Disco king Mithun Chakraborty is still going strong
Every actor who has made it big in showbiz invariably has one iconic scene under his belt. For Mithun Chakraborty, his big moment arrived when he executed a series of Elvis Presley-inspired steps on stage in his 1982 blockbuster Disco Dancer. Dressed in a pair of snug white hot-pants with a glittering headband to boot, Chakraborty snapped his fingers and swivelled effortlessly and chanted the iconic song I Am A Disco Dancer.
Times have changed. He's no longer on the big screen dancing, but judging others on the small screen.
Sitting on a leather wing chair, the 63-year-old veteran wears a sober expression every week as he checks out the contestants participating in Zee TV's hit reality dance show Dance India Dance Doubles.
"[The show] evokes a lot of memories — it reminds me of my songs… my signature moves. It makes me feel as if I have contributed something worthwhile to the dance world," says Chakraborty in an interview with tabloid!.
After having acted in more than 200 Indian films, the award-winning actor is currently enjoying his stint as a talent hunt judge.
"I took a huge chance when I took on Disco Dancer. You see, I went through a bad experience before its release. People condemned it and were quick to swat it. Some people even said ‘disco-dancing will never work in India because we have a different culture'. But when I sit on the chair today, I go back to that era and constantly remind myself that I should never judge people in the same way they judged me," said Chakraborty.
"With Disco Dancer we took a chance and it paid off. I am willing to give that same concession to every participant out there."
Disco Dancer became one of Bollywood's cult revenge-dramas. Chakraborty played Jimmy, a street dancer-turned-mega star, who swears revenge when his mother is electrocuted by a bunch of villains.
"Nobody had any faith in the movie when it was being shot. But when the film released the entire scenario changed. Those very people who were cautious about it patted me on my back," he recalls. "My life was always a huge gamble."
The last sentence encapsulates the career of Mithun da, as he is fondly called in the industry. His catalogue of films spans three decades, studded with a healthy mix of art-house favourites (Mrigaya), blockbusters (Guru) and B-grade potboilers (Phool Aur Angaar). If the '80s saw his meteoric rise to super stardom, the '90s saw him churn out B-grade action films. But he didn't stay there long. The last decade saw him bounce back to A-list productions, albeit with smaller but strong roles, such as Mani Ratnam's Guru and Rohit Shetty's hit comedy franchise Golmaal 3.
"Each and every movie that I did was for a purpose. And I am proud of every film — even the low-budget ones. I don't regret any one of them. I did those low-budget films because I had huge loans to pay," explained Chakraborty. Film folklore has it that Chakraborty faced a financial meltdown when he turned into an hotelier in the tourist town of Ooty in South India.
‘Paid my loans'
"When I built my own hotel, I had taken loans from the government and had to pay them back. So what I did is I opened the doors of my hotel to all the producers out there. I invited them to stay at the hotel and to utilise all the facilities during their shooting. That way I paid my loans and I could act too. It was all very deliberate," said Chakraborty, who feels sorting out his finances and securing his family's future was his priority.
"I went on to make small-budget films for the sake of my family and children. I did not want to compromise on that."
He was also one of the few actors in Bollywood who dared to take a sabbatical when his career was soaring.
"I wanted to give myself a break because I got bored with my work. By then, I had become this saleable star and suddenly they were only interested in earning money through me. They were thinking economics and not good filmmaking. They made profits but I was at a loss."
Those days are behind him now. The star is currently filming for Shetty's next instalment of Golmaal and Sajid Khan's Housefull 2.
"I am working 365 days a year. What more can one ask? When you are successful, you see only the rising sun. But I have seen the setting sun too. And I have never looked back."
Did you know?
Mithun Chakraborty's son Mimoh is trying to get into Bollywood. But his father is not willing to play godfather. "Though his first film didn't do well, I can confidently tell you that I did not recommend him to any filmmaker. He is doing it all without recommendations."