Bappi Lahiri Curated
Music Composer & Singer
CURATED BY :
How was your life changed after your first major break?
Soon, I got ‘Zakhmee’ and ‘Chalte Chalte’. But I would still call ‘Zakhmee’ my first major break for its song ‘Jalta hai jiya mera bheego bheego raton mein’ and title song of ‘Chalte Chalte’ became super duper hit. I still remember how we, all in the family, used to sit in front of the radio to listen to Ameen Sayani’s programme of top 10 songs ‘Binaka Geetmala’ in which I was constantly ranked number one for many weeks. But after giving such instant hits, I turned almost speechless. I didn’t know how to match up to the rising expectations. I had an open competition with the stalwarts of that age O.P Nayyar, S. D Burman, R. D Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shankar-Jaikishan etc. But they all blessed me and I produced music for ‘Dico dancer’, ‘Namak Halal’, ‘Sharaabi’ with great confidence. I owe 40 per cent of my success to films from the south like ‘Himmatwala’, ‘Toofan’, ‘Mawaali’, ‘Maqsad’, Tamil and Telegu films such as ‘Big Boss’, ‘Apurva Shar’, ‘Gangleader’ etc. I salute the south for contributing immensely to my success. Today after 37 years in the music industry, I am still clicking. What more can I ask for?
How did it feel when you composed your first music?
In ‘Nanha Shikari’, I sang a song with Mohammad Rafi sahib and Kishore da (Kumar). Standing in the middle of two legendary singers was such an honour. Moreover, Mukesh ji also sang a song for me in this film. Watching them sing my compositions used to bring tears in my eyes. After this film, I said to myself, come what may, I will never leave music at any cost.
How did your first break in Bollywood industry happen?
My father Apresh Lahiri and mother Bansari Lahiri were great composers of their time. When, at the age of 11, I composed my first song, I also decided that I would become a music director only. So, when I turned 19 in 1971, I came to Bombay. Mercifully Shashodhar Mukherjee, a very big producer of those times knew my father. So on his insistence, his son Shomu Mukherjee decided to give me his film called ‘Nanha Shikari’. But it didn’t come all that easy. He made me sing/compose some 25 song in different varieties and finally said, ‘I can’t let your talent go waste’. So, I became the music director with ‘Nanha Shikari’. The film failed but my song ‘Tu mera chand, tu hi tara’ did very well.
What were the moments with Kishore Kumar that you shared?
Which music composer do you admire from your era ?
How many singers have you introduced in your time?
How did you give a start with the disco era?
Which song will you dedicate to your wife?
From where have you started your singing career?
What is your journey from Kolkata to Bombay?
How was the musical atmosphere at your home in Kolkata?
Did your parents already decide that you will be a musician?
What is behind the Bling Bling style?
Is it true that you also give your gold necklaces when you are very happy?
What advice do you want to give to budding artists?
What do you have to say about people who criticize music?
What about your gold? Have people ever criticized that?
Actually, gold is lucky for me. But I know people make fun of it. It has happened. People caricature me...the gold chains, the rings and the gold rings. But that’s my style.
How did you juggle your musical commitments and the hectic campaigning for the political party?
Music remains my first love. But I wanted to join the party because I wanted to use my music to do something good for India’s poor.
Would you have joined any other party if they had called you? Trinamool or CPI(M)?
I won’t criticise other parties. I have great respect for Mamata Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi and Left leaders. But it’s BJP I want to be with.
What about the political party’s ‘communal’ tag that you have joined ?
One thing every BJP member knows is that Bappi Lahiri will never be communal. I respect all religions. My fans across the world include Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs....
What was the reason for joining politics?
Not politics. I joined the BJP. I don’t understand politics. But I understand and love the BJP and the people in it. They respect my idols like Swami Vivekananda. And the party has great leaders like Atalji, Advaniji, Modiji and Rajnathji are all excellent people.
What’s your favourite piece of jewellery?
It’s a Lord Ganapati gold locket that I always wear…it’s my lucky charm. Even when Michael Jackson visited me in Mumbai, he praised this locket very much. In fact, MJ loved all my jewellery.
How will you describe your passion for jewellery?
Jewellery is a part of Bappi Lahiri’s identity. I have a craze for buying gold whenever possible, especially Dhanteras. Gold is lucky for me. I am also crazy about diamonds and precious watches.
Are you doing music for more films?
Yes. There’s Ujjal Chattopadhyay’s LAL SELAM based on the Nandigram violence; there will be stars from both Bollywood and Tollywood (Bengali film industry) in the film. And I am also acting in the film REHMAT ALI with Mithun Chakraborty.
Now-a-days music composers are trying their luck in films. Do you have any such plans?
I have already done a ‘surprise role’ in Salman-Kareena starrer MAIN AURR MRS KHANNA; and the audience response is very encouraging. They have seen Bappida in a new avatar. If such roles come my way, I will accept.
How many films have you done with Jaya Prada?
I have done 12 films with Jaya and the music of all the films has been superhit. And that’s the reason when she decided to turn producer, she called me up and said, ‘No one, but you should do the music for my film’.
