June 16, 2023
A woman in a gold sequin top shimmies against a backdrop of flashing rainbow lights and at least a dozen disco balls. Synths burst and cascade over a succulent bassline. The dancing woman (Kim) croons a two-word chorus (“Jimmy, aaja” which means “Jimmy, come here” in Hindi) that pulls you in. Watch just a few seconds of the dance sequence to “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja,” from the Bollywood film Disco Dancer (1982), and you’ll be hooked. The song is camp at its finest: glitzy, fantastical, and utterly irresistible.
Disco Dancer tells the rags-to-riches story of Anil aka Jimmy (Mithun Chakraborty). A music producer discovers the wedding singer and coaches him to become India’s next disco champion. But after a horrific accident, Anil must overcome his fear of performing to get back on stage.
The film catapulted its lead into global superstardom, and found fans in countries ranging from the U.S.S.R. to Turkey. But, curiously, one song from the iconic soundtrack has had staying power for over 40 years: “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja.” Soviet Russia used it to introduce fun to its youth in the 1980s. Tamil rapper M.I.A. covered the track on her 2007 album Kala. It even became a viral protest anthem on China’s version of TikTok. For some, the song captures a global phenomenon that peaked in the late 1970s: disco. For others, it is something much more.