Last year, a No Dada, No Eden campaign was launched on Facebook following Sourav Ganguly’s ouster from Kolkata Knight Riders and Gautam Gambhir’s appointment as skipper. The campaign is back under a different name, Bring Dada Back, as IPL Season 4 gets ready to kick-off. I remember raising the subject with one of my young Facebook friends, a die-hard Sourav loyalist, and being told, “Sure, it’s dadagiri (bullying) but hey, Dada is hosting the show, right?”
He was, but Mithun Chakraborty has since taken over Sourav’s onscreen Dadagiri, and I’m told that with his entry, the TRPs have jacked. No, I’m not a Sourav hater or baiter, it’s just that for me Mithun has been 'Dada' since the day I first saw him in a suburban hotel during one of his infrequent visits to the city.
He was taking a break between shots in his suite and I, at 5 feet 1 inch, almost invisible in a crowd of friends, fans and filmmakers, was wondering how I was going to wangle an interview for my magazine. I positioned myself strategically at the door, hoping to catch his eye as he walked out. I thought the brainwave had backfired as he hurried past, my “Dada” falling on deaf ears. Then, just as my shoulders started to droop, he turned and looked expectantly at me.
Barely out of college, my nervousness was apparent, as he responded to my request with a grave, “But why would you want to interview me?” I was unprepared for the query, no star having asked that before or since, and blurted out the first thought that crossed my mind, “Because you are the only Bengali to have won two National Awards, for Mrigaya and Tahader Katha (he’s bagged one more since for Swami Vivekanand).”
A smile lit his face up, “Sure, we’ll give you an interview, but today seems difficult. Stay in touch with my make-up man and the next time I fly down, we’ll talk.” My shoulders dropped as my hopes of an exclusive with Dada evaporated. The smile flashed again, “You just called me Dada, that makes you my younger sister, I promise you’ll get your interview soon.”
He kept his word, inviting me into his van one rainy morning at Mehboob Studio, and patiently answering mall my queries. In the years since, he’s spoken to me many times, sometimes over a crackling network from Ooty. For me, he’s not Mithunda or MC, but simply Dada. There’s something of the ‘Big Brother’ in him. I’ve seen young actors unabashedly giving him a peck on his show, knowing that it won’t be misinterpreted, Kolkata’s poster boys going down on their knees seeking his ashirwad (blessing), moppets climbing into his lap and strugglers hoping to get on one of his shows, convinced it’ll turn their lives around.
Chutu Lohar, who didn’t even have a TV at home, popped up on Dance India Dance last year with unpolished talent and an unwavering determination to woo Dada. He was rejected, recalled, rebuffed, but he returned in the mega auditions in Season 3, and this time, with Dada’s blessings and a benefactor sponsoring his dance classes, made it to the Top 18. Maybe in this thin, dark boy from Orrisa Dada saw shades of himself struggling for a foothold in Bollywood after a National Award-winning performance in Mrinal Sen’s Mrigaya.
He was apparently told that an adivasi (tribal) in a dhoti would never be accepted as a suited-booted Hindi film hero. But he wouldn’t be dissuaded to return home, and eventually, with Suraksha’s Gun Master G 9, emerged as a desi Bond and then as Pelvic Presley in Disco Dancer.
So many Govindas, Akshay Kumars, Saif Ali Khans and Hrithik Roshans later, Dada, even after 30 years, remains the original Disco Dancer. Actor-director Sajid Khan, who is equally starry-eyed about him, admitted to me recently that he had tears in his eyes when his idol faced the camera for Housefull 2: “It was just a walking shot with no dialogue, but for me it was one of the biggest highs of my career because I was directing the actor I had grown up idolising.”
As a tribute, Sajid has given Dada a disco track choreographed by Farah Khan in his eagerly-awaited sequel. He confided to me that when his sister was in college, Farah had a poster of Dada on the wall of her room. “Later, she was hired to teach his eldest son dancing when Mimoh was around three years,” he added.
“It’s incredible that in all these years, Dada and Farah have never collaborated on a film. Houseful 2 is a first for them too.”
I can’t wait to see the Disco Dancer back! He had feet tapping as far as Soviet Russia, Uzbekistan, China, Mongolia and Turkey. And he’s still just as groovy!