What is the reason for doing "Shesh Sanghat" that made you work after long time?
Yes, that’s because there was nothing challenging for me to do. But SHESH SANGHAT is different…it has made me shift from my ‘Disco King’ image and churn music that’s close to the earth. In this film, I have experimented with Bengal’s folk, ‘baul’ and tribal music. You may say that my music is the USP of the film.
What is the story behind the music of "Muqaddar Ka Faisla"?
Who is your favorite singer in new generation?
Who is your favorite singer in new generation?
What do you have to say about remix songs?
You have given many hit songs to Bollywood, which one is your favorite song?
How did you get your first break?
How has been your journey in these 50 years?
How did you create that era for melodious songs in 1970s?
How was your journey with Usha Uthup ji?
Which is your favourite accessory?
What is about singing in different styles?
Have you ever thought of changing your image?
What do you think about music competitions and reality shows?
Which era's music do you feel is the best?
Who are your favourite international artists?
How is Bappa Lahiri doing?
What do you think about Ilayaraja and AR Rahman?
What new genres would you introduce to this generation?
What do you think about the film music standards of today?
What are your international collaborations?
I was nominated twice earlier for Grammy. Once for “Jai Ganesha” and the second was for “World Peace, Love and Harmony”. Walking on Love Street is dedicated to my wife. Let us see. So far, the album is getting very good reviews. If you remember, my international collaborations started way back in 1998 when I brought Samantha Fox for Rock Dancer. I also collaborated with Boy George and Apache Indian. So whatever is happening right now was done by me 13 years back. I have pinned my hopes on “Walking on Love Street” – it is very popular in Michigan, LA, Chicago and Texas. I am also working on some nice Bengali films with Mithunda and Prasanjeet.
How did the super-hit “Ooh La La” from The Dirty Picture – happen? Did you envision it to be a super international hit?
Jeetendra is a good friend of mine. When Milan Luthria met me, he wanted to re-create the 1980’s charm of Sridevi-Jeetendra. We spoke for a while where Milan mentioned that he wanted a total 80’s ambience. The Bappi Lahiri of the 80’s was what he wanted. He wanted me to sing. I am nothing like Kishore Kumar. I just created a masti song. If you ask me, there is only one singing genius – Kishore da. So, in order for me to create the Tohfa and the Himmatwala experience, Ooh La La happened. I just recreated the Oi Amma from Mawaali. I am grateful to god for giving me that direction to create another memorable hit. I have become very choosy. At a point, I was doing 37 films a year. It all happened randomly. But now I am very choosy. I want to compose quality films.
You love introducing new talents in the music world. You have been a secret benefactor to superstar Akshay Kumar, is that correct?
Akshay is a very humble and nice boy. He was a black belt and he came to me with a picture in hand. I did Koi yahan nachen nachen with Usha Uthup, I worked a lot with her. Similarly, gave a lot of songs for Alisha Chinai, Sharon Prabhakar in their early days. I also introduced Vijay Benedict, Babul Supriyo, Bali Braham Bhat, Salma Agha, Runa Laila and others to new trends. I have a lot of aspirations for Mika who has even sung “Kammo Kammo” in the yet to be released film Department which has music by my son Bappa.
What is about your fascination for gold.
Gold has been very lucky for me. Most of the jewelry that I wear is spiritual pendants. I have one which was given to me by my mom. It is a thick gold chain with Ganeshji pendant. This was given after my first film Zakhmee right after Lataji sung my song in that album. Since then I have been fascinated by gold. I am also the fan of Elvis, so I ended up with the bling. God has been very kind to me and all the pendants I wear are symbolic of all the special events in my life. They were given by my mom, my wife, and my children. It came with a lot of “dua” (meaning Prayer). Gold has nothing to do with my personality. I am a spiritual person and I want to be known as a good human to all. That is what matters to me.
Your first tour to the US was in 1979 and now your first concert in Michigan in 15 years. Is it correct? How does it feel?
That’s absolutely correct. You have all given me such a warm welcome. I am very excited about Michigan. I would love to sing all my popular numbers. I am ready to disco, are all of you ready? I have lots of songs to share with you after a long time, including “Ooh La La” from The Dirty Picture.
What do you attribute your success to?
Several music directors and singers have come and gone. I have survived for 40 years because of family support and divine support. What I am today is a blessing given by god. I like to compose music and my wife has been there for me in challenging moments. If I am able to create music that makes small children to middle age people to old adults dancing, it is because of the pulse which I think is given by god. I also have fond memories of Taxi No 2011, Maniratnam’s Guru and Golmaal 3 where I rehashed the “I am a Disco Dancer” number. I am also very glad that the album “Walking on Love Street” is on the top ten of the US Chartbusters. It is all because of the god up there.
What is the most touching album you have ever made?
I have done 466 films so far – Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali and Tamil. You asked me a very difficult question because for every musician, every album is touching. For me, I do have some touching moments with a few albums: Sharaabi with Amitabh Bachchan (Inteha Ho Gayi Intezaar Ki), 70’s song from the film Chalte Chalte (Mere Ye Geet Yaad Rakhna). I have a very special attachment for Disco Dancer, Namak Halal (Ke Pag Ghunghroo Bandh Meera) and Tohfa. One other song is a Bangladeshi number by Runa Laila. This is a non-film album called Suparna.
