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The MAGIC Of Bappi Lahiri

By SUBHASH K JHA
March 19, 2022 13:31 IST
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Bappida's softer more creative work got buried in the noise, rues Subhash K Jha as he picks the late lamented composer's most soulful songs.

IMAGE: Aruna Irani in the song Thoda Resham Lagta Hai from Jyoti.

Bappi Lahiri's musical aptitudes were distinctly schizophrenic.

If on the one hand he could compose the glib-tongued I Am A Disco Dancer and Ramba Ho on the other hand he had a very sacred secret repertoire of masterly melodies that he was rightly very proud of, and which caught only the connossieurs' attention.

But many who saw through Bappida's oceanic talent believe that Sooni Sej Saja Doon in Jyoti would outlast Thoda Resham Lagta Hai in the same film, and not only because the former was filmed on Hema Malini and the latter on Aruna Irani.

Bappida and I had a discussion on this. About the more catchy Thoda Resham Lagta Hai (he didn't like my calling it chalu) out-charting the exquisite Sooni Sej.

Said Bappida, "Aapko sun ke tajuub hoga, Subhashji. But Thoda Resham was more difficult to compose than the raga-based Sooni Sej Sajaa Doon. I gave the same respect to both compositions. The fact that Mata Saraswati (Lata Mangeshkar) sang both is a testimony to my undiscriminating sincerity. I've always been more comfortable doing the softer ballads.

"If you listen to my early Hindi songs like Rahe Na Rahe Chahe Hum Rum and Chalte Chalte Mere Yeh Geet Yaad Rakhna you will see the influence of my father Aparesh Lahiri who composed the immortal desh-bhakti song Ek Baar Bidoi De.

"But when I started there were stalwarts like Sachin Dev and Rahul Dev Burman composing great ballads for Lataji, Kishore Mama and Rafisaab. I couldn't compete with them. I quickly gravitated to Jalta Hai Jiya Mera Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein(ZakhmI) and Bombay Se Aaya Mera Dost (Aap Ki Khatir)."

IMAGE: Sachin and Bindiya Goswami in the song Pyar Manga Hai Tumhi Se Na Inkaar Karo from College Girl.

However, the brilliance of the ballad bleds into the cacophony even as Bappi became branded the Disco King, a label he enjoyed to the hilt.

In the film Chalte Chalte if he had the catchy Pyar Mein Kabhi Aisa Ho Jata Hai (Lataji-Shailendra Singh) and Jaana Kahan hai (Sulakshana Pandit-Bappida), he tucked in a timeless tune like Dur Dur Tum Rahe Pukarte Hum Rahe, which will outlive the other chartbusters of the film.

A bluesy, pain-drenched, ballad filmed on Simi Garewal, Dur Dur Tum Rahe goes a long way in displaying Bappida's unplumbed virtuosity.

In even the smallest of films, Bappida springs a serene sonorous surprise such as Pyar Manga Hai Tumhi Se Na Inkaar Karo in a 1978 non-starter called College Girl. It's a Kishore Kumar ballad as gently undulating as and comparable with Chalte Chalte.

But then one clicked, the other sank, although the College Girl ballad is a favourite Valentine's Day track among the 40-plus generation of Bappi-philes.

IMAGE: Shekhar Kapur and Shabana Azmi in the song Mana Ho Tum Behadd Haseen from Toote Khilone.

Yesudas's Mana Ho Tum Behadd Haseen Aise Bure Hum Bhi Nahin in the film Toote Khilone incorporated elements of Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet love theme by Nina Rota. But the influence is gentle, like talcum powder on a baby's bottom.

Shabana Azmi to whom Shekhar Kapur sang this song in the 1978 film says she felt "quite special" to have someone sing this to her, "almost like Guru Dutt singing Chaudhvin ka Chand Ho to Waheeda Rehman".

