My Bappi Lahiri Specials

Bappi Lahiri would have been 71 today. Photo: Publicity Photo

On November 27, 1952, Bappi Lahiri, singer and composer and later lyricist, producer, writer and actor was born. Predominantly in the first two fields, Bappi was considered the enfant terrible of film music and a master plagiarist but was also recognized by unbiased as a terrific talent whose compositions were often amazingly melodious and rich even in their orchestration. And yes original!

Down more than 450 films in Hindi as a composer (even if about 25 films had other music makers too), the man has astounded me with songs that will always be enormous exercises in creativity and which I cannot have enough of even now.

Picking my 10 favorites among them—hit, popular or unsung—remains about as easy (!) as choosing drops from a sea of myriad lovelies, and so I must restrict myself to those that really show the range and punch of this musical prodigy, whose secret admirers (as told to me personally!) include O.P. Nayyar and Javed Akhtar!

The former had confessed that he loved his “peppy” music, and the latter had pointed out how, even if Bappi was vilified for his disco songs (that, however, often turned out to be durable delights!) and his South Indian kind of plebian numbers, his USP was that his songs were always bright and never dull.

Chalte chalte / Chalte Chalte / 1976 / Kishore Kumar /Amit Khanna

I begin with his first true-blue evergreen number that signaled his breakthrough. Shah Rukh Khan even produced a 2003 film with that title, and this film itself owed its name to Ghulam Mohammed’s song from Pakeezah. But the fact remains that Kishore (incidentally Bappi’s maternal uncle) outdid himself because the title-track composition was so sublime. It remains probably Bappi’s signature tune to date.

Kahaan jaate ho / Dulha Bikta Hai / 1982 / Anwar & Meena Patki / Gauhar Kanpuri

Bappi Lahiri always gave Mohammed Rafi choice songs in films like Ikraar, Sangram and Paapi, and mostly solos. But when this film was launched, Rafi was no more, and this composition seemed designed, if not destined, for the immortal voice. The way Bappi extracted a Rafi-esque pathos and soul from Rafi’s first clone, Anwar, showed his mastery as a composer. Though Anwar always sang in the Rafi mould, few songs showed how near he went in vocal tenor to the great master.

Mere Ramji bhagwan ji / Dalaal / 1993 / Kumar Sanu & Alka Yagnik / Maya Govind

Dalaal was among Bappi’s career-finest soundtracks, but ironically, the craze was for its double-meaning Gutar gutam song, or Chad gaya oopar re, as it is better known. But the album was full of gems, and the unsung stunner was this Durga bhajan. Those who have never heard it may please go online to know the caliber of both this song and its creator.

Nanha sa panchhi re tu / Toote Khilone / 1978 / Kishore Kumar / Kaifi Azmi

The Yesudas hit, Maana ho tum behad haseen, overshadowed every song in this album, but this Kishore number, exquisitely written, composed and rendered, towers above that admittedly formidable mass favorite. Probably in no other song has Bappi reached nearer one of his self-declared idols, S.D. Burman.

Amitabh Bachchan enacts Pag ghunghroo in Namak Halaal. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Pag ghunghroo / Namak Halaal / 1982 / Kishore Kumar / Prakash Mehra

When Bappi first stepped into Prakash Mehra terrain with this musical super-hit, he went the way Mehra’s older favorites, Kalyanji-Anandji with fascinating felicity. K-A, incidentally, were also his role-models as per what he told me once, the other composer being Madan Mohan, However, this iconic chartbuster needs to be heard just once to know what a complex and adroitly structured composition it is. No wonder Kishore won one of his most well-deserved awards for this epic number.

Pyar kabhi kam nahin karna / Prem Pratiggya / 1989 / Asha Bhosle & Bappi Lahiri / Indeevar

Bappi was also a consummate singer who knew exactly when to take over vocally from his singers—it was in songs that were not just tailored to his skills but also those where no singer could deliver as well. But among all his renditions, this immensely soulful number is matchless for me. Serene and sonorous, it shows Bappi, with co-singer Asha Bhosle, at his magical best as a vocalist.

Saare zamane ki amaanat  / Armaan / 1981 / Kishore Kumar / Indeevar

This rehash of the Hollywood classic, Casablanca, once again, had Bappi’s unoriginal Mere jaisi haseena (which shot Sharon Prabhakar to transient fame) and Rambha ho (by Usha Uthup) making it high on the charts, but the real beauty was hidden within the film when it flopped. Filmed on Shammi Kapoor as a bartender, this philosophical masterpiece against losing the will to live was beautifully sung by Kishore again, with the perfect orchestration for a tune that was ethereal in its beauty. Those unaware of this sparkler must visit it on Google, ASAP!

Shama jale ya na jale / Paapi  / 1977/ Singer: Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics: Naqsh Lyallpuri

Lata Mangeshkar has sung dozens of songs for the composer, but for me, none matches the sheer zing and splendor of this magnificent Westernized number. Arguably again, this is for me the best of the composer’s songs among dozens in Western mode.

Tum aur main aur yeh bekhudi / Aitbaar / 1985 / Asha Bhosle / Farukh Kaiser

We loved to love the semi-classical Kisi nazar ko tera intezaar aaj bhi hai and the rousing Awaaz di hai aaj ik nazar ne, both very popular Asha Bhosle-Bhupendra songs from this film. But few noticed this super-sensuous seduction serenade filmed on Leena Das, where the visual erotica was matched by the incredibly passionate tones of the music. The situation in the film was as poignant as it was voluptuous, and the song and its musical tenor was nothing less than a knockout coup with the perfect blend of both.

Yoon ghur ghur ghur ke nihaara na karo / Zindagi Ek Juaa / 1992 / Kumar Sanu / Anjaan

In his films from the 1980s, Prakash Mehra extracted consistently superlative work from Bappi, come Namak Halaal, Sharabi and Dalaal, and this film was another example of a musically standout album. Again getting into the director’s preference of Kalyanji-Anandji’s style, and tempering it wonderfully with his own trademark, Bappi scored a rocking number. And no song sees Kumar Sanu so close to Kishore that he could be even mistaken for Kishore Kumar!




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