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Spoke to Dr Dang about Disco Killer

Updated on: 24 May,2023 07:07 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

As Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro approaches 40 years, let’s instead focus on the guy you could not see in it!

Spoke to Dr Dang about Disco Killer

Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro; (right) Anupam Kher as Dr Dang in Karma. Pics/Twitter

Mayank ShekharIn one of their escapades, the adorable photojournalist buddies Sudhir (Ravi Baswani) and Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah) land up in the house of a nearly-blind contract killer, Disco Killer (DK). 

By now, you know I’m talking about Kundan Shah’s classic black comedy, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (JBDY)—that’s approaching 40 years of entertaining us (since 1983)! Only, this isn’t some fan-fiction.

When Sudhir, Vinod enter DK’s den, they’re awestruck by the precision of his aim. Across the walls in the half-blind hit-man’s home are targets with bullet-holes, right in the bull’s eye. DK explains to the two boys how he does this. First, he shoots at the wall. Wherever the bullet lands, he makes a small circle around it.

Hysterical, right? Well, if things had worked out, this is how audiences would’ve first seen actor Anupam Kher on screen. JBDY was going to be Kher’s debut. 

He’d shot for the movie, wearing jacket, checked shirt, thick dark-glasses, Walkman—always looking furthest away from anybody he talked to (because he can’t tell). DK also drank blood, and generally danced around without a reason. 

Also Read: Fast x (Hindi dub) Movie Review: Toretto ko tadapna hoga!

Kher tells me he had barely two-three scenes in JBDY. But they were such stealers—people, over generations, would’ve laughed even more with DK. As they do, quoting gags and lines in peculiar accents from the insane satire still.

Consider the second scene, where Ashok (Satish Kaushik)— that’s Tarneja’s (Pankaj Kapoor) lackey—hires DK, to bump off Sudhir, Vinod. DK’s been sneezing a lot. Right before he has to fire, he asks Ashok for the ‘goli’, who gives him ‘Vicks ki goli’, that he shoves into his gun! When he finally shoots, the real bullet hits the mango on the tree, under which his targets are sitting.

This makes DK ecstatic. For, he can now aim at the mangoes—the bullet would land on Sudhir, Vinod! At the edit, JBDY was slipping out of length. 

Kher reminisces (director) Kundan Shah was such a “non-dramatic person”, that once they bumped into each other outside Prithvi theatre. Shah casually muttered to Kher, “Yaar, woh tere do scenes cut gaye”—that he’d been thrown out of the film! The DK track had got removed.

Kher was obviously devastated. Besides that he was penniless/homeless, JBDY also had all his “National School of Drama friends, who were similarly struggling actors.” Which is true. 

Naseer was perhaps the only established, star-actor in JBDY, albeit of Hindi cinema’s ‘parallel cinema’ movement, that had ironically sworn to break the star-system itself!

“But I guess, some things don’t happen, so they can become life’s stories to tell,” Kher tells me. Take another one then. Who was the original choice for Mogambo in Mr India? “[Director] Shekhar Kapoor had originally imagined Mogambo as Iago, from The Merchant of Venice,”—a slimy, shifty villain, who also moves like an octopus.

Kapoor and (writer) Javed Akhtar had picked Kher for Mogambo, who shot a look-test for it, wearing a cape, on Juhu beach. Producer Boney Kapoor had blocked about 100 shoot-days with him, falling short of a couple. 

Whether or not dates were the issue, Kher learnt from Akhtar that they’d changed the character entirely. And gone in for the great Amrish Puri instead. Puri had already killed it as Mola Ram, the villain, for Steven Spielberg, in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

Does life equally come full circle? Hear this. When Kher boomed opposite Dilip Kumar over “thappad ke goonj”, as Dr Dang, in Subhash Ghai’s Karma (1986)—Puri indeed walked up to Ghai wondering why didn’t he consider him? Kher recalls (in thick Punjabi), Ghai wriggled out replying, “But [Dr Dang] was playing Amrish Puri!” Clever.

Kher believes Dr Dang made him a star. Being a fan of Karma, I’d agree. Kher had pulled off the quiet, wily antagonist in Rahul Rawail’s awesome Arjun (1985) too. But that bit gets revealed only towards the end. Around that time, he also played Sridevi’s terrifying tormentor in Chaalbaaz (1989): “modelling the role on cartoon characters.” That buck teeth was surely Bugs Bunny.

But what’s up, Doc Dang—in Kher’s imagination, “PhD in international terrorism!” We don’t think of it perhaps because he hasn’t quite been typecast: Kher could well be Bollywood’s Villain No 1. The way-more experienced Shakti Kapoor was (sidey) Villain No 2 in Karma, who had a legit issue getting slapped around by Dr Dang, Kher, 68, says.

He’s done 500+ films—50+ of which he signed up within a week of his debut, Mahesh Bhatt’s Saraansh (1984). Even there, the fabulous Sanjeev Kumar was brought in, last minute, to replace him. 

Kher had “singularly worked on the part for six months”. Having packed his bags to leave Mumbai, lost all hope, he blasted/cursed the hell out of Bhatt first. Who, in turn, generously stood up for him before Rajshri, the producers.

Years later, once Kher had seen sufficient success, Kundan Shah, the “gentle soul” that he was, did regret knocking out DK. “You should have been in the film, yaar,” he told Kher, who regrets further that, let alone any footage of JBDY with DK in it, not even a still of him in the role remains. Well, what to say now—ab jaane bhi do, yaaron!

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
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