Your experience in the disco genre created a new trend in the music industry. How did it all happen, especially when you had a classical background?
What today people call as disco was very different from what I gave 30 years back. When I first came to the United States in 1979 on a world tour, I visited a couple of night clubs and they were playing John Travolta’s music – it was Bee Gees and Elvis all night. That was when I heard the music and I asked the DJ about the details of the music. He plainly put it as a disc played in the night club. That was Disco. I started to use disco in my film Suraksha in 1979 starring my favorite actor Mithun. I made my debut as a singer and a music composer. Disco Dancer was not much popular in India. It was a super hit in Russia and China. Mithun has done art films, but as a disco dancer, he was phenomenal. When I met Michael Jackson in 1996, he appreciated my east-west blend of disco. He used to say, you are coming from Jimmi Jimmi country (after he listened to Jimmi Jimmi Aaja Aaja number).
When did the transition from Alokesh Lahiri to Bappi Lahiri happen?
I was born in Calcutta and I come from a very classical background with my parents being very established singers. I have completed 40 years in the music industry and have been composing since Kishore Kumar and Manna De. I was four years when I used to play the tabla. I played for Lataji and she blessed me. Everybody at home nick named me as Bhappi and when Lataji started calling me by that name, the entire industry thought I was called Bappi, sounded very chirpy as I was very young and the name stuck on. So from Bhappi to Bappi da to Bling Bling Bappi da – I liked it as people enjoyed calling me that way.
Are you looking forward to work with young generation?
I always try to move on with the young generation and try to make myself look like a newcomer. 'Indu Sarkar' was my 651st film. I am known as a 'gold man' all across the world. My style is what people remember me for. I will soon complete 50 years in the Indian music industry. When I look back at my long innings in the film industry, I feel happy and satisfied. For me audience is my God. I will be working till the time they will like my songs.
How the meet with Micheal Jackson went?
When Michael Jackson came to India, he met me, took my chain in hand and said, 'Oh God! What a chain.' He thought I will give it to him. When I shook hands with him, it felt like meeting God. I didn't give him the chain because I thought if I will give the chain (featuring Ganpati) to him, then I will lose God. He praised my song 'Disco dancer'.
Is there any inspiration for your look?
Since childhood, I wanted to build an image for myself just like Elvis Presley - dark glass, hairstyle and chain. I also wanted to do something similar. I have aped Presley to be what I look now.
Why do you think is the reason behind not-so-long lived songs coming out these days?
Today's songs are like one-day cricket match. It gets released, gains popularity, but soon people forget it. Why? Because people remember lyrics. If you hear the song 'Yaad aa raha hai', you will connect instantly with that era.The music that we get to listen today -- singers like Arijit Singh, Ankit Tiwari, KK or Shaan -- they all have their own unique styles and are singing beautifully, but they (the songs) miss out on wordings.The wordings of today's songs might be meaningful, but they lack the catching power. There are few renowned lyricists left of our era -- Javed Akhtar, Gulzar and few others.
What do you think of today's music?
Today's music is not new for me. Though I have composed classical music also, my disco songs got more popularity. I never think that my songs have become old. They are recreated even today. That's why I feel blessed that my songs are always 'gold',
What is the story behind Disco Dancer?
How did you manage to create music for 33 films in one year?
How did you discover Disco song?
How the music industry has been changed in these 50 years of your journey?
How did you feel when you met Michael Jackson?
Why you didn't sing "Taki-Taki" song in new "Himmatwala"?
When compared to your times, what do you think is missing in this era?
Who is your favourite contemporary music composer?
How difficult it is to create hit numbers every year?
How do you keep updating yourself with new musics?
From where this passion for jewelry came?
What is the reason behind your such long and successful innings?
Which young generation singer do you think can sing dance numbers?
Which is that one song that you are proud of?
Who according to you is the disco dancer from the current lot?
What are the records that you hold?
Do you find satisfaction in today's music?
Are you against the trend of remix?
What do you say about so many awards that you have?
What were your first projects?
Who is your inspiration?
What are your most satisfying works?
What is the story behind the song "Mere Angane Mein"?
What is the reason behind such variety of voices?
How was your chemistry with Usha Uthup?
How was your relation with Mithun Da?
What is the thought process behind the transition from old music to new?
How did you come up with the song "Hunter"?
What is your ambition now?
Did you fall in love with gold immediately?
How did you come up with your look?
Are there any changes in making of your music now?
Is there any favourite song of yours?
How did you gain interest towards disco music?
How the concept of song "Pag Ghunghroo" came up?
Did you also face problems when you came to Mumbai for a break?
At an age of 17, how did you guide legends while composing?
At such a young age, how did you know to be a music composer?
What is so special about your song 'Jimmy Jimmy'?
What is it about your music that just keeps going?
How are you keeping your passion for music alive for so many years?