Many years later when Shabana Azmi's great poet-father Kaifi Azmi wrote the theme song of the Shabana starrer Bhavna, Tu Kahan Aa Hayi Zindagi Bappida not only adorned the lyrics with a stupendous composition he also sang one version of the tune, the other was, of course, sung by Bappi's Mata Saraswati.

It is one of Bappida's most evocative accomplishments doing as much justice to Kaifisaab's poetry about the ravages of time as Sachin Dev Burman had done decades ago in Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm.

My most favourite Bappi Lahiri creation is from a 1977 Hindi-Gujarati bilingual Phir Janam Lenge Hum directed by Mehul Kumar. I rank Sooni Sooni Raahen Rahon Pe Nigahen as not only the best composition of Bappida's repertoire but also one of the best in the Melody Goddess' cluttered repertoire.

How did Bappida do it? I'd ask him every once in a while on WhatsApp. He would get emotional and say, "Who remembers this song except you?"

 

IMAGE: Mithun Chakraborty and Madhuri Dixit in the song Pyar Kabhi Kam Nahin Karna from Prem Pratiggya.

Luckily, Saiyaan Bina Ghar Soona and Tumhe Kaise Kahoon Main Dil Ki Baat from the film Aangan Ki Kali were both raga-based hits. Bappida was rightly proud of his songs in Aangan Ki Kali. Rajesh Roshan had scored a sixer in Julie just two years earlier. This was the Julie actress Laxmi's follow-up in Hindi. Though the film didn't work, the songs somehow escaped the fate of anonymity.

Very often Bappida rued that his most skilled compositions were assigned to oblivion when the films that contained the songs flopped. Take Mukul Anand's desi version of Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, Aitbaar, which featured two intricate ghazals by Asha Bhosle and Bhupinder -- Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezaar Aaj Abhi Hai and Awaaz Di Hai Aaj Ek Nazar Ne.

Another beautiful ballad that Bappida created with Asha Bhosle was Pyar Kabhi Kam Nahin Karna for the Mithun-Madhuri starrer Prem Pratiggya. Since the film didn't do well, the wispy willowy song is forgotten.

Bappida once told me, "If people remember Pag Ghungroo and Aaj Rapat Jayen in Namak Halaal and De De Pyaar De and Jahan Chaar Yaar Mile Jaye in Sharaabi it is because a big superstar Amitabh Bachchan sang them on screen."

"Kishore Mama sang the soft ballads Manzilein Apni Jagah and Inteha Ho Gayi in Sharaabi and they were big hits too, again because of the Kishore-Amitabh combo. What about my songs in Ek Baar Kaho? I poured my heart and soul into them and no one remembers them."

IMAGE: Shabana Azmi, Marc Zuber and AK Hangal in Kamla.

Bappida had a point. A small Rajshri Production with Shabana Azmi and Navin Nischol in the lead, Ek Baar Kaho a rather sensible adaptation of the Hollywood films Come September and An Affair To Remember had Bappida scoring one of his gentlest scores, topping the lilting list was Raakh Ke Dher Ne Shoolon Ko Dabaa Rakha Hai. I don't think Jagjit Singh sang any other Bappida composition, but Raakh Ke Dher Ne Shoolon Ko Dabaa Rakha Hai ranks as one of Jagjit Singh's most poignant ghazals.

Finally Salma Agha.

Bappida did some truly pulpy songs with her in the two Mithun starrers, Dance Dance and Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki. But flip the record. Look on the other, quieter side: There is Salma Agha singing Bappi's ghazal Aaj Phir Aaine Ne Poocha Hai Teri Aankhon Mein Yeh Nami Kyon Hai in Jagmohan Mundhra's Kamla. It is the best song that Ms Agha sang in India, better than anything in Nikaah.

"You think so? But nobody knows it. And what about Salma Agha singing Tum Saath Ho Zindagi Bhar Ke Liye for me in a film that never got released Sheeshay Ka Ghar?" Bappida once asked me.

That's the story of Bappi Lahiri's softer more creative work. It got buried in the noise.

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SUBHASH K JHA