The journey of Gouranga Chakraborty to Disco dancer Mithun in itself has been none less than a Bollywood drama. The story of Mithun Chakraborty has emotion, failure, struggle, and sweet success. The twists in Mithun drama also have the Bollywood trademark.
From fringe stream to the mainstream and from being a ‘footpather’ to becoming the top taxpayer in the country et al. sounds like a Bollywood potboiler. The character Mithun Chakraborty has all the cinematic turns and twists.
As the Government of India has honoured the gritty star having elegant steps and electrifying action moves with Padma Bhushan- the country's 3rd top honour, it's time to have a biography of this mass star.
Delving into the journey of Mithun to becoming 'Disco Dancer'
The light, action, and clap for Mithun were not scintillating all the way.
Many big stars and directors taunted his dark skin in his early days. And even after reaching the dizzy heights, there was a motley crowd in B'town who named him a B-grade star, Czar of C-grade et al.
But all fell like a pack of cards. The shine of the star among the masses had been so bright that Mithun Chakraborty reigned Bollywood in the 80s. And he got the nickname- poor man's Amitabh Bachchan (which means small producers and directors who can't afford Big B, betted on him and raked moolah in BO)
This "so-called" B-grade star, poor men’s Amitabh, the Czar of C-grade Movies, India's answer to John Travolta, etc. People have labeled him numerous times as a flop and he survived time and again. Other stars comeback getting so much when Mithun made a rare appearance at the launch parties in Mumbai, the moment he appeared at the party, the media person, rushed towards him, ignoring a galaxy of stars, which comprised people like Amitabh, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, etc. Within a few weeks of his return to the tinsel town, he had offers from top banners and directors (In the mid-80s).
Beginning of Mithun's career
Mithun started his career with Mrigya in the role of an Aadivasi (tribal) youth and got the National Award for Best Actor but the mainstream industry took no notice of his achievement and he was struggling to sustain himself. Once a reporter visited him for his interview and he asked him to pay for his lunch only then he would give the interview.
Birth of Disco Dancer...
But, 'Surakshaa' where he appeared on the screen imitating the western dancing stars changed the scenario. He got offers for numerous movies but for a similar kind of role. The phase saw hits like Disco Dancer, Dance Dance, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, etc. It established Mithun as the 'National Dancing Sensation'.
The word 'Disco' owes a lot to Mithun Chakraborty and vice versa. Streets were filled with Disco Hair Cutting Saloon to Disco Tailors. But K.C. Bokadia's 'Pyar Jhukta Nahin', one of the biggest hits of that time, catapulted him to A-grade star status.
If one can look at Mithun's career, one very interesting fact would come out that he made his mark in the industry when both its superstars were present and working, Big B and Rajesh Khanna, that too without the help of any big banner or big directors. He never worked with Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra, or Prakash Mehra. Today, no star can think of such kind of phenomenal success working with small directors. Mithun made it new and turned the "so-called" B-grade directors into A-grade directors.
Rise of Disco Dancer
B.Subhash, K Bappiah, Bapu, TLV Prasad, these directors' career graphs rose with Mithun's career graph. Probably Mithun is one of the few star actors who made his mark in both parallel cinema and mainstream cinema. His second National Award came for 'Tahedar Katha' and third for 'Swami Vivekanad'. His performance in Swami Vivekanand, as Ram Krishna Paramhansa, is probably the best of his career.
A review of 'Swami Vivekananda' in India Today recommended that movie for the sheer brilliance of Mithun's acting. That movie made directors like Maniratnam announce a project with him. Maniratnam announced the multi-starrer, bi-lingual, big-budget movie Anandam with Mithun in the lead role along with Aishwarya Rai and Mammootty. The music director was A.R. Rahman.
However, Mithun refused the role as he was to shave his head for the movie, and at that time, Mithun had other commercial movies in making so he refused to do the role. His refusal saw people like Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff (both were in the prime phase of their careers at that time) go for the role. But, Maniratnam, shelved the project.
His movies like Gudiya and Titli got critical acclaim in all the major film festivals across the globe. For the movie Gudiya, he almost got his fourth National Award. His acting talent is unquestionable and so is his business sense. However, he was not able to manipulate people and was not able to send blank fillers to top directors for a good role. He worked on his own rules and conditions.
Mithun Chakraborty: Star of the Millennium!
Mithun Chakraborty, the greatest superstar of Indian cinema, has unparalleled superstardom in Russia, Africa, and many foreign countries. He rose to fame with the soaring success of Disco Dancer. The popular number “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Aaja, Aaja, Aaja...” emerged as the biggest hit in Russia and several other countries. He is better known to Russians as Jimmy, the character he played in Disco Dancer. Mithun became an icon in the 80’s in Russia. As Hollywood movies were prohibited, only Hindi movies used to rule Russia.
An anecdote from the late 80s sheds light on how big Disco Dancer was in Russia. When then-USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited India, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced Amitabh Bachchan as the 'biggest superstar in India'. However, Gorbachev replied, “But my daughter only knows Mithun Chakraborty.”
Other Bollywood movies, including Rishi Kapoor's Bobby and Barood and Raj Kapoor's Awaara, were widely watched in the Soviet Union, but none of them were quite the rage like Disco Dancer. After its release in Soviet theatres in 1984, Disco Dancer grossed a mind-boggling $76 million in the country. Adjusted for inflation, that adds up to almost $180 million. It remains, by quite some distance, the highest-grossing foreign film in the Soviet Union, a 2018 report by The Indian Express stated.