(Bappi Lahiri has passed away in Mumbai's CritiCare hospital at the age of 69. We are republishing this last interview he gave to The Quint in January 2017 in his memory.)
Bappi Lahiri’s power to stay on music charts is one for film historians to mull over. Over the years this indefatigable music maker has re-invented himself, and has watched new kids on the block remix his old gems with foot-tapping glee. Now Bappi da is blissfully lodged in the US, with his songs being featured prominently in two of the most talked-about Hollywood films in recent times, Moana and Lion.
He’s proud to be in LA, no wonder he’s as glittery as ever.
I am here because two of my songs Shona in the Disney film Moana and Come Closer in the film Lion were contained in films nominated for the Golden Globes. And now these two films are up for the Oscars. My songs in these films are being noticed and talked about here in the US.Bappi Lahiri, Music Composer
Bappi da, who now divides his time between Bollywood and Hollywood, says he is blessed to have straddled not just two continents but also several eras of Hindi film music.
My association with the international charts started long back. In 2002 when an American band named Truth Hurts used a riff from my song Kaliyon Ka Chaman (Jyoti, 1981) sung by ‘Mata Saraswati’ Lata Mageshkar ji. In recent times my song Jimmy Jimmy from Disco Dancer (1982) was used in the Adam Sandler movie You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. And now another of my songs, Come Closer, from Mithun Chakraborty’s film Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki (1984), has been used in the Nicole Kidman film Lion. I feel honoured.Bappi Lahiri
Significantly Bappi points out that the makers of Lion called him up and took his permission to use his song Come Closer. Way back in 2002, Love Hurts had not bothered to get Bappi da’s consent before using the track Kaliyon Ka Chaman.
And that hurt.
There was a time when I was constantly attacked by the Indian press for plagiarism. Today I am seen as an original and one of my kind. That for me is my greatest triumph.Bappi Lahiri
Bappi says he is happy that so many of his songs are being re-mixed. But it’s original tracks that he most enjoys doing the most.
I loved re-doing my own Come Closer in Lion. But I enjoyed composing the original track Shona for Moana more, maybe because it was all about loving everything golden and I am know for my love of gold ornaments. Again, in the forthcoming Karan Johar film Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya with Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, they’ve re-mixed my old hit Tamma Tamma from the film Thanedaar. The best part of these re-mixes is that I sing my own song. I sang Tamma Tamma for Sanjay Dutt 28 years ago. Now I’ve re-sung Tamma Tamma for Varun Dhawan, with Badshah doing the rap portion in the song. I can’t get luckier than this. It’s my parents’ prayers, the blessings of Mata Saraswati Lata ji and good friends like you that have brought me this far.Bappi Lahiri
Bappi da’s cup of joy runneth over with yet another triumph, this one straight from Bollywood to Hollywood.
You will be happy to know that the unit of Shoojit Sircar’s Runningshaadi.com is flying down over here to shoot a song with me. The song that I’ve composed for the film is titled Pyar Ka Test, and it’s an original, not a re-mix of any of my old hits. I’ve faced the camera a number of times. It feels good to be performing my own song for a film. The Runningshaadi.com director Amit Roy insisted that I compose the song and perform it in the film myself. Since this is a Shoojit Sircar production and I like his cinema, I couldn’t say no.Bappi Lahiri
But Bappi da is sobered and saddened by present day musical trends.
I belong to the golden era of Hindi film music when Kishore Kumar, Mohd. Rafi, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle were the ruling voices. My first composition in the film Nanha Shikari was sung by the great Mukesh. Nowadays film music has no longevity. We hear a song for maybe two weeks and we don’t know who has sung or composed it. Earlier, music composers and singers were brand names. An R D Burman song was an R D Burman song, and a Kishore Kumar number was a Kishore Kumar number. It’s sad that we no longer respect our musical heritage, because music binds India, and Indians with the rest of the world.Bappi Lahiri
Before signing off Bappi da says he wants to continue exploring new musical avenues.
I want to make India proud with my music. I want the sound of my music to be heard and hummed in the remotest corners of the world. I want the world to acknowledge Indian music as the best sound on the planet.Bappi Lahiri