hum nahin tum se kuch kam hain / Tum jahan jo jaane jana / Hum ko bhi aana hain kal wahaan...
Romeo may be drunk but he recognises thighs like that at two hundred paces. Janita - after her spectacular defeat - is reduced to being a Janitor (almost). She now dances at, well, dance bars.
Romeo feels guilty/horny enough to offer her a position in his band, a room in his house and a ventricle in his heart. Mandy moves in before we can say B Subhash.

Parallel Plot: Shakti Kapoor starts doing what he normally does in films and sometimes, even in real life.
He has affairs. Actually, he sleeps with his molls in his own bedroom while Smita Patil serves tea. You had heard of threesomes. Now, this is a tea-some. He beats up Smita when she meekly protests. He asks for money from Romeo. And if all that is not enough, he struts around in his underwear.
Smita covers up blackened eye and asks for money. Romeo threatens to beat up Shakti but pays up. Smita covers up bloodied nose and asks for money. Romeo threatens to beat up Shakti but pays up. Smita dabs at swollen lips... you get the picture, right?
Oh, if you are wondering why Romeo pays up, then you must be Bhishma Pitamaha. In modern Hindi cinema, nobody messes with
behen ka suhaag.
In between all this brutality, Smita announces pregnancy. Her real-life pregnancy was becoming a little too difficult to hide by now. Shakti is overjoyed and whips her with a belt.
Close up: Belt hitting Smita's stomach.
Predictable Scene: Smita dies in childbirth. Child is still born.
Shakti is flipping through a magazine at home. Blazing-eyed Mithun enters.
Shakti:
Tum kyon aaye ho?
Mithun (my favourite dialogue):
Doctor ne kaha kisi ne Smita ko bedardi se mara hain. Main tumhe bedardi ka matlab samjhane aaya hoon.

After the bedardi-ka-matlab-samjhane-wala-pitaai, Shakti becomes repentant. Mithun becomes alcoholic. Mandakini becomes maudlin. With Mithun downing Black Label straight from the tap, it is up to Mandy to do the shows and bring in the moolah. She does this a great show of sorrow and cleavage.
Song Situation: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar mera kho gaya / Pyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar mera kho gaya
Important Plot Point: Romeo's liver has shrunk to the size of a raisin by now and any attempts at dancing (or so I remember) may aggravate the already naazuk haalaat.
Inter-cut with the above song (sung by Alisha in the trademark quivering-voice of Asha)
are scenes of Maharajah of Jalpaiguri. All of you who are still overcome at the thought of Smita's death, you would do well to go back to Para #2 and refresh your memories. Impressively enough, Maharajah (not to be confused with Maharaja of Behala) still has lascivious thoughts about nubile nymphets and wants to invite this specimen of feminity to Jalpaiguri!

Either Mandy has bad feelings about the Rajah or she has had enough of Romeo sitting on his ass and guzzling whisky, she inspires him to return to the stage... at Jalpaiguri! When Romeo stares at her balefully despite her flashing spirit, thighs and cleavage in sequence, she decides to move on. For the show. Not from the relationship, silly!
When her van is on the way to Jalpaiguri (which, incidentally, has a train and air station in real life but not used in this film), a hijack attempt is made. However, this time a spooky figure in a spotless white sari emerges from the jungles and AK-47s. They are the Maharaja's henchmen. They obviously had great respect for their 30-year old hijacking trick but had not bargained for Romeo's Mom hanging around the jungles for so long!
YES, Mom-Lovers, YES! The mom, whom we had given up for the dead, is not dead after all and is ready to shake a mean machine gun once again.
By this time, Romeo has also reached Jalpaiguri. He has regained his natural narrow-eyed, pointy-lipped coolness. He embraces his mother and promises to avenge her
be-izzati. And, he has decided to throw caution to the winds and dance like there's no tomorrow. Dance at the bloke's function who he has to kill to avenge his mother's misfortune. Don't fret... Hindi films' strength are its set pieces, not the bloody logic.

Song Situation: Zindagi mera dance dance (pronounced: dhnyanns dhnyanns)
Mithun dresses up in a zebra-striped costume with gloves upto his elbows. There is strobe lighting. There is repentant Shakti, singing in the aisles. There is doting mom doing the
nazar utaaro act in the wings.
And there is a purported cirrhosis of the liver. So, during the particularly tricky moves, Mithun supposedly has tremendous pain in his liver and holds on to his right flank!
Net net, all's well that ends well. People die of happiness seeing Romeo come back. Shakti dies catching a bullet intended for Romeo. Amrish dies because he needs to give his enlarged eyeballs some rest.
And the audience goes home in a state of ecstatic delirium.

I have seen this film just once. And despite that some twenty years later, I remember reasonably large chunks of the film in scene-by-scene detail. Quite amazing, this points out the pull of a seemingly hackneyed plot, charisma of the lead stars and the melody of Bappi Lahiri's music.
And even after writing reams, I still have not told you that Shakti Kapoor's name is Resham. Or, Mithun calls Dalip Tahil Banjo sahab. In one scene, Mithun mistakes a lightning bolt as a photo flash and poses. Mithun gets an agent called David (played by Om Shivpuri). Even in Disco Dancer, he had an agent called David (played by Om Puri). So on and so forth...
Such is the Mithun magentism. Hallelujah!
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