It’s the time to disco: Rajeev Goswami brings burst of nostalgia with Disco Dancer
Director-choreographer Rajeev Goswami brings a burst of nostalgia on stage with his adaptation of Mithun Chakraborty’s Disco Dancer
In the early eighties, when the ‘angry young man’ was dominating the Hindi silver screen, Mithun Chakraborty burst onto the scene as a hero, who did not require bulging biceps to beat villains to a pulp. Clad in blingy outfits, he danced his way into people’s hearts with the blockbuster Disco Dancer. Coupled with a booming soundtrack featuring chartbusters such as Jimmy Jimmy and Yaad Aa Raha Hai, the movie became a hit in domestic and international markets.
Four decades later, director B Subhash’s labour of love has been adapted for stage by director-choreographer Rajeev Goswami as Disco Dancer-The Musical, which premiered in Mumbai recently. “Everyone makes movies, but I want to make grand musicals for the stage. We have such brilliant dancers and actors. I want to train them in the theatre format, and take our music and dance across the world,” he says, adding that the music of the 1982 film and Mithun’s charismatic dancing led him to adapt it for stage.
A celebration of the 80s’ Bollywood that revelled in its foot-tapping numbers, upbeat disco-style dancing, and paisa-vasool dialogues, the musical kickstarts with the bombastic Koi Yahaan Nache Nache in Bappi Lahiri and Usha Uthup’s voices. Then, the stage is set on fire in anticipation of the infamous confrontation between Sam Oberoi––the reigning king of disco––and Jimmy, the poor but talented artiste from the streets. The latter’s entry to the beats of Bambai Se Aaya Mera Dost is equal parts invigorating and nostalgic, and actor Arjun Tanwar slips into Mithun’s shoes with flair. He is as suave with his freestyle moves as he is rugged, delivering the chest-thumping dialogue, tere bete ka waqt nahi, zamana aayega.
Goswami reveals that the rehearsals went on for almost four months, a large part of which focused on teaching the actors techniques to synchronise live singing and dancing. “It takes a special skill-set to sing pitch-perfect on stage and dance. One has to condition themselves in certain techniques (lip syncing, breath, stamina etc.),” he says. Besides Tanwar, the musical also stars Varun Tiwari and Tia Kar, among others.
The director, who began his career as a choreographer, assisting the likes of Vaibhavi Merchant and Ganesh Hegde, worked independently in films such Shootout at Lokhandwala, Cash and Mission Istaanbul. He directed his first musical, Beyond Bollywood, in 2015, followed by Umrao Jaan Ada in 2020. Disco Dancer-The Musical is his third such production. “You cannot go wrong with Indian music,” Goswami says, adding, “I have grown up listening to some brilliant songs, and have felt inspired by foreign musicals. I want to take this craft on stage, and give our artistes an opportunity to travel around the world to spread Indian culture.”
The music, originally composed by Bappi Lahiri, has been reimagined by Salim-Sulaiman. The composers, who were young when the cult film released, grew up listening to the late composer’s music, and getting to recreate his work was a matter of “pride and joy” for them. “This one is an unmissable party. It is unlike anything Indian audiences have seen on stage,” says Salim. Adds Sulaiman: “The range of music we worked with was boggling. It had so many different shades. It makes you dance, cry, sing, fall in love, and even grieve.” Indeed, songs such as I Am a Disco Dancer and Goron Ki Na Kaalon Ki, when performed live, have a magic that can transport the audience to a bygone era. The culminating face-off between Jimmy and Sam, as they groove to Yaad Aa Raha Hai Tera Pyar and Kasam Paida Karnewale Ki, is a worthy finale.
Suniel Shetty, who has bankrolled the production along with Saregama, believes it is a testimony
to the heritage of Bollywood. “Our song-and-dance routines have been mocked, but now people are realising the happiness they have brought to millions,” he says. The musical had six packed shows at London’s West End last November, before premiering in India.
Goswami now plans to take the musical across the country to allow the audience to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the glorious music- and dance-filled past of Hindi cinema.
A large part of the rehearsals focused on teaching the actors techniques to synchronise live singing and dancing