Rock Dancer (1995)
Cast: Ritu Shivpuri, Shammi Kapoor, Kamal Sadanah, Ronit Roy, Sharon Prabhakar, Javed Jaffrey, Samanta Fox, Govinda, Deb Mukherji, McMahon.
Music: Bappi Lahiri
Nutshell: spellbinding Disco-Romance-Mystery-Comedy spectacle presented and introduced by Bappi Lahiri featuring his brood Rema Lahiri and Bappa too!
Young Jaya is an enormously popular Rock Dancer touching heights of unprecedented popularity together with her co-stars JJ and Rakesh who are also stupendously talented but not quite in her league. The three of them pack sell-out shows across the globe as the sensation of Rock Dancing takes a grip of youth culture all over the globe. Rock Dancers are not just any other dancer as explained in the voice over by Master Musician Bappi Lahiri. He explains carefully and concisely what significance each letter in the name ROCK DANCER holds – all the letters have individual significance but form a magical union to bring together the phenomenon known as Rock Dancer. You must master all the aspects as highlighted by the letters of the word in order to achieve that higher realm paving the way for a life as a Rock Dancer.
As the trio go from strength to strength and Jaya pledges to support building a hospital her useless wastrel of a husband with the worst ever 70s hang over hairstyle tries to leech vast sums of money off her which she refuses to give him. Soon Jaya is mysteriously shot and everything indicates that it was her parasite of a husband who was involved. Her life is saved but her career is in tatters as she is confined to a wheelchair for her remaining days. Not satisfied with crippling her the killer strikes again and this time he succeeds in eliminating her altogether. Suspicion falls on her associates who may have been envious of her success and the millions she was earning. Jaya wanted to build a hospital for children but maybe her partners may not have similarly noble intentions. Could it be the shifty lawyer McMahon simply on the strength of Bollywood typecasting?
The masked killer continues to lurk in the background and it seems more and more that Jaya’s enormous wealth amassed as the world’s pre-eminent Rock Dancer is the motivation. With Jaya sadly deceased, the world now awaits the rise of the next Rock Dancer and it is none other than Jaya’s gorgeous younger sister Ritu who steps up and within minutes has mastered the elements that it takes to become the nation’s next superstar Rock Dancer. Unfortunately, her skyrocketing popularity, fame and fortune mean that the masked killer now turns his attention to eliminating her, especially as she has made Jaya’s daughter the beneficiary of her will and also vowed to build the hospital that her sister had dreamed about.
Ritu is romanced by a charming rogue by the name of Rocky who wins her heart with his dashing chivalry and dance moves but is Rocky just the cute but moronic simpleton “fan” that he claims to be or is there something that we don’t know. The dimwit manager of the hotel where Ritu stays on her trip to perform a concert turns out to be a seasoned police office and the blimp (Jalal Agha, unrecognizable from his “Mehbooba” days) at the restaurant serving the finest Chicken Fry turns out to be another cop.
The twists and turns now start to fly thick and fast and there are double roles, people rising from the dead, imposters, masks being removed to reveal true identities and then there is Govinda and perhaps the star of the show is “International Superstar” Samanta Fox who dropped her bombshells on Indian audiences decades before Sunny Leone arrived to play the game. Then there is Shammi Kapoor in the mix in one of his last acting roles and Deb Mukherji as well. Even Sharon Prabhakar makes an appearance which isn’t really a surprise considering how much of a Bappi Lahiri connection this film has. Bappi’s super talented son Bappa makes his debut with Rock Dancer while the brilliant Rema lends her voice to what must be one of the greatest Soundtracks ever recorded for a Bollywood film.
Bappi Lahiri has provided some standout numbers and the lyrics by Indiwar are stupendous. Traffic Jam featuring the dance by Govinda and Samanta is the stuff of dreams but killer is “you are my chicken fry” sung by Bappi himself but choreographed to utter perfection, complimenting what must rank as one of the Maestro’s best ever tunes. Unfortunately, in the DVD print of this film, the song has been brutalized; chopped and mangled with the lyrics changed and the song abbreviated to a fraction of its glory. Why on earth would they enforce a change of lyrics and how could in any way, shape or form even the most retarded censor board take offence to the lyrics which were similar to a children’s nursery rhyme. “You are my chicken fry” as been changed to “I love my chicken fry” and the rest of the song as similarly been abbreviated and mangled which is just a tragedy considering the choreography and dance are simply breathtaking. The sequence is still electrifying and yet so frustrating because you know you have been deprived of the original Masala Dosa which is nothing short of a crime.
The film steadily moves to its mind-boggling climax with some delicious twists and turns to come and then a rousing fight scene before all matters are rounded up. Ritu Shivpuri looks like a clone of Karisma Kapoor from a distance but the closer you get, the more she resembles her dad, the late, great Om Shivpuri. Ritu does a decent job with the dances and is a natural but sadly her career didn’t really take off the way she had hoped. Kamal Sadanah in the lead is bright eyed and bushy tailed and also holds his own in the dance department but doesn’t really have that star power to propel him to the next level. His career too didn’t really happen. The show is stolen by Bappi Lahiri’s stunning soundtrack, the wonderful choreography work on the dance sequences and the director’s ability to keep things moving along without becoming a total drag. Johnny Lever has several long and irritating comedy scenes where he does what he always does and Ronit Roy and Javed Jaffrey do what is needed with Roy turning on the “sinister” thing to laughable levels. Deb Mukherji lends a delightful cameo but is totally overshadowed by his Kevin Keegan 70s hairstyle which he flaunts with much suitable gusto.
Rock Dancer is a natural successor to Bappi Lahiri and B. Subash Unit’s Dance Dance and at least as equally deserving of its success. Alas the film didn’t cause waves at the Box Office and other than the soundtrack, has largely been forgotten. Rock Dancer deserves recognition as a product of exceptionally high class featuring a soundtrack that has yet to be beaten and a plot that will keep its audience guessing till the very end. Arguably the finest Indian film of 1995 and one of the best of the 90s overall.