How Disco Took India By Storm In The Glorious ‘80s


Har Kisi Ko Chahiay
Tun Mun Ka Milan
Kash Mujh Pay Aaisa
Dil Aaap Ka Bhi Aaiay
Toh Baat Bun Jai

When the 1980s’ movie Qurbaani brought to Bollywood Aap Jaisa Koi in all its Zeenat Aman-drenched glory, little did it know that it was laying the foundation for what would be the glorious disco era of Bollywood. The mid-70s in the U.S. saw a sudden surge in the popularity of a new, thriving genre: Disco music. While the the Bee Gees made it to the charts with their music and John Travolta led America into Disco dancing, Bollywood did what Bollywood does best: picked up a trend and made it its own.

Produced by Indian-born British music producer Biddu, the song Aap Jaisa Koi was sung by 15-year-old Pakistani singer Nazia Hussain, who gave a voice to the first wave of disco in India. Hussan lent her voice to the classic Disco Deewane too – which made waves in India and Pakistani. After its 2012 remake ‘The Disco Song’ for Karan Johar’s Student of The Year topped the charts for months, its fair to say that Bollywood’s disco owes much of its glory to Nazia Hussain. In fact, her songs were significantnot only for the disco era of the 80s, but also cemented Bollywood’s relationship with Indi-pop. Of course, Aap Jaisa Koi went on to become a super-hit song, and Qurbaani a super-hit movie, paving the way for the mainstream Bollywood to make the most the most of this new trend.

Bollywood rang in disco with the usual elements: blinking lights, colourful dance floors, glittery attire, flared bell bottoms, shiny headbands and synth heavy voices. While Disco Dancer’s Mithun went on to become India’s own John Travolta, he was definitely an exception in the larger disco-picture that Bollywood painted: a world of shiny, shimmying women performing to disco music for men. In Aap Jaisa Koi, the beautiful Zeenat Aman is hardly subtle in her serenade for Feroz Khan, tuned to the blinking beats of disco. The song ‘Disco Station’ from Haathkadi sees the gorgeous Reena Roy, clad in a shiny sari, dancing to disco beats at a railway station. Bollywood has an amusing way of interspersing western trends into existing ones – but it always works. In what is a classic Bollywood memory, Parveen Babi performs to the synthesized beats of Pyaar Karne Wale for Amitabh Bacchan and Shashi Kapoor. Similarly, Jawane Janeman and Jhoom jhoom jhoom baba scream disco in all ways possible – and again, feature Bollywood’s favourite 80s actresses performing to disco music. Almost all of these songs established disco-going as a trend for the affluent class of the society. The rich men in their tuxedos observed stoically – allowing only the slightest bit of amusement in their expressions – while the women sing and dance to the disco music for them.

Salma Agha performing to 'Jhoom Jhoom Jhoom Baba'

Disco in Bollywood brought into the limelight actors as well as singers. This was the era of Asha Bhosle, who came to the forefront for her seductive and melodious voice. Bappi Lahiri, who lent his music to blockbuster movies like Disco Dancer, Namak Halal and Himmatwala is an ‘80s and ‘90s music icon. This year, Bappi Lahiri completes 50 years in the Bollywood music industry. Even after all this time, there is no denying that disco in Bollywood would be of little value without Lahiri’s contribution. Disco in Bollywood never saw the kind of success that is did in the ‘80s, and went on to die down, eventually. Remakes and remixes of the 2000s brought back Disco, but hardly with the same glory as that of the ‘80s. Be it Nazia Hussain’s mesmerizing voice or Mithin’s classic dance steps, the disco of the ‘80s will always remain cemented in Bollywood as an era of bold, loud and unforgettable music